Since the early 1990s, Barbara Maria Meyer, a painter living in Basel, has been dealing with plants. Looking for them in the immediate vicinity of her studio, she has analyzed their nature, structure, efficacy, and historical significance by consulting botanical reference works and lexicons.
The latter contain information on the potential use of these plants, their typology, as well as schematics, cross-sectional drawings, and detailed illustrations. Meyer confronts nature with its depictions in scientific publications, i.e. an original model with its image, also incorporating her own genuinely artistic considerations. Without claiming to take a scientific approach, she uses the visual material as the basis of her artistic endeavors, deftly maneuvering between the representational, natural, stylized, and seemingly artificial and exploring the conditions prevailing between these two antipodes merged at an artistic level.
For the solo show mounted at Kunsthaus Baselland, Barbara Maria Meyer has inspected the immediate environment of the exhibition venue, including some of the plants growing there. In her drawings and photographs, which precede her pictures, as well as in her finished paintings we see elderberry blossoms, acacia, lilac, and the blossoms of the so-called ‘golden-rain tree’ growing near the Kunsthaus, in addition to plant elements from her private collection and nightshade species. Meyer picks out details of individual elements to enlarge, reduce, or stylize them; she superimposes different parts, mingles them, or presents their cutouts on the wall (first done in this exhibition). This bewildering variety of shapes and details allows for permanently changed viewpoints and new ways of handling the plant repertoire. Another novel feature in her work is afterglow paints which enliven and illuminate the picture in the dark by means of lingering light traces. Nocturnal light makes her world appear both familiar and strange. Just like Alice in Wonderland, Barbara Maria Meyer’s exhibition Nachtschatten (Night Shadows) draws viewers into the marvelous micro- and macrocosmic world of plants which fills us again with a sense of wonder.
Text by Sabine Schaschl