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Boyd Webb 'Botanics'

Boyd Webb 'Botanics'

Sue Crockford Gallery, 29 June - 17 July 2004 Opening Tuesday 29 June 5.30 ­ 7pm 2 Queen St, Auckland

Photosynthesis describes the conversion of light and carbon dioxide, by plants, into energy. Carbon dioxide is a byproduct of human respiration, and the burning of fossil fuels, so to some extent plants and man are co-dependent.

Since the early 1970s Boyd Webb has created work that reminds viewers about the ecological bond between man and the environment. The action within Boyd Webb's early tableaux photographs was often derived from unlikely collisions of nature and culture, of plants or animals invading social space. In The mandatory second opinion 1978, for example, two elephants (or at least drawings of elephants) secret themselves in an office, to the alarm of two workers. The images test the rationale of society's ambivalence towards nature and seem to suggest that man has developed social ritual to escape nature's embrace (or natural impulses towards group interaction): there are often two actors in the frame going to ridiculous lengths to ignore each other.

Webb's pictures also hint at the role art has played in this turn. In River crossing 1979 a man dressed in outdoor adventure costume shimmies across a river on a rope bridge: when the river is actually a studio photographer's portrait backdrop. Webb is suggesting that twentieth century man is content with a pictorial representation of the great outdoors rather than its natural corollary.

Since the 1990s Boyd Webb has been making particularly toxic looking work that carries the allegory to the point of exhaustion. That is, nature has been exhausted and artificial depictions are all that remain. A number of his works are of magnified microscopic forms, such as spermatozoa (sex) and zygotes (death), that suggest man has had to look entirely inward to locate the remaining natural universe, which also implicates man as cause of the catastrophe. The blooms in the series Botanics 2003 look deadly beautiful, as if the digital technology used in their production is blighted and can only produce la fleur du mal. Yet, like the protagonist of Baudelaire's poem we are drawn to them all the same. "Bloom" Govett-Brewster Art Gallery.

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