Featuring diverse artwork from three contemporary artists:

  • Bees (and the Odd Wasp) in My Bonnet: Kurt Jackson  
  • Reverie: Wolfgang Buttress
  • Florilegium: Honey Flow 1 Spring (February-April) 2013: Amy Shelton  

Presenting images and research from microscopists and scientists:

  • Bees Under the Lensstunning electron microscopy images of the native dark honey bee from the University of Plymouth and Falmouth University

‘Bees are in trouble… Bees are vital to so much of our lives, they pollinate our food, keep our farms in business and help our gardens, parks and countryside to thrive. They are also beautiful, fascinating and extraordinary. If only we all danced to communicate.’
Kurt Jackson, artist

About the artists

Kurt Jackson

A dedicated environmentalist and true artist, Kurt Jackson’s holistic approach to his subject seamlessly blends art and politics providing a springboard to create a hugely varied body of work unconstrained by format or scale. His artistic practice ranges from his trademark visceral plein-air sessions to studio work and embraces an extensive range of materials and techniques including mixed media, large canvases, print-making and sculpture.  

A dedication to and celebration of the environment is intrinsic to both his politics and his art; a holistic involvement with his subject informs his formal innovations. Kurt’s focus on the complexity, diversity and fragility of the natural world has led to artist-in-residencies on the Greenpeace ship Esperanza, the Eden Project and for nearly 20 years Glastonbury Festival which has become a staple of his annual working calendar. Over the past thirty years Kurt has had numerous awards and many art publications released to accompany his exhibitions, the most recent being A Kurt Jackson Bestiary (2015) Lund Humphries. A new publication, ‘A Botanical Landscape’ (Lund Humphries) will be launched during this exhibition in March 2019. 

Acknowledging the dangers faced by British bees, Kurt Jackson has spent the past few years exploring the world of pollinators, producing a collection of pieces that are also informed by his grounding in the sciences and his work alongside beekeepers in Cornwall.

Bees (and the Odd Wasp) in My Bonnet brings this body of work together. The show drew record numbers of visitors (over 100,000 people) to Oxford University Museum of Natural History in 2016, and then toured on to the Jackson Foundation, St Just in Penwith. 

Wolfgang Buttress

Artist Wolfgang Buttress creates multi-sensory artworks that draw inspiration from our evolving relationship with the ‘natural’ world. He explores and interprets scientific discoveries, collaborating with architects, landscape architects, scientists and musicians to create human-centred experiences.

He is well known for his sculpture The Hive, a collaboration with physicist Dr Martin Bencsik, which expresses the life of a bee hive in real time through form, sound and light. The Hive is now permanently installed at Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, London. The project has won 27 national and international awards including gold medal for best in show at World EXPO 2015. 

Reverie

  • Noun: A state of being pleasantly lost in one’s thoughts; a daydream.
  • Music: an instrumental piece suggesting a dreamy or musing state.

Reverie is a multi-sensory experience. The visitor makes connections to both nature and in turn themselves. The piece is visually beguiling, auditory seductive and meaningful. Sound and vibration help create a sense of the now. It is an immersive experience that invites the viewer to come and sit within a sculptural environment planted with wildflowers, plants and grasses. Using sound, scent and form the intention is to invite contemplation on the importance of sustainability and how we can protect and support pollinators such as the honey bee. 

The sounds that can be heard within the piece include some new vibrational sounds and communications of the honey bee recorded and discovered by scientist Dr Martin Bencsik’s team which include: queen quacking, queen tooting, whooping signals, worker pipes and dorsoventral abdominal signals. Live sounds from a beehive at the Eden Project will be sent to the sculpture allowing the audience to have a real-time connection to both the hidden and incredible world of the bee and the increasingly fragile environment that they and we find ourselves in. The hope is that the audience will take away a sense of connection from the experience and perhaps help the pollinators by planting more bee-friendly flowers and to resist from using pesticides. 

Amy Shelton

Artist Amy Shelton has been creating work reflecting her ongoing enquiry into the plight of pollinators since 2009 (supported by Wellcome Trust Arts Awards). Her interest in the relationship between bee health, human health, the environment and the arts infuses her work (book works, ceramics, lightboxes, installations and public artworks). Through working with scientists, ecologists and beekeepers Shelton’s work is underpinned by emerging scientific research investigating the complex matrix of ecological challenges causing pollinator decline.

Shelton has curated two major exhibitions exploring the mysterious and ancient connection to bees, Apiculture: Bees and the Art of Pollination (Peninsula Arts 2014), and a second incarnation of this exhibition at Spacex Gallery in 2016. This exhibition included works by Bill Woodrow, Tessa Farmer, Peter Randall-Page, Alec Finlay, Susan Derges and Sarah Gillespie. In 2011 Shelton set up Honeyscribe, a charity to create new artworks, deliver workshops and curate public events to investigate the life and health of the bee. 

Shelton’s bee works have been exhibited at venues including Southbank Centre, Wellcome Collection, Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh, Eden Project, Peninsula Arts, Royal Scottish Academy of Art and DAAD Gallery Berlin. Her ongoing artistic collaboration with award-winning author John Burnside will culminate in a new body of work Bee Myths in development during 2019.  

Florilegium: Honey Flow 1 Spring (February-April) 2013 is an illuminated herbarium artwork documenting the floral sources of nectar and pollen-rich flora that sustain honey bee colonies in spring. This artwork captures the fleeting choreography of the plant-pollinator relationship illuminating a vibrant map of the biodiverse, wild, cultivated and agricultural plants essential to honey bees as the flowering season begins. The full Florilegium series was purchased by Wellcome Collection.

Plan Bee: Save the pollinators

Save the Poilinators highlights a range of organisations that work on pollinator conservation and showcases two collaborative projects:  

  • University of Plymouth/the B4 Project – a National Environmental Research Council-PhD studentship designed to study the genetics and traits of the native dark honey bee to help with its conservation
  • Eden Project, University of Exeter, National Wildflower Centre collaboration – research on pollinator landscapes to enhance pollinator recovery in both garden and agricultural landscapes

Plan Bee was developed in partnership with the B4 project and support was provided by the Patagonia Environmental Grants Fund of Tides Foundation, Arts Council England and the Ernest Kleinwort Charitable Trust.

Plan Bee is part of a programme of events, temporary exhibitions, talks and workshops at the Eden Project exploring new collaborations between science and art as part of Eden’s Invisible Worlds programme.

Image at top of page: Scanning electron microscopy image, Glenn Harper, Plymouth Electron Microscopy Centre, University of Plymouth.

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