Please Explain: The artist and flower: Responding to Banks and Botanicals


As part of our Please Explain talks series, join Not Niwe, Not Nieuw, Not Neu exhibition artist James Tylor and expert historians and botanists in a discussion of the work of Sir Joseph Banks and how artists are working to respond with and against this colonial science, history and legacy.

Speakers’ Biographies: 

Ann Elias

Ann Elias is Associate Professor in Art History at the University of Sydney. Research interests include: camouflage as a military, social and aesthetic phenomenon; flowers and their cultural history; coral reef imagery of the underwater realm. Books include Camouflage Australia: art, nature, science and war (2011), Useless Beauty: flowers and Australian art (2015), and Coral Empire (in preparation for Duke University Press) about photographic and cinematic representations of the underwater at the colonial tropics in the early twentieth century. She is a Key Researcher with the Sydney Environment Institute, a serving member of the International Committee of the College Art Association of America, and International Liaison for the Art Association of Australia and New Zealand.

David Mabberley

Professor David J. Mabberley AM is a British-born, Australian educator and author. He was consecutively Director of the University of Washington Botanic Gardens (Seattle, USA), Keeper of the Herbarium, Library, Art and Archives at the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew (United Kingdom) and Executive Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney. He is now an Emeritus Fellow, Wadham College, University of Oxford (United Kingdom), Professor Extraordinary, University of Leiden (The Netherlands) and Adjunct Professor, Macquarie University, Sydney. Among his varied academic interests are the taxonomy of tropical trees, notably citrus, and the history of science and botanical art. Internationally he is perhaps best known as author of the award-winning Mabberley’s plant-book: a portable dictionary of plants,their classification and uses, now in its fourth edition (2017). Of his six books on botanical art, Joseph Banks; Florilegium (Thames & Hudson) and Painting by Numbers: the life and art of Ferdinand Bauer (NewSouth) are also published this year.

Richard Neville

Richard Neville is the Mitchell Librarian and Director of Education & Scholarship at the State Library of NSW. With a research background and acknowledged expertise in nineteenth Australian art and culture, he has published widely on colonial art and society, and curated numerous exhibitions focusing on these areas. He has also been extensively involved in the acquisition, arrangement, description and promotion of the Library’s renowned Australian research collections.

James Tylor

James’ artistic practice examines concepts around cultural identity in Australian contemporary society and social history. He explores Australian cultural representations through his multi-cultural heritage, which comprises Nunga (Kaurna), Māori (Te Arawa) and European (English, Scottish, Irish, Dutch, Iberian and Norwegian) Australian ancestry. James’ work focuses largely on the 19th century history of Australia and its continual effect on present day issues surrounding cultural identity in Australia.

About Please Explain:

4A’s new series Please Explain invites presenters to rethink, recharge and reimagine contemporary issues through the arts and academia.

Image credit: Sir Joseph Banks, Florilegium: Plate 63 (detail), 1980 – 1990, copperplate engraving. Image courtesy Angela Tandoori, Melbourne.