2020 Pattillo Whanganui Arts Review Open Award winner Tracy Byatt's new exhibition opens today, showcasing her work in an unlikely medium - sugar.
Winning the 2020 Open Award came with the opportunity to take on the 2021 Pattillo Project - a solo artist show case exhibition at the Sarjeant Gallery.
Sarjeant Relationships Officer Jaki Arthur said Arts Review principal sponsor Anne Pattillo asked the gallery to think about how to make the Arts Review work harder for the artists of our region.
"We know our art community is incredibly vibrant and talented, and we thought 'how can we uplift the winning artist onto the national stage?'
"That's when the Pattillo Project was born," Arthur said.
Byatt's Pattillo Project exhibition, 'An Impossible Bouquet', opens at the Sarjeant on the Quay, melding her fascination with botany, botanical illustration, nature and art history.
"Sugar as an art medium was first documented during the European Renaissance, where it was used to sculpt extremely grand and ornate centrepieces for royal banquets, particularly in Italy," Byatt said.
"Sugar at that time was extremely rare and expensive, so it was a symbol of wealth and status.
"Due to its fragility and difficulty in handling, the finest artists of the time were commissioned to create these pieces. Da Vinci is said to have created some of these sugar sculptures."
Byatt said she was intrigued by the idea of working in an "essentially unchanged material" that was once so highly prized and expensive, "yet we hardly give a bag of sugar a second thought".
"It almost feels like I am able to reach back and touch the past, with sugar art being the constant while the world around us has changed beyond recognition , and I feel not always for the better."
The title, 'An Impossible Bouquet', refers to the "impossible collection" of flower species in the exhibition's centrepiece - a bouquet Byatt created over the past year.
"Seasons and blooming schedules of these flowers meant that before jet planes, genetic modification and hot houses, these flowers would never have been able to exist at the same time," Byatt said.
The bouquet contains 22 botanically correct specimens including foxgloves, delphiniums and hollyhocks, which were made over two seasons.
Also included is a yellow rose.
"It is documented that the Dutch painter Jan van Huysum made a client wait for an entire year until a particular yellow rose came back into bloom again so that he could finish painting it," Byatt said.
"I can relate to that."
Alongside An Impossible Bouquet are several floral studies from the Sarjeant Collection which have inspired her, including a mid-17th century flower study by the Dutch painter Jan Baptiste.