Centre d’Art et de Nature, Domaine de Chaumont-sur-Loire
8 April – 3 November, 2011
Domaine de Chaumont-sur-Loire, 41150 Chaumont-sur-Loire
+33 2 54 20 99 22

With the series Sunken Gardens and Carnivores, Swedish artist Helene Schmitz (b. 1960) questions the “underside” of nature which is not reassuring to man in all his desires for comfort and mastery. On the contrary, it is a nature that dominates, encloses and devours, being closer to chaos. In continuity with her previous work, Helene Schmitz explores the representations we have of nature and our associated projections.

The Sunken Gardens series was born during a trip Schmitz made to the Surinam jungle, following in the footsteps of an 18th century Swedish naturalist. She photographed the almost impossible project – a man attempting to tame a part of the jungle in order to breed butterflies. Human intervention is evoked through the presence of greenhouses which cannot contain the nature in its wilderness: delicate veils are pierced by a vegetation that absorbs everything, even the rare glimpses of sunlight.

For her Carnivores series, Schmitz surveyed the botanical gardens of Sweden and Germany for two years in order to photograph portraits of carnivorous plants, thus nourishing her reflection on the relation of tension between nature and culture. In her photos, the flowers are formidable predators which in their alarming beauty are ready to close their jaws on lost prey. Schmitz pushes the vice even further by isolating each plant in her workshop, away from its natural context: she takes close-up shots using artificial lighting on elegant backdrops…they seem straight out of a gallery of family portraits where each member is crueler than the next.