John Lyall describes his new series as, “New Zealand trees as bonsai; cultural artefacts coded for Japan, yet incurably native. The bird, lead bonsai ornaments, bought second hand in a market in Shanghai. Nature/Culture."
Living in the city with a small section bonsai provided Lyall with a way to have many of New Zealand’s unique plant species in his backyard. Sourced from Oratia Native Nurseries he has literally created a dwarf forest. When Lyall decided to capture his bonsai with his camera they moved from the real to representation.
“These works are intrinsically photographically derived works that happen to look like paintings. By the act of turning the photograph into a painting, you are forced to investigate and concentrate on the bonsai.”
With each bonsai he included a representation of a bird, be it an Australian badge or a Japanese lead bonsai ornament. “When we read the words Forest & Bird we have expectations, here you have neither; the trees are small and the birds do not sing.”
“Trees and birds - we can’t imagine forests with out birds”. The exhibition then is also a representation for larger eco-systems both endangered and extinct.
The works reveal that Lyall is a collector – the range of plant species, the use of bonsai styles, the types of birds, the pots sourced through travel to Japan, Korea, Brisbane, Sydney and locally from Wah Lee, Plantarama and ordinary garden centres. He is by nature curious – “I am musing over native forest in order to interrogate it.”
Lyall is an artist who moves forward- new mediums, technological developments, awareness of new theories underscore his work. These still lifes are in every sense 21st Century.
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