Herbier // The Cactus House

We’re looking forward to Ben Russell’s show The Cactus House at the Hignell Gallery, 11 May to 3 July, showcasing beautiful carved stone sculptures in a verdant environment created by East London-based botanical designers Conservatory Archives. The show also coincides with the Chelsea Flower Show 2017 and echoes current trends for bringing the outside in, something that’s very much on our radar as we start to compile material for The Botanical Bible (Miller Collins / Abrams), published in Autumn 2018. Go see.

Ben Russell’s ‘plant gang’ of alabaster, onyx and Portland limestone sculptures were inspired by the unique way that light passes through the flesh of a cactus – something he observed while working in his leafy studio in Dorset. The artist and award-winning stone carver has long been influenced by nature and organic forms; working with natural mediums such as alabaster, which displays a similar translucency to the cacti when drenched with light, helped Ben translate his vision into reality. Juxtaposed with the Portland stone and onyx interpretations, he then produced a range of complementary and contrasting shapes and textures – each one sanded and polished to a luminous sheen.

The Hignell gallery is the ideal space for Ben to exhibit his new works, a gallery that actively celebrates the interplay between craftsmanship and art. Drawing on the notion of a sculpture’s environment or ‘House’ as being as much an artwork as the piece itself – as outlined by mid-twentieth-century Romanian artist Constantin Brancusi (often hailed as the ‘father of modern sculpture’) – Ben invited botanical artists from Conservatory Archives to create the perfect environment for his works: a living, breathing ‘Cactus House’, as it were.

Pre-show shots of the stone cacti mingled amidst a jungle of real plants give a taste of how the exhibition might unfold, but we get the feeling this is one of those immersive, multi-sensory experience where you just have to be there. We will indeed: opening night Thursday 11 May.

And if you haven’t already, check out Conservatory Archives on Hackney Road, East London too – a tropical paradise run by pioneering indoor plant experts and botanical designers. If you want to create your very own ‘cactus house’ or verdant conservatory, these are the guys to help you do it. If you need an instant shot of green, step into their Instagram @conservatory_archives. Feel good factor guaranteed.

FIELD NOTES //

The Cactus House, by Ben Russell runs from 11 May to 3 July // Private view: Thursday 11 May 6–9 pm // Hignell Gallery, 12–14 Shepherd Street, Mayfair, London W1J 7JF // 0207 499 4528 // www.hignellgallery.com // @HignellGallery

Ben Russell // www.benrussell.co.uk // www.thedorsetstonecarver.co.uk // @dorsetstonecarver

Conservatory Archives // 493–495 Hackney Road, London E2 9ED // Open Tues–Fri 12–7pm and Sat–Sun 11.30am–7pm // www.conservatoryarchives.co.uk // @conservatory_archives