Art, Mysticism and The Cosmic Tree
by Marie-Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre (Founder of Spirit Now London)
In December, I was supposed to visit the Camden Art Centre with my group of collectors and friends from Spirit Now London for a visit of the exhibition The Botanical Mind / Art, Mysticism and the Cosmic Tree, with its director Martin Clark.
The exhibition is gathering great artists such as the extraordinary botanist and photographer Karl Blossfeldt, the Koran artist Lee Ufan, André Masson, to name a few.
This tour turned into a webinar last Tuesday (26th of January), and the exhibit will end at the end of February. This exhibition « The Botanical Mind » brings together the work of more than 60 artists, visionaries, surrealists, moderns, foreigners, indigenous Amazonians and contemporaries. Gina Buenfeld, the curator of the Center, initiated and organized this exhibition after a sabbatical trip to South America, Finland, and other northern countries.
In Martin Clark (the director of the CAC), she found the ideal interlocutor to carry this idea.
The Botanical Mind reveals the continuing significance of the plant kingdom for human life, consciousness and spirituality. Spanning over 500 years and including historic and ethnographic artefacts, textiles and manuscripts, it looks both backward and forward, engaging with various cultures and traditions of wisdom to reassess the importance of plants, in life on this planet.
This exhibition fits with relevance today in an era when artists and museums look to nature as a source of inspiration and comfort.
Let us remember our visit to The Hayward Gallery, in London, for the opening of the exhibition Among the Trees with Ralph Rugoff in 2020. Some of us also discovered the beautiful display of the Fondation Cartier pour l’Art Contemporain in Paris Nous les arbres.
Today we were fortunate to be with two excellent guides for this unique visit.
Martin Clark (Director of the Camden Art Center since 2017), and Gina Buenfeld (Curator of exhibitions at the Camden Art Center).
Martin Clark was the director of Bergen Kunsthall, Norway (2013-17) before heading to CAC. Previously he was the Artistic Director of Tate St Ives, Cornwall (2007-13), Curator of the Exhibitions at Arnolfini, Bristol (2005–07).
Most recently, in 2016, he was the Artistic Director of the Art Sheffield festival.
Over the past 20 years, he has organized more than 80 exhibitions, including recent and upcoming solo exhibitions by Walter Price, Olga Balema, Julien Creuzet, Lily van der Stokker, Christodoulos Panayiotou, among others as well as group exhibitions including The Botanical Mind: The Going Uv It, Bergen Kunsthall (2015), The Dark Monarch: Magic and Modernity in British Art, Tate St Ives (2009).
He has edited and contributed to over 40 books and catalogues and numerous writings on contemporary art and artists for several publications. He serves on the Advisory Board of Art on the Underground, London.
Gina Buenfeld holds an MA in Art History (20th Century) from Goldsmiths College (2004) in London.
She has written essays for artist publications and edited artist monographs and exhibition catalogues, including Duro Olowu: Making & Unmaking published by Ridinghouse and David Mellor: The Bruce Lacey Experience.
Gina was a guest curator at Bevilacqua la Masa, Venice from 2012 to 2013 and was a mentor for the Siobhan Davies Dance Artist and Curator Mentorship Program and the Standpoint Gallery Residency Program.
She has curated several exhibitions at the CAC, including last year A tale of Mother’s bones: Grace Pailhorpe, Reuben Mednikoff and the birth of Psychorealism. A remarkable discovery of this couple of artists, friends of the surrealists but did not want publicity. In 2014-2015, Gina Buenfeld was curator in residence at the Art Initiative in Tokyo where she created « Tokyo Corrsepondances », a series of exhibitions, residencies and research to facilitate cultural dialogue between artists in England and Japan. She also curated At the still point of the turning world at Shibaura House Tokyo, presenting Ursula Mayer, Jeremy Millar, Manon de Boer, Joachim Koestner, Simon Martin.
The Camden Art Center is a place of art and artists; a place for curious-minds, novices and experts. It is a place to see, learn and talk about contemporary art.
As a community-based charity in North West London, the Center works closely with local schools, community groups and specialist partners, nurturing the next generation of artists, from early childhood to adulthood, allowing everyone to get closer to art, to meet artists. And reflect on targeted programs. The ACC also wishes to strengthen sector leadership, increasing their impact, bringing the arts to those who need it most.
I hope that very soon we can all make the trip from Paris, Geneva, Madrid with our friends from London to visit the Camden Art Center when it reopens.
Walkthrough video with co-curators Martin Clark and Gina Buenfeld:
Founded in 2015 and directed by Marie-Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre, Spirit Now London is a non-profit organisationwith all funds donated to cultural institutions and the support of young artists.
By invitation only, it is a private and international circle of benefactors, collectors, and friends. Spirit Now London gives the opportunity to meet with exceptional personalities from contemporary art, design, culture, and science.
Marie-Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre is also the co-founder with her husband Jean-François, of the Jean-François and Marie-Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre Foundation.
Created in 2009, the foundation aims to promote access for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds to education and culture. The foundation also supports contemporary artistic creations and the preservation of heritage.