The theatrical botanicals of Valerie Sparks


Capturing the intricate details of nature, Hobart-based photographic artist Valerie Sparks creates visually immersive installations inspired by 19th century French scenic wallpaper and the work of female botanical artists. Deeply influenced by historic Australian women artists like Ellis Rowan, Marianne North, Louisa Anne Meredith and Margaret Anderson Hope, Sparks speaks of her enduring admiration for their output.

“These women made significant contributions to our understanding of biodiversity. The remarkable detail in their images reveals not only their skills, but also their capacity for observation. Photography allows us to explore this level of detail as well, and to appreciate the importance of observation in our understanding of the natural world.”

Working with photography and digital imagery, Sparks pieces her visuals together in a seamless collage. Often creating her images wallpaper-sized, Sparks assembles epic views of environments that blur the edges of reality and fantasy. Layering photographs of landscapes, waterways and plants, Sparks’s latest work at Bett Gallery is slightly more compact and features native florals blooming in front of cloud filled skies. Despite their smaller size, each image retains a grand theatricality enhanced by a moody coupling of colour, texture and light.

“I have always thought of my images as works that play with the boundary of the interior and exterior,” says Sparks. “With this body of work I’m hoping to create a sense of being in a darkened room with windows looking out to a night garden, with a continuous background joining the works and the flowers reaching out of the dark toward the viewer. In many ways these images are simply about my love of flowers, of wanting to share and celebrate their beauty, and to find the joy again.”

Dark Garden
Valerie Sparks
Bett Gallery
Until 7 May

This article was originally published in the May/June 2023 print edition of Art Guide Australia.

Preview Words by Briony Downes