Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery

The system of nature

Further information

Exhibition dates:
23 September – 7 November 2007


  • Simryn Gill
  • Fiona Hall
  • Janet Laurence
  • Sine MacPherson
  • Perdita Phillips
  • Gregory Pryor
  • Robyn Stacey
  • Holly Story

Ideas about the system of nature lie at the core of this exhibition.

Through the work of eight contemporary Australian artists, it looks at:

  • how names and texts enter nature
  • the institutions in which nature is organised
  • the products of plants and their uses
  • the impact of colonisation on Australian flora
  • the effects on our perceptions of nature of a world in which boundaries are shifting as new technologies displace older, visually based taxonomies.

Using photographs, installations, paintings, sound, a series of glass vessels filled with living Western Australian plants, a long row of painted bank notes, and stacks of old blankets, the artists both reflect and imagine ways in which nature is, or can be, organised.

Janet Laurence, Cellular Gardens, 2005 stainless steel, mild steel, acrylic, blown glass, rainforest plants. Museum of Contemporary Art, purchased 2005. Photographer: Paul Green, Courtesy of the artist and Sherman Galleries, Sydney © the artist.

The artists have produced work which is both deeply engaged with a natural world and with our very human dreams, myths and imaginings of it. Their projects are once reflections on a desire for order and system, and conscious attempts to find ways of illustrating our relationships with nature.

The system of nature exhibition coincides with The University of Western Australia’s celebrations of the 300th birthday of Carl von Linné, more commonly known as Linnaeus: the exhibition derives its title from one of the critical texts of Western enlightenment science, Linnaeus’ Systema Naturae.

Robyn Stacey, Beau Monde (green), 2006. Type C print, 120 cm x 120 cm. © the artist

Linnaeus invented the modern binomial system of classification of all life forms. He began with a primary interest in flowering plants and gradually extended his system more widely (even incorporating rocks and minerals at one stage).

Although taxonomy is undergoing fundamental change, shifting from a descriptive form based on analysis of visual difference to one using contemporary techniques of molecular science and DNA analysis, 300 years after Linnaeus’ birth, the broad structure which he used is still in place and is now used for all animals, plants, bacteria and viruses.


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Friday, 12 April, 2013 9:17 AM