I love a plant with a story and this plant definitely has a story to tell, which is what compelled me to paint it. I was first introduced to the Stelechocarpus burahol or Keppel Fruit tree in October 2018 by fellow artists from the Indonesian Society of Botanical Artists (IDSBA), Eunike Nughoro and Henny Herawati who were kind enough to take me on a tour of many wonderful places in Yogyakarta, Java. This particular tree, is at Taman Sari, otherwise known as the Royal Garden of the Sultanate of Yogyakarta, within Kraton. The tree is also the Royal emblem for the Special Region Yogyakarta and since 2017, the historical center of Yogyakarta, including Taman Sari has been designated a World Heritage site.
On November 15th 2022, this painting was exhibited at the Flora of Southeast Asia exhibition at the Singapore Botanic Garden (SBG). The exhibition was organised by the Botanical Art Society (Singapore) (BASS) and SBG. The exhibition runs until February 15th 2023.
This lengthy blog post covers the story from finding the plant to painting it and finally exhibiting it.
The Tree, Location and History
Everything about this tree was interesting to me, firstly its location: Taman Sari was built in the mid 1700's, known as the Sultan's Water garden it is most unusual with a fascinating history. Built by the first sultan of Yogyakarta, Hamengkubuwono I, the construction was lead by Tumenggung Mangundipura, who travelled to Batavia for inspiration (former capital of the Dutch East Indies now Jakarta), which explains the European style. The complex consisted of many buildings including a mosque, meditation chambers, swimming pools, 18 water gardens, pavilions and artificial lakes - 'Taman' means garden and 'sari' means beautiful or flowers in Javanese and describes the environment well. Apparently in its heyday, the gates could be closed and the main areas flooded to leave just the tall buildings visible. Taman Sari is still impressive today despite its visible decline but you can feel the history of this special place. Today only the central bathing complex is well preserved, the remainder of the site being badly damaged through various events during its history, including the British Invasion of 1812, the war of Java from 1825-1830 and finally a large 7.8Mw earthquake in 1867, which destroyed several buildings.
|Botanical Artists visit 2018: Eunike, myself and Henny on the right|
|First time seeing the protected tree, with the yellow flowers emerging from the trunk, a good example of cauliflory.|
|The waxy female flower emerge from 'plaques' on the trunk|
|Once pollinated the round fruit develop, there are a large number of fruit on the trunk|
|This is another tree are the other side of the complex (the exit) which is next to the Kampoeng cyber village and Zuckerberg Street. This area was a settlement on the ruins of Taman Sari by families made homeless during the 1867 earthquake. They became a thriving community of artists who made Batik. The area declined in the 1990's but in 2003 a group of artists and residents revitalised the area and sought sponsorship to buy computers and it's now an area filled with murals, batik makers and tech!....but that's another story.|
| The same as the previous tree but from a different visit, I visited three times to document it. The new leaf growth is pink, red to dark red, which makes the palette interesting. |
|Beginning: I cover the painting with tracing paper revealing only the part being worked on - this prevents splashes or oils from hands marking the paper. Some people like to wear cotton fingerless gloves but I find them slightly restrictive.|
|February 20th. Leaves are not painted to a finished stage but enough so that I can see that they will be ok. I then proceed to paint all parts to a certain 'not quite finished stage' before completing the whole painting in stages, going back at the end to deepen and adjust where necessary. I believe this approach creates cohesion across the work (for me anyway)|
This was the 9th of March, you will note that I wasn't working on this continuously,
|March 21st. I painted the plaques around the flowers lightly then plotted stems and finally added petals and flower centers. I also started the fruit at the same time. It's important to keep parts evenly weighted, so never work on any part to a finished stage. |
|March 21st. The fruit really aren't very attractive, they're essentially dull brown balls! the light was going to be extra important to create the rounded form, as were the soft edges. The rear fruit was left paler to create depth and distance with a good bit of violet used as the underlying colour. I know there was a danger of these dominating the piece and was cautious not to over do it.|
The surface has small hexagonal type shapes across the surface but I add those at a later stage, see below. This is a common shape in nature - its the energy efficient shape, that a shape that best fills a surface without need for waste, it takes less energy to construct a surface comprising hexagonal shapes that fit together neatly, its also mechanically more stable because of the tension pulled across a surface on the different sides of the shape. Thats also why bees use the hexaganol in their honey comb construction, it creates strength.
|The texture and hexagonal type shapes on the surface, added using dry brush|
|30th March. Fruit dissection and developing fruit and pretty much everything else was added at this point|
|March 31st Top branch with male flowers|
|April 13th The graphite parts were added last, a scaled down drawing of the trunk with fruit|
|Heading up to the Gallop Extension Gallery, it's quite a walk from the main entrance to the gallery, especially with the 32C and almost 90% humidity, so its worth entering at the Gallop Gate entrance. The Public transport MRT is excellent and there's a taxi drop at each of the 4 gates. The facsimile works are also displayed at each of the gates. Read about the history and design of the building here|
|Banners were places throughout the garden|
|Beautiful graphics using the artworks to compliment the cases were printed throughout|
|In the center of the first gallery is a very nice large display of sketchbooks and artist materials|
|Display case featuring Angelina Cheong's beautiful works, Angelina also has two works in the exhibition|
|The second downstairs gallery, brimming with colour!|
Upstairs is another gallery showing the judges work and a lovely light space where artists gave demonstrations during the exhibition.
|The added bonus was to win a best in show award alongside Teo Nam Siang from Singapore and Deinitisa Amarawi from Indonesia. Here are our works together in a display case at the entrance of the gallery, we each spoke shortly about our works during the event for invited dignitories. Top left is my Stelechocarpus burahol, top righTeo Nam Siang's Ant Plant no.1 Hydnophytum formicarum and bottom is Deinitisa Amarawi's The Blooming Fruit: Beneath the Canopy, Sterculia oblongata. |
|We were presented with a certificate and this beautiful engraved award, art materials from sponsors and a catalogue|
|Works were also exhibited on information panels in the garden |
|The exhibition catalogue available for 20sd (about 12 gbp or15usd) plus10sd international postage. Available by visiting the BASS shop|