Exploring trees' aesthetics, smarts and importance through art forms

Tan Weiyun
Paintings, monotypes, sketches, pencilled canvasses and photos feature in 200-piece exhibition
Tan Weiyun
Exploring trees' aesthetics, smarts and importance through art forms
Dong Jun / SHINE

Works by Fabrice Hyber on display at the exhibition "Trees" at the Power Station of Art in Shanghai.

The exhibition titled "Trees," by the Fondation Cartier pour l'art contemporain, is in full swing at Power Station of Art, featuring more than 200 works from a community of artists, botanists and scientists around the world.

Highlighting trees as a source of major aesthetic inspiration for human societies, the exhibition also echoes the latest scientific discoveries that shed new light on tree intelligence. It invites us to consider trees – the source of our atmosphere – as true partners in a shared world.

The path of the exhibition weaves three narrative threads around trees: aesthetic meditation, scientific knowledge and the tragedy of deforestation and megafires that are devastating the planet.

French botanist Francis Hallé has been studying trees for more than 60 years, compiling his discoveries in observational drawings and the notebooks that accompany him on his travels.

Italian botanist Stefano Mancuso, a pioneer of plant neurobiology and defender of the idea of plant intelligence, presents surprising video proof in the exhibition of their communicative and memory capacities.

Bringing together paintings, monotypes and a table-herbarium, Brazilian artist Luiz Zerbini orchestrates the imaginary meeting of trees, borrowed from tropical botanical gardens, and the markers of urban modernity.

French artist Fabrice Hyber's installation revisits the genesis of his artistic and personal project to plant 500,000 tree seedlings in the valley adjacent to his family farm, gradually transforming the fields into a forest and the landscape into a work of art.

The exhibition is also enriched with works by Chinese artists. Hu Liu used to create a poetic concept by accurately grasping plants' shapes in her paintings. Recently, she started coloring entire canvases with pencils, leaving only shapes and air flows in the black and letting viewers find their own figures in the reflection of the painting, overlaid with wind, grass, waves and leaves.

Huang Yongping had a long relationship with the Fondation Cartier, which invited him for a residency in 1989 and continued to show his work on many occasions.

During his residency, Huang began his first art creation in the Western world, and developed a set of metaphors and symbolic grammar for "rescuing trees." The exhibition presents photos of the installation he created at the Fondation Cartier, engaging with the trees that surrounded his workplace.

Trees have taken on many different roles in painter Zhang Enli's work: wind, poetry and characters. Four of his paintings are on display in the exhibition, like portraits of old people. These time-honored tree trunks, although without leaves, reveal their unique humor and self-confidence, as if telling viewers about the hardships they experienced when they were younger.

The special installation by Italian architect Stefano Boeri and his Shanghai-based studio enables guests to explore the concept of Vertical Forest City, a next-generation series of high-rise urban buildings completely covered by the leaves of trees and plants that promotes the co-existence of architecture and nature in urban areas.

Dates: Through October 10 (closed on Mondays), 11am-7pm

Venue: Power Station of Art

Address: 678 Miaojiang Road 

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