‘Human beings must remember we are equal part nature and guests’

The Resident speaks to sculptor and artist Zadok Ben-David, whose exhibition Zadok Ben-David: Natural Reserve is now showing at Kew Gardens…

Photo: Kew Gardens/Zadok Ben-David

Zadok Ben-David’s exhibition Natural Reserve is now on at Kew Gardens looking at the fragility of our natural landscape and the relationship between it and humans.

Made up of more than 17,000 intricate steel sketched flowers, Ben-David’s installation, Blackfield, is at the core of the exhibition and reflection of the contrasting perspectives within the environmental predicament we find ourselves in such as pessimism and optimism, and tragedy and endurance.

Here, Ben-David explains a little more about his work.

1. Where did the idea for the Blackfield installation come from?
Blackfield is part of the broader theme of “Human Nature“ that I have been exploring for the past few decades, searching for our place as humans in the natural world. We often tend to forget that we are an integral and equal part of it.

I have selected nearly 1,000 different species of plants from various botanical books and encyclopedias to create fields of extreme emotional states.

2. How does it, and the wider exhibition, explore tragedy and hope?

Blackfield is an optimistic and psychological installation presenting two extreme situations – life and death.

Flowers are mirrors of the human heart, associated with sorrow and happiness. The front of the installation appears as a burnt field representing tragedy and destruction. The back with the colourful flowers expresses joy and happiness.

3. The installation was last shown in the UK in 2007. Since then climate change has accelerated and the fragility of our relationship with nature has been heightened. How has this time impacted how you view the installation and your wider exhibited work?
It certainly has had an impact, there is more awareness and concern for the future of our planet.

We as human beings must remember that we are an equal part of nature and guests on our planet. Unfortunately, we are exploiting and constantly experimenting in order to control it to suit our immediate needs and as a result, there are backlashes.

We are now facing a world climate crisis; global warming. This continues to add new context to Blackfield, which, along with my other work, elicits an elegiac and enchanted gaze, reflective and melancholy but still optimistic on humankind and our journey in the world and, above all, our attitude towards nature.

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4. The installation has been exhibited in more than 20 countries.  Do responses differ nation to nation?
I wouldn’t say that there is a big difference from one country to another as the climate crisis is a global concern now.

If I may specify one country that the installation has a strong effect I would say China.

There is a growing awareness there, of global warming and the climate crisis. Yemeng Lee the curator of recent international group exhibitions on this issue, in Beijing and Shanghai, has been chosen by the Chinese government among the 100 most influential people who highlight this Issue.

5. What would you like people to take away from the exhibition?  
To understand that if we wish to live on the hopeful side we must protect nature and preserve the weaker species rather than exploit and drive them to extinction.

Natural Reserve by Zadok Ben-David is on now at Kew Gardens Richmond at the Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art. 

Dates: On until March 27, 2022
Time: Winter opening hours 10am-3pm
Tickets: Entry to the exhibition included in garden entrance ticket, from £17.50
Address: Kew, Richmond, TW9 3AE


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