The strange and supernatural flowers by Kathrin Linkersdorff (Purdy Hicks Gallery, London)

The notice from the Purdy Hicks Gallery (London) tells us that Linkersdorff’s         

series, Fairies I-VI, represents the result of years of experimentation and testing: capturing fading moments of transience with the lightest possible touch. Research and the practice of biological methodology has turned her studio into a laboratory. Colours are extracted from the plants and, at the same time, she creates coloured liquids based on the concentrated, water-soluble plant pigments, anthocyanins. These extracted colours are carefully reintroduced to the faded plant tissues and given space to again unfurl. The interaction between colour and form becomes a poetic dance that also reveals the hidden alchemy present in all living matter.  

Truly, what we have here is a phenomenon that has something to do with vampirism, and at the same time a kind of work that is effectively alchemico-biological: rendering bloodless and re-instilling the lacework of survival. What could, literally, be described as a result, is an aesthetic that has become poisonous. You may look, but you can’t touch.      

Kathrin Linkersdorff, from the Series “Fairies, II/1”, 2020, archival pigment print, Edition of 3 + 2 APs, 150 x 150 cm / 59 x 59 in, Edition of 8 + 2 APs, 35 x 35 cm / 13.8 x 13.8 in, Courtesy Purdy Hicks Gallery, London

Linkersdorff’s images do not “give” what might come to mind: dried flowers or a collection of simples; it has to do with what I have call the “Shift of mimesis”, in other words, Linkersdorff’s offering of another way of looking at what we traditionally call “beauty” and its possible translation in the field of art. It is quite clear that the notion of  “beauty” in our contemporary world, and especially in art, is somewhat dodgy. There are, for example, those who find Othoniel’s glass installations beautiful, or Kieffer’s paintings beautiful, and so on. The notion is still very much alive, and we can only welcome it, because it is clear that we need beauty (which, as Dostoyevsky wrote, will save the world). In a way, the artist is showing us a true Nature that does not exist, or at least can only exist through her  interventions (hence the “shif”), since it is certainly impossible to come across such flowers in the natural world. There is magic in there. In other words, Linkersdorff knows very well (I suppose) that what she shows in this Series is supernatural (lat. supernaturalis). And yet, to use the names of Othoniel and Kieffer, there is nothing supernatural about their artwork, which is not the case with Linkersdorff’s. Why? Perhaps, and this is rather complex to explain, but let me try; because glass and paint are already unnatural, whereas flowers are not. Now, injecting the supernatural into something that isn’t in the first place is not an option, which tends to prove that the supernatural can only be initiated from the natural  — which, once again, is not represented by glass balls, painted pictures or classical sculpture, for instance — therefore Linkersdorff produces an unnatural shift in mimesis, which seems to me to be unprecedented (but I’m not omniscient), reminding that the “shift in mimesis” was a recommandation from Aristotle, who never strictly wrote that an artwork should be absolutely aesthetically faithful to the products of Nature.

Some artists, particularly in digital art, fill the screen with overflowing psychedelic colours, imagining that the excess of pop and saturated colours is necessarily a guarantee of beauty-effect. The opposite is true, not to mention the paradoxical dated nature of the process, which yet is supposed to be so up to date. But beauty is often the result of a skilful balance which, with Linkersdorff, borders on purity, and especially, in this case, the impurity of the pure.

What is quite extraordinary is that, from my point of view, the artist manages to make her flowers “speak” even more than the florist’s most beautiful flower; it’s as if each part had something to say, as here 

(or) there

Colour and folds say something. But what is it? It’s up to the viewer to make up his or her own mind. I wouldn’t want to encroach on such territory, which I run the risk of creasing.

Linkersdorff is painting not on but inside the flower, and this is also very curious, in the interesting sense of the word. It’s a question of inserting the colour, the anthocyanins, literally, the colours of the flowers, back into the frail and fragile body. It’s an extremely delicate operation, almost surgical.

As sometimes they seem to bleed 

Kathrin Linkersdorff, from the Series “Fairies IV/15, 2021, archival pigment print, Edition of 5 + 2 APs, 80 x 80 cm / 31.5 x 31.5 in, Edition of 8 + 2 APs, 35 x 35 cm / 13.8 x 13.8 in, Courtesy Purdy Hicks Gallery, London

Here the flowers tell a different story. Decidedly, I prefer them non-sinking, because it seems to me that this dramatic addition of splashing and dripping contradicts the purpose, which, I thought, was “silent”. But you can’t reproach an artist for experimenting, and choosing several paths, can you?

Our lay eyes see Nature as it is, artists as they envision it, imagine it, dream it, awake.


The ban of the mediaeval Church on magic had forced it into dark holes and corners, where the magician plied his abominated art in secrecy. Respectable people might sometimes employ him surreptitiously and he was much feared. But he was certainly not publicly admired as a religious philosopher. (Frances Yates, Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition, University of Chicago Press, 1964)


Supernatural (adj.) [Online Etymology Dictionary]

early 15c. “of or given by God, divine; heavenly”, from Medieval Latin supernaturalis, “above or beyond nature; divine”, from Latin super “above »+ natura « nature ». Originally of revelation, etc.; the notion is “being beyond or exceeding the powers or laws of nature.” The association with ghosts, etc., has predominated since 19c. The older sense is maintained in supernalThat is supernatural, whatever it be, that is either not in the chain of natural cause and effect, or which acts on the chain of cause and effect, in nature, from without the chain. [Horace Bushnell, “Nature and the Supernatural”, 1858]. The religious sense has been better preserved in supernal. That which is supernatural is above nature ; that which is preternatural or extra-natural is outside of nature ; that which is unnatural is contrary to nature, but not necessarily impossible. [Century Dictionary]


Léon Mychkine 

writer, Doctor of Philosophy,  independent researcher, art-critic, member of AICA-France



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