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The private life of plants explored in painting

Many people regard plants as less sentient, less important than people, yet our existence is linked with them. Research shows that plants communicate with one another, respond to their environments and, most likely, interact with humans on the level of energetic transfer.

It’s these largely unknown but intriguing characteristics that artist Lauren Shantall has captured in her exhibition ‘Plant Babies’, a series of plant portraits in acrylics that will run in the gallery space at The Yard Cape Town, located in the Silo District in the V&A Waterfront, from 9 February until 9 March 2023.


Shantall, who runs the award-winning communications agency Scout PR & Social Media, is often called on as a public speaker focusing on lifestyle trends, and she points out that social media abounds with botanical styling, potplant hashtags, and masterclasses on how to style your house plants for the urban jungles of now. From a macro perspective, she is fascinated by this pervasive plant movement and what it says about our society. ‘It makes me happy when I see the plant world taking pride of place in urban homes and spaces, and how the two seem to be moving closer together,’ she says of the trend, which is linked to the rise of Organicism as a lifestyle philosophy. ‘In this societal shift, we can read so many things: there’s reverence for nature, heightened awareness of greening and green issues, the place for plant therapy as an antidote to digital disconnection, and the need to express care and nurture growth and positivity.’

Shantall’s paintings embrace all this, ‘from observing the trend to participating in it myself, and depicting my own and my husband’s family of plant babies at home, which, almost like our son, need a lot of care and attention to thrive.’


Shantall has treated her plant subjects the way a conventional portrait painter might engage with a human posing for a likeness. ‘There’s gentle poking fun at this long-held convention, one that predated the advent of camera photography as a form of functional representation, and then became enshrined as an art form,’ she says. ‘But I am engaging with the notion of portraiture in a serious way too: my plants are my sitters, and I do try and capture something of the feeling or essence of the plant, and more especially, how I feel when I look at it, in order to create a painted #plantie.’

The paintings vary in the way they depict their leafy subjects. Some are semi-realistic, others are more abstract, yet all are linked by highly expressive use of colour. ‘In these paintings, colour is a device that denotes joy, and marks that imperceptible surge of love that occurs when the subtle connections between living things – between plant person and human person, between parent and plant baby, between growing person and plant teacher – are recognised and honoured,’ Shantall says.


At the same time as ‘Plant Babies’, Shantall also has work on display at the RK Contemporary gallery in Riebeek Kasteel as part of the salon-style summer group show ‘Lush’, which is on from 4 December 2022 until 27 February 2023. Previously, her work has been included in group shows at RK Contemporary, Vacant Museum (global online), Jaffer Modern in Cape Town and Galeria Azur in Madrid, Spain. She was a finalist in The Brick Lane Gallery London Open Call competition in September 2020.

‘Plant Babies’ will open to the public at 18h00 on Thursday 9 February 2023. There will be an artist’s walkabout combined with a plant display and talk on plant care by Flourish Plant Studio from 11h00 to 12h00 on Saturday 11 February 2023, which are all free to attend.

Follow the artist on Instagram via @laurenshantall and for more information visit,, or


Show Title: Plant Babies
Venue: The Yard Cape Town, Ground Floor, Silo 4, Silo District, V&A Waterfront
Contact: +27 (0)21 879 1157 or
Opening Hours: Monday-Saturday, 08h00-22h00; Sunday, 08h00-15h00
Exhibition Dates: 09 February to 09 March 2023
Opening Evening: Thursday 09 February 2023 at 18h00
Walkabout & Plant Presentation: Saturday 11 February 2023, 11h00-12h00 (free entry)