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Top Pick: Dried flower artist launches Košice exhibit

WHILE waiting at the Ukraine-Slovak border last November, Ukraine national Natalya Palotash began sorting through a bag of leaves of the Jordan flower that she had picked in her home country, removing unwanted greenery and throwing it into a garbage can.
Customs officials, their suspicions aroused, called her in for questioning.
"They were surprised to discover someone collecting leaves in the winter," Palotash says. "But when I explained that I create pictures out of leaves, and that at this time of year they have a slightly different colour than usual, they seemed to understand."


THE PORTRAIT Silent Ukraine Night is composed entirely of plant parts.
photo: Natalya Palotash

WHILE waiting at the Ukraine-Slovak border last November, Ukraine national Natalya Palotash began sorting through a bag of leaves of the Jordan flower that she had picked in her home country, removing unwanted greenery and throwing it into a garbage can.

Customs officials, their suspicions aroused, called her in for questioning.

"They were surprised to discover someone collecting leaves in the winter," Palotash says. "But when I explained that I create pictures out of leaves, and that at this time of year they have a slightly different colour than usual, they seemed to understand."

A lawyer and journalist by profession, Palotash, 36, has turned her unusual hobby - using dried plant parts to create pictures - into a subtle art form now on display in Slovakia.

She says that five years ago she became attracted by the variety and distinctiveness of the colors to be found in the plant world. On her travels across Europe and Asia - trips required by her job as an international human rights lawyer - she collected, dried and assembled thousands of flowers, herbs and leaves into 'paintings' of natural scenes.

Following her Slovak husband's decision to move back to his hometown Košice last year, Palotash began preparing a first-ever exhibit of her works. The resulting display, called Ordinary Miracle, can be seen for another three weeks in the downtown core of the country's second largest city.

The 50 pictures on show depict everyday scenes such as wooden houses, mills, and boats on a river. They are all made up of tiny fragments of flora, in the Japanese Osibana ('pressed flower art') style.

While the complexity of the pictures mean that some may take up to four years to create, the artist says she tries to keep the themes simple and accessible. "I try to create something that can warm people's hearts," Palotash says.

She adds that her work has taken on a new, Slovak element since she arrived in Košice. "As soon as we moved here, my husband asked me to 'finally do something Slovak'. So I started to work on castles. I am also trying to capture the Košice downtown area with the St. Elizabeth cathedral and the singing fountain."

While Palotash is still trying to get used to the local flora, she says she has been surprised by how quickly Slovaks remove dead leaves from city streets, leaving her no time to wander and select new material for her art.

Nor does she have much time to enjoy some of her finished works. Although Palotash uses a special compound when drying her plants to preserve their natural colours, many of her pictures fade nonetheless. "I then say that these pictures have moved on to another season of the year," the lawyer says.

The exhibition runs at the Slovak Technical Museum on Hlavná 88 in the eastern Slovak town of Košice until June 15. Open: Tue-Fri 8:00-17:00, Sat 9:00-14:00, Sun 12:00-17:00. Admission: Sk10. Tel: 055/6224-035 (6).


By Zuzana Habšudová

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