Lawre Stone

The Cipher

November 12 - December 18, 2022

Press Release

Lawre Stone: The Cipher

November 12 - 27, 2022

Openinng Reception: 4 - 9 PM, Saturday, November 12, 2022

Tanja Grunert is proud to present The Cipher by Lawre Stone. Lawre Stone wrote about her exhibition:


I’m always looking to integrate ideas from art history into my work, especially images from the language of painting. This work, The Cipher (2021-22) is an ongoing series of ink on paper drawings inspired by the botanicals in the Voynich Manuscript, a late 15th c. medieval codex. Painted on vellum with natural pigments, this mysterious book contains over 113 botanical illustrations of esoteric plants, along with pages of astrological charts, celestial imagery, women bathing and perhaps medical and alchemical recipes. Created in middle Europe over 600 years ago, the images are accompanied by a bizarre, indecipherable text, and so the manuscript’s full purpose remains unclear, despite decades of scholarly study.

The botanicals in the manuscript seem familiar to contemporary eyes, yet these fantastic plants cannot be attributed to a specific genus or species. Plausible structures of foliage and flower rise from pronounced root systems creating hybrid plants that are at once recognizable and strange. On one page, a cactus-like paddle grows out of a delicate stem system, presenting a plant seemingly adapted to both a desert and alpine environment. Roots twist and take on attributes of the human figure. The parts are logical but the whole seems impossible; like something in this world isn’t quite right. It’s easy for me to think about the plants in the Voynich Manuscript in context of our contemporary climate disaster. As human endeavor continues to alter the forms and systems of the natural world, perhaps in the late anthropocene we too will be unable to identify or even locate once familiar and beloved flora and fauna.


For The Cipher, I prepare each sheet of paper with a gesture of color, creating a space where the image will reside. Then, with black ink and a brush, I draw a single botanical from the Voynich onto the ground. I go page by page, not always in order but with the intention of completing a drawing in one sitting and with time, making all 113 herbals. My versions are recognizable as copies, but contain slight variations that happen through making. Transformed and repositioned, my images reside in the context of gestural abstraction and over 600 years of painting history. In this new landscape, scale and distance become inconsequential. Iconic and solitary, each drawing joins my own lexicon of images relating to remembered feelings of natural phenomenon. The emergency of our time and an uncertain future compel me to empathize with aspects of the natural world through color, image, shape and gesture. I’m interested in finding what must be discarded and what must be carried forward.


Lawre Stone
October 2022