Sunday, August 29, 2021

"Chelsea Physic Garden: a year in the life" at the Bankside Gallery

I saw the exhibition about the Chelsea Physic Garden: a year in the life at the Bankside Gallery on Friday. This is an exhibition of painting and prints by members of the Royal Watercolour Society (RWS) and the Royal Society of Painter-Printmakers (RE). It was really nice to see such a lot of decent proper watercolour painting on the walls of the Bankside - and a lot of the prints are great.

Chelsea Physic Garden: a year in the life at the Bankside Gallery

You can see all the artworks online if you're unable to visit the Gallery before the exhibition closes on 30th August.
  • Click an image to see more details and
  • then click the image again to see a larger version.
You can also get a much better sense of the size of the different artworks in my Facebook Album of the photos I took on Friday. As always online exhibitions can be very confusing in relation to size. Some of the artworks are much smaller while others are much larger than you might think!

View of the end of the Gallery - with display cases for sketchbooks and postcards

I'm still deep in "getting ready for surgery mode" at the moment, so this is going to be something of a shortcut review, i.e. the pics are on my Facebook Page (in an album) - with a few in this blog post.

The topic was a refreshing change. I've never had a sense of either the RWS or the RE being much interested in either plants of gardens. Maybe they've spotted the popularity of all things 'botanical'? Personally, I'd have timed it to coincide with  COP26 - the United Nations Climate Change Conference due to be held in Glasgow in November 2021. 

COP26 has six major themes and one of these is

Nature - to safeguard and restore natural habitats and ecosystems to preserve the planet’s biodiversity
which - given the Chelsea Physic Garden's perennial focus on plant diversity and plants from around the world - may well probably have garnered a bigger audience for this exhibition.

That said it was interesting to see the approach of the different artists to the exhibition - which was explained on a large information board



I really liked the paintings of the Garden by these painters
  • Mychael Barratt PPRE, RWS - has produced a wonderful annotated map of the Garden as a hand coloured silkscreen/etching. He's an artist I would collect if I had more wall space!
  • Liz Butler RWS - several small paintings in her inimitable style demonstrating an expert watercolourist's grasp of the full tonal range
  • Claire Denny ARWS - five paintings in watercolour and acrylic ink of various very familiar views of the Chelsea Physic Garden
  • Wendy Jacob RWS - views of the garden and accurate but stylised portrayals of plants, bushes and trees
  • Annie Williams RWS - Annie normally paints very carefully constructed and beautiful still lifes so it's fascinating to see how she approaches painting a garden.


I also liked the artworks about plants by these artists
  • Emiko Aida RE - her etchings of white flowers on a very vivid orange background both echo conventional botanic art and provide a counterpoint to ideas of how flowers should be portayed
  • Meg Dutton RE RBA has drawn several ink and watercolour artworks of the profusion of plants in the glasshouses. I'm also familiar with similar drawings she did of the plants in the glasshouses at Kew Gardens.
NOTE: What used to be a quick jaunt for me is now a very painful expedition even using my rollator due to my severe osteoarthritis. Walked way, way more than I should have done n Friday. Exhibition visits between now and surgery are going to be very few and far between - and involve lots of sitting down and long rest periods!

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