Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Opening of the Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art Kew April 2008

diary entry

The Preview Shows of the inaugural exhibition of the new gallery were hosted by Dr Shirley Sherwood and her husband James Sherwood, and, key members of the Kew Staff. The Artists Preview, which followed the Press Day, was a special event for the Botanical Artists from around the globe. We were given the opportunity to meet one another on what was a cordial and very happy occasion, which was much appreciated by all who attended. The Press Preview had brought a shower of publicity through the media. This was the subject of a great deal of interested debate amongst the artists, who had suddenly found their work being discussed within a mainstream art and news context.....this was something quite new for most of us. The broadsheets, as well as TV and radio, gave glowing recommendations about the work on show as well as numerous and favourable reviews of the Gallery itself. My work was reviewed by the mainstream art critic Richard Cork on R3's Night Waves program. I was delighted to hear Iris 'Superstition' described as having 'The wow factor and a life of its own'. Botanical Art's assimilation into the present mainstream is largely due to Dr Sherwood's championing of botanical painting projects as an absolute art form. The new gallery is a fabulous showcase for this kind of work, having been designed and specifically built to house it. On approaching the Gallery one is impressed by the beautiful simplicity of the glass exterior and the minimal orderliness of the lobby. The building itself is Tardis-like, and the gallery interior cannot be seen from the outside. Once through the inner doorway, the exhibition space opens out to a vast central room, which is bordered by several smaller galleries. The far end is successfully and seamlessly, linked to the Victorian Marianne North Gallery. The interior is designed to adjust to light and humidity. Thus accommodating the works on paper, which are highly sensitive to external conditions.The work on show was an exciting, intriguing, and intelligent, juxtaposition of the new work from the Dr Sherwood Collection and that from the Kew Archive. Theme hanging, in this context, works very well. I was fortunate enough to have the Iris 'Superstition' hung opposite the entrance doors and so it's formal qualities and large format were the unexpected that met each person who entered the space. The size of the picture at well over 5ft, worked against all preconceptions of the small traditional botanical watercolour. The show offers an opportunity to see many works that are well known and by well known artists. These are often only seen in books. As well as this, many new pieces that have not before been shown in this country are included.The main Preview Party came after the Artists Day and was a very well attended event. Dr Sherwood gave a very moving speech about her work, and thereafter we were all honoured by the presence of Sir David Attenborough, who talked eloquently and sensitively on the subject of Botanical Art and its future.This inaugural show is on until October this year, and the entry is included in the Kew ticket. Over 25% of those who visit Kew are now going to the Gallery, which received over 4,000 visitors in its first week. Its a wonderful exhibition......don't miss it!

Links to some of the reviews:

The Guardian

The Spectator