There are some very good and useful art blogs out there. One of the best is Katherine Tyrell's Making a Mark. It is a supremely good and helpful resource. It is more useful than mine in that she tends to review things before they finish, unlike this blog post which is reviewing an exhibition after it has finished.
Read Making a Mark the other day I came across a feature on the Society of Botanical Artists 2016 exhibition (who incidentally have a very good website). This it turned out was in Central Hall and as that is but ten minutes form where I work I decided to go along. It finishes yesterday which means if you reading this and haven't been then you've missed it and indeed have missed out.
Botanical art has of course a very long tradition founded in the scientific need to accurately record botanical specimen. The SBA is a fairly recent organisation but it has tapped into a rich vein of talent and interest.
I had no real expectations when I went other than to see some art. I am quite a fan of Japanese Persimmon paintings and these hit a similar niche I think. The work there was all to a very high standard. Some 600 paintings, mainly in watercolour but also in colour pencil, pencil, oil paint, silverpoint and so on. They were all technically excellent. Flowers can of course make very good subjects giving a natural richness of colour and shape to exploit. The theme of this exhibition Shape, pattern and structure had been seized upon to great aplomb by those exhibiting.
This type of painting has a reputation for fussiness and a hint of the old fashioned in some quarters. To be honest it was bias I held when I went along. I was wrong though. It is well worth considering. This is, in my view, for a few reasons. Firstly they are very attractive well conceived and executed pieces of art. Secondly for original art they are quite cheap (around £300 - £500 for a moderate sized piece). Thirdly the stark image on a plain white background struck me as quite modern. It is I think a genre of art that could be due to rise in popularity. Certainly I intend to see more of it.
There were many good pieces and many good artists. Three particularly caught my attention; Janet Pope (top left), Jennifer Jenkins (top right) and Sandra- Wall Armitage (the two below).
In fact I managed to catch a few minutes of Sandra demonstrating how to paint flowers. I enjoyed the show very much. So much in fact that I went back the next day. I then made my wife come and we went back again and bought a painting. The original of the Pansy you see above left. I pick it up on Monday. I'm very excited.
The fact that these paintings are good, are accessible (in a way that Frank Auerbach isn't for example) and cheap make them an entry point into art. A gateway art if you like. This is a concept I am interested in and on the look out for more examples of.
Summary: keep an eye on the SBA and their artists. I think we can expect to see interesting things from them in the years to come.
William John Mackenzie
I am an artist with a specialism in landscapes and still life. My contact details are here.