Saturday 12 April 2014

Fresh Water Exhibition- Agua Doce

It rained in Galicia, not a heavy rain, but a gentle persistent mist that softened the ancient silhouette of 
Santiago de Compostela.
 I had travelled with my parents to Galicia, to visit the Fresh Water Exhibition in the magnificent Gaiás Centre MuseumHowever not even the weather could dampen our spirits, because we had come to see my painting of  papyrus hanging in the museum

“With the works by geniuses such as  John ConstableDavid HockneyGerhard RichterLouise BourgeoisMario MerzMartín Chirino and Chema Madoz as well as important Galician creators, this exhibition proposes an intense aesthetic experience through a multidisciplinary selection of artworks including painting, sculpture, photography, video, installation, scientific devices and ethnographic pieces.”

A huge sculpture made of books representing a vortex of ideas and words
The exhibition was opened by Crown Prince Felipe on March 21st, on the eve of World Water Day, and has already had more than 7000 visitors in the first two weeks. The museum is vast, over 6600m2 of exhibition space, spread across four floors, but everything has been very cleverly laid out. A series of temporary walls, painted in rich dark colours, invite you to weave your way through, with surprises around every corner to intrigue and inspire you.

All life begins with water and water is essential for all life.
The journey begins.

“Water is the driving force of all nature.” Leonardo da Vinci

Of course, I was eager to see the botanical paintings, so we hurried to the first floor “Water on Earth”. This floor is dedicated to telling the story of the great rivers of the world, and how water has shaped the landscape. There is an incredibly impressive gallery with paintings by the likes of Gerhard Richter, John Constable, Anton Mauve, Graham Sutherland and  Henry Lewis, to name but a few. 

Finally we turned a corner, and there they were!! The SBA paintings. 

"Art and science, aesthetic impact and cool analysis are combined in the ornithological drawings of Audobon, who traversed the forests of North America in pursuit of the beauty of birds. ... A further example of the descriptive efforts of nineteenth century biologists is furnished by the botanical plates produced by Kew Gardens. This tradition lives on thanks to the work of members of the Society of Botanical Artists." (Exhibition catalogue)

L-R Sue HénonRobert McNeillShevaun DohertyMariko Aikawa 
Flying the flag for the SBA were Penny BrownSue HénonRobert McNeillMariko Aikawa ......and me! I felt quite humbled to find my work hanging beside such wonderful artists, but very, very proud.  Marta Chirino SBA also had three stunning botanical illustrations in the exhibition. 
Marta Chirino Argenta SBA
On an adjacent wall were the paintings from Kew Gardens. The artists were Fanny Russell, Joan Bacon, Margaret Stones and Sydenham Edwards.

 I especially liked the mixed compositions of Joan Bacon. I was charmed to later read that she won a medal  for her work at age 92!
Utagawa Hiroshige, Nishki-e (1833-34)
The paintings were all in good company because on the opposite wall, were a series of engravings by Hokusai and Hiroshige. What a treat!

Huge prints from another favourite, the master of ornithology, James John Audobon

This exhibition absorbs you, delights you and fascinates you. We saw paintings and sculptures from the Inuits, the Aboriginals, the Amazon river and of course the Nile. 

A gorgeous little travel sketch painted Egypt by Edward Lear, (author of The Owl and The Pussycat)

Butterflies from the Amazon River
The exhibition also explored  Hidden Water, Humankind's relationship with water, and finished with Gazing at the Sky. There was something for everyone, from Roman mosaics to modern-day spas, Egyptian amulets,engineering and scientific equipment, glassware (amazing stuff by Lalique) , satellite images, book illustrations (The Hobbit, Alice in Wonderland), sheet music (Johann Strauss's Blue Danube), photography, video installations, costumes, sculpture and much, much more.  Despite the diversity of objects everything had the common theme of fresh water.

David Hockney's Lithographs of The Weather Series. I especially like the middle one, The Rain. You can see a better image here

I loved this enormous painting by Spanish painter José Freixanes (2001) 200x200cm
The highlight of the whole trip was meeting the Director of the museum, María Periera, who came to meet me and talk to me about my work. It was such an honour to realise that my little painting is hanging alongside works from great cultural institutions like the MoMA, the Victoria & Albert, the Musée D’Orsay, the Rijksmuseum, the Reina Sofía and the Thyssen-Bornemisza. 

She presented me with a beautiful book of the exhibition that I will always treasure.

One happy artist with Director Maria Pereira!
The exhibition runs from March 21st until September 14 2014. If you are walking the Camino, or just visiting Galicia, it's definitely worth a visit.


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks Candice. It was a very special trip indeed.

  2. Looks fantastic Shevaun, a very enjoyable trip,we're proud of you xx

    1. Thanks Claire- what a lovely thing to say!

  3. What an amazing exhibition, I didn't realize it was such a wide interpretation. You've listed many artists' works I would have loved to have seen, including yours of course :)

    1. It was amazing...I can't even list all the fantastic works because there were just too many! I did notice that quite a few came from the museum in Aberdeen, Lorraine. It was really interesting and thought provoking.

  4. Congratulations Shevaun, such a wonderful trip. Better get used to it, I have a feeling this isn;t a 'one off'

    1. Polly, you're too kind! I'm just really happy that botanical art is finally being given the recognition it deserves, and that I could play a tiny part in this journey. It was very humbling and also very inspiring.

  5. Its a fabulous exhibition and so wonderful that you were there both in your work and in person. Botanical art is technically challenging and good botanical art is a pleasure to see. I'm so pleased for you.

    1. Thank you Jeanette. I am so pleased that I went to see it because it was a real eye opener and incredibly inspiring. I came back eager to paint and to try out new things. I appreciate your encouragement.

  6. Shevaun, the exhibition sounds incredible--thanks for describing it so well. I am happy that your courage and creativity to paint such a unique image on an unusual surface has been so well rewarded! Congratulations!!

    1. Thanks Janene. I really didn't describe the whole exhibition- there was so much to it that it would have needed a book, but glad you enjoyed reading this post. I'm delighted that the papyrus was accepted- I really enjoyed the challenge!


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