It rained in Galicia, not a heavy rain, but a gentle persistent mist that softened the ancient silhouette of Santiago de Compostela.
“With the works by geniuses such as John Constable, David Hockney, Gerhard Richter, Louise Bourgeois, Mario Merz, Martín 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)
Flying the flag for the SBA were Penny Brown, Sue Hénon, Robert McNeill, Mariko 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|
David Hockney's Lithographs of The Weather Series. I especially like the middle one, The Rain. You can see a better image here
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.
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.