Sometimes the title of an exhibition sets your mind alight with all sorts of creative possibilities.
That was certainly the case when I heard about the SBA’s exhibition in Frankfurt ,'Poisonous and Medicinal Plants. I love that theme. Botanical art is not just about painting pretty plant portraits, it’s also about raising awareness about plants and their attributes. This exhibition promised to be both visually exciting and informative.
My choice of subject matter was easy- I’ve always wanted to paint the plants from the spice markets in Egypt. I really enjoyed visiting the markets, haggling for my wares and then doing research on my subject matter. I blogged about it here.
|The Spice Market © Shevaun Doherty 2014|
Whilst I was painting this, I received an email asking me to send my painting of Phoenix dactylifera too, as they would like to use the image on one of the posters. As a new member of this prestigious Society, that’s a real honour. I decided to travel out to Frankfurt to see the exhibition myself.
|A happy me with my painting and the poster which had information about how to become a member of the SBA|
I arrived a day early, so that I could lend a hand with the preparations. ‘Team Palmengarten” had already done a splendid job. Gaynor Dickeson and her husband Robin had spent the summer organising all the paperwork and forms, collecting the paintings, and then driving with a van load of art work to Germany.
That’s 200 paintings from 70 artists, travelling through 1200 miles through five countries!!
Sue Henon, whose work was hanging with mine in the Agua Doce exhibition in Spain, is the organiser on the German side. It’s taken two years of planning to put this together, and Sue continues to run things over there for the SBA. As the SBA president Sandra Wall Armitage said,
“Those three (Gaynor, Robin and Sue) are the sturdy tripod that underpins the whole event”.
|SBA president Sandra Wall Armitage with her beautiful painting on the main poster|
|Karin Wittstock with Gaynor and Robin Dickeson making sure that everything hangs straight|
By the time that I had arrived, the paintings were already up, but there was still a lot of work to do. I was impressed with how well everyone worked together as a team- straightening paintings, organising labels, sorting through the cards, arranging the display cases. Despite all the work, there was a lovely relaxed air, with plenty of chatter and endless cups of tea. It was really nice to meet the other artists and spouses involved, and to witness just how much organising it takes to put on an exhibition of this size and quality.
|A Palmengarten resident|
Palmengarten is a beautiful setting, particularly at this time of year with all the rich autumnal colours. I had to smile because every day I noticed a little collection of seedpods behind the desk that someone had picked up and saved. I think all botanical artists must have this tendency to collect little fallen treasures.
The exhibition is being held in a large L-shaped glasshouse which was both spacious and very well lit. The staff at Palmengarten were incredibly helpful, particularly Karin Wittstock who is the Director of Culture there.
|Gaynor gets the measure of Susan Christopher Coulson|
|SBA secretary Pamela Henderson keeps an eye on Gaynor|
It was also a thrill to see paintings by friends hanging in the exhibition. I have seen some of the work before online, but that really is no substitute for standing in front of the work and admiring the colours and the composition.
|Paintings by friends Claire Ward (top left) and Denise Heywood (top right)|
|Beautiful botanical jewelery by Lesley Hall on display|
|Artwork by Sue Linton (far left and right), Sarah Wood (center) and Amber Halsall|
There were so many exquisite paintings in the exhibition, jewellery and glasswork too. It would be difficult to predict which painting will win the People’s Choice. The prize is amazing - an incredible wooden art box filled with lots and lots of Schmincke paints and all sorts of goodies, as well as a selection of Hahnemühle papers. Whoever wins that is going to be incredibly happy!
|A prize that any artist would covet, thanks to sponsors Schmincke and Hahnemühle|
|I loved Susan Christopher Coulson's paintings|
I think my favourite set of paintings were by Susan Christopher Coulson. Her work is incredibly detailed and well thought out. She painted a collection of medicinal plants from The Apothecary’s Garden, another from The Potager’s Garden, and then a very clever one called The Poison’s in the Dose, featuring Myristica fragrans, nutmeg and mace. Nutmeg is of course a medicinal spice, but a spoonful can be lethal.
|Sandra Wall Armitage gives a speech in German which the British Ambassador, Sir Simon McDonald (left) seems to enjoy|
The Opening night was brilliant. I really must congratulate the organisers for putting on such an elegant event. Over two hundred guests arrived for the party. There was food, wine, music, speeches and sales! The exhibition was opened by the British Ambassador, Sir Simon McDonald, and Sandra gave a speech in German which was warmly received.
|Sue Linton (center) with her husband and Susan Christopher Coulson|
It was great to meet some of the visiting SBA members and to talk to them about their artwork.
|Sue Henon with Karin Wittstock and Sandra Wall Armitage|
So far sales have been strong with 17 paintings selling in the first few days! It continues until the 23rd November and if you happen to be in Frankfurt, it’s well worth visiting. There are more photographs of the exhibition and of the Opening night on the SBA Facebook Page, as well as updates on how the exhibition is doing. Gaynor's blog also has many photographs.
The exhibition brochure can be downloaded here
I am really proud to be part of this exhibition and delighted that I travelled out to see it. I’ll definitely be taking part in the next Palmengarten exhibition in October 2016!