Watlington’s Botanical Wonderland is a must-see show
On May 24 – many will recall the significance of that date – I visited the Christine Watlington exhibition in the Rick Faries Gallery at Masterworks Museum.
It seemed appropriate that I should visit a show devoted to Bermuda’s botanical world in an art museum located in the Botanical Garden on the traditional and original Bermuda Day.
I do not recall ever meeting Christine, although I certainly knew who she was and I do own her book, Bermuda’s Botanical Wonderland. From all reports, she was a remarkable individual.
The exhibition catalogue describes her as a reflection of nature itself, beautiful and complex. More than that, her beauty extends to the making of that which is beautiful. Her recent passing is therefore more than a loss for her family, it is our loss as well.
When this exhibition was planned, it was not anticipated that is would coincide with her passing last month. As it so happens, however, this exhibition – as well as this review – is a memorial to her not only as a person but also as a skilled artist.
The catalogue reports that she held countless exhibitions here in Bermuda. I am puzzled as to how I missed them. Suffice it to say, judging from the current exhibition, they must have been visual treats. Her current work is beyond magical. Indeed, this exhibition is an invitation to all of us to get to know and enjoy Bermuda’s botanical wonders.
Although trained in the prestigious Royal Botanic Garden at Kew as well as the Royal Horticultural Society garden at Wisley, her art is much more than just botanical illustrations, it is visual poetry.
In visiting art exhibitions, I often ask myself this question: If I could buy one thing in this show, what would it be? From this exhibition, without hesitation, it would be Jamaican Anole Lizard Appreciating the Moonlit Night-Blooming Cactus. I am admittedly attracted to moonlit landscapes and this painting is especially memorable. There is also something about this painting that brings to mind the linearity of Mughal paintings. Another one that caught my attention is European Goldfinch.
Here is a quote from Christine’s book, Bermuda’s Botanical Wonderland: “Generally we do not contemplate why and how we happen to survive in the system of life on earth, but if we could see our world from a cosmic view, we would be more aware of the wonders, riches and miracles that carpet the earth. To have that view of nature (a bird’s-eye view) would be remarkable. Today, nature is sometimes ignored by busy people surviving life in a hectic world.”
Here is an example of that ignoring of nature. Some years back when I was teaching art at Bermuda College, I had my students draw a craggy old Bermuda cedar. As they did I asked one of the students what she was drawing. She replied, “A tree.” I further asked, what kind of tree? Her telling response was that she didn’t know. I then told her that it was a Bermuda cedar, but then asked her if she knew of its significance. Clearly she had no knowledge of any of that, including its place in our island’s history.
The Christine Watlington Exhibition: Bermuda’s Botanical World continues at Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art through June 14. This is a highly recommended show. Indeed it is a must-see show.