Tuesday, 31 December 2013

So with a bucket of Pakoras and a bottle of Champers

So we are almost at the end of 2013 and what a year it has been. If I remember correctly, I started the year in good spirits, and, I am glad to say, that against all odds I am ending it much the same way. However, it hasn't all been rosy.

Towards the end of 2012 I decided that I was going to get a drawing board and started clearing out my little room at Kew so I could accommodate one. No sooner had I embarked on this plan when my landlady decided to put my rent up. It was more than I could really afford. Simultaneously, a room came up at Henry's house on the other side of London. Being a great believer in serendipity, I took the room and moved in with Henry - about time, we had been dating for three years!

Along came February (please don't worry this isn't going to be a month by month review of 2013), and Henry, who had been getting steadily poorly was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. He had lost several stone in weight, his hair was falling out, he wasn't sleeping and he smelt of pear drops. As a biologist I should have twigged what was going on sooner. So to cut a long story short, this news gave way to a hellish Spring and Summer. Spring never spung - it was the winter that never ended. I had runner beans taking over my studio, eagerly awaiting to be planted out. If it wasn't for Drew my drawing board and the spectacular Rory McEwen Show, I probably would have pulled all my hair out with the drama that was turning out to be my life in 2013.

I made a decision towards the end of 2012, after a failed PhD application to Royal Holloway, that I would concentrate more on my artwork and paint bigger subjects. I like to think I achieved this in 2013. I was, however, tempted by another PhD that came up at Edinburgh University in July. I think I can safely say that this little sod of an application took the life out of me. I spent much of July's heatwave studying in the library at the Wellcome Trust, soaking up as much information as I could about the history of science. After my interview I had to make a dash to Germany for a wedding. Those 4 days were nuts. I didn't get offered the place and to this day I felt like the whole thing was an absolute waste of my time. It felt like they were only interviewing me to tick a box. The experience was not only exhausting but also very expensive.

So anyway, after a few more months I then hit rock bottom. I am sure many of you have noticed how scanty my posts have become of late. After I turned 29 I hit a force 9 wind which blew me miles away to a distant land. I felt lost and even more exhausted than I was in July. I had lost a stone and a half in weight and hadn't slept properly in days. Henry and I almost broke up and we are still teetering around the edge.

Life is tough, but I know that I am not alone in my battles. I have lots of friends who are very poorly at the moment, including Henry. Friends who are even more lost and I find myself finishing this year with the mindset that it is my duty to not only encourage and inspire the people around me but to do the things that I want to do and to not feel defeated in any shape or form.

So with a bucket of Pakoras and a bottle of Champers, Henry and I are off to the south coast for New Years Eve with my family. Let's draw a line under unlucky 2013 and learn from it. My lesson - that my health is the most important thing. This is what I take into 2014, that and another one of those PhD applications, my membership to the Chelsea Physic Garden Florilegium and of course Cosmo.

They say when times are tough the only way is up. I disagree - I am doing an awesome job of spreading. When times are tough it's good to lie down like a snow angel, arms out stretched, ready to give and ready to receive.

Wishing you all a very Happy New Year and a magical, stretchy 2014.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Exhibition 'Botanical Art in the 21st Century' opens 8 February 2014

Paintings of roses by Regine Hagedorn
The Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art will be kicking off 2014 with a new exhibition of paintings from the Shirley Sherwood Collection. There will be work from several Italian artists who have never exhibited in the UK before. There will also be a series of paintings from the new book 'Overleaf' by Susan Ogilvy.


This new exhibition, ‘Botanical Art in the 21st Century’, will celebrate the remarkable, worldwide renaissance of botanical art today. Recently acquired works in the Shirley Sherwood Collection will illustrate both traditional and new painting techniques. The exhibition will demonstrate the breadth and depth of botanical art, where fresh approaches and technical advances are changing the idea of what botanical art is about.

‘Botanical Art in the 21st Century’ is a modification of an exhibition mounted last year in Pisa, Italy, in the Museo della Grafica, called ‘Botanical Art into the Third Millennium’. Alongside the Shirley Sherwood Collection there will be a selection of recent works by Italian artists on display, some of which were painted specially for the Pisa show and many have never been exhibited in the UK before.




Many areas of botanical art are undergoing exciting changes and this new exhibition aims to showcase how exciting the future is for botanical art.

The other exhibition in the gallery, 'Overleaf' features a selection of paintings by award-winning botanical artist Susan Ogilvy. Each painting delicately depicts a range of leaves, selected from trees across the temperate regions of Europe and North America.. The display is designed to accompany the book of the same name, Overleaf, by Richard Ogilvy and Susan Ogilvy, which is published by Kew.

The Overleaf display will also open on 8 February 2014 and run until 10 August 2014.

Exhibition 'Magnolias' at the Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art, Kew

This selling exhibition will provide visitors to Kew with the rare opportunity to see the extraordinary paintings of Magnolias by Barbara Oozeerally.

Magnolia sieboldii subsp. by Barbara Oozeerally

In 2005 Barbara embarked on a nine year project to produce over 150 paintings of magnolias, both species and hybrids. She travelled widely in England and Europe, working closely with owners of gardens, head gardeners and magnolia experts. All the paintings are life size: every bud, flower, branch, leaf and seed head measured, sketched and colour sample taken in situ with many paintings requiring long research and many weeks to finish. Dr Shirley Sherwood describes them as ‘an extraordinary series of important and beautiful plants’.

Magnolia glabosa by Barbara Oozeerally

Magnolia x soulangeana “Brozzonii” by Barbara Oozeerally

These paintings will also be published in an extensively illustrated book, entitled Magnolias in Art and Cultivation, authored by Barbara, Jim Gardiner and Stephen A. Spongberg. The book will be published by Kew Publishing in association with the Royal Horticultural Society and will contain not only well-known and loved magnolias, but also some that are very unusual and less familiar.

Seedhead of Magnolia 'Pegasus' by Barbara Oozeerally
For more information, such as opening times, please visit the Kew website.

The price list for Barbara's paintings can be seen here