Two contemporary drawings by British artist Charmaine Watkiss join the outstanding art collection at Lakeland Arts
Tenacity Serves the Warrior Well and Warriors Inhabit Mind, Body and Spirit have been acquired by the Contemporary Art Society for Abbot Hall, Lakeland Arts. Born in London to Jamaican parents, Charmaine Watkiss creates works on paper which explore her extensive research into the diverse cultural heritages of the African Caribbean diaspora. Working mainly with pencil and paper, Watkiss incorporates other materials such as watercolour and ink to draw out additional layers of meaning and fields of reference. Her recent work has focused on the interconnectivity between history, botany, and cosmology. While she draws her life-sized images from reference portraits of herself, they are not self-portraits; rather, they are characters with which to navigate her ideas.
Having my works acquired by the Contemporary Art Society for placement at Abbot Hall affirms that as an artist my work has a wider cultural value. I am pleased that my two drawings will be exposed to a new audience in a region which has an interesting history around people of African descent; my wish is that they will form part of an ongoing conversation around belonging and place. Charmaine Watkiss, Artist.
Tenacity Serves the Warrior Well and Warriors Inhabit Mind, Body and Spirit are part of the Plant Warrior series created for Watkiss first solo exhibition, The Seed Keepers. This body of work delves into her botanical inheritance and explores the spiritual properties of herbs which are traditionally used for holistic healthcare. Each Plant Warrior is a physical embodiment of these properties and manifests these spiritual attributes in human form. Tenacity Serves the Warrior Well is a representation of ginger. The ginger flower can be seen as a detailed collar. It evokes the lace which adorned the necks of Victorian women and connects Watkiss work with 19th century botanical illustrations. The woman in Warriors Inhabit Mind, Body and Spirit is a representation of aloe vera. Known as the Single Bible in Jamaica, aloe vera is seen as the most spiritually evolved of all plants because of its versatility.
Sophie Terrett Collection Curator at Lakeland Arts comments, Watkiss warriors resonate with many existing themes in the Lakeland Arts collection, and the priority areas identified in our Collections Development Policy. The acquisition policy for Abbot Hall is focused almost exclusively on fine art with a particular emphasis on landscape and identity. At Blackwell the Arts & Crafts house, we tell the story of how the Arts and Crafts Movement sought to reconnect with nature and use symbolism and mythologies inherent in the natural world to inform design and pattern. Blackwell will therefore provide a meaningful context in which to display Watkiss work. The two warriors also find resonance in the works on paper collection at Abbot Hall, which numbers over 3,000 objects and includes recent acquisitions by Emma Stibbon which explore the impact of climate change. Stibbons work was shown alongside Ruskin and Turner at Abbot Hall in 2019.
The artworks will join the collection and plans to display them will be announced in due course.
Charmaine Watkiss (b. 1964, London) lives and works in London. A solo exhibition of her work was recently held at Tiwani Contemporary Gallery (2021). Recent group exhibitions include British Museum (2022); Royal Academy, London; Carl Freedman Gallery, Margate (both 2021). She was shortlisted for the 198 Gallery Women of Colour Award (2020) and the Trinity Buoy Wharf Drawing Prize (2019). Her art is held in several public collections, including The British Museum, The Government Art Collection and Cartwright Hall, Bradford.