Contributing to the latest exhibition at the National Galley has given April Bending an opportunity to capture the spirit of Cayman post-Ivan.
Her watercolours reflect renewal and hope despite the setbacks, both personal and professional. Many of Bending’s works were lost in the storm, not to mention her home and vehicle.
‘Even though the hurricane caused a lot of destruction, one thing that made a huge difference is the vegetation coming back so quickly,’ she said. ‘It made things seem normal again.’
Peaceful Palms – a swirl of palm leaves stretching toward the sun – reflects the cycle of life while In My Caymanian Garden features Bending’s cat strolling through a flower garden, a nod to her South Sound garden, which was wiped out by the hurricane.
‘It’s now a heap of rubble.’
The works are part of Watermarks, a group exhibit showcasing some of the island’s finest watercolour artists.
Bending said it was a shock at first returning home after the storm. Works-in-progress along with older paintings – about a dozen in total – were destroyed.
‘A big chunk of seawall came through and sucked everything out.’
The most devastating blow, however, was that the hurricane wiped out documents chronicling a lifetime of work – some 35 years as a professional artist.
‘All the photos are gone – there’s no record of what I’ve done. It looks like I’m starting from square one,’ she said. ‘But you can’t dwell on what you can’t change.’
The veteran artist continues to be inspired by Cayman’s natural beauty and climate.
‘I just love it. It’s such a good place to be. The light is so much brighter here, the colours are more vibrant. The beauty is just overwhelming. Even the roosters have spectacular colours.’
The Canadian national, who moved to Cayman four years ago, said the island has had a big impact on her work. She moved to realism from abstract, her focus for many years while living in Victoria, BC.
‘When I moved here I was suddenly painting roosters and parrots. I have no idea why it changed, but it did.’
Working in watercolours, oils, acrylics and Japanese print techniques, Bending recently began working with Avril Ward doing joint paintings under the penname ‘Shi gatsu’ – their names in Japanese.
‘It’s a really interesting creative process. We both find it very inspiring.’
She’s also added ceramic art tiles to her repertoire. Her creations – which can be grouted into kitchen backsplashes or any bathroom setting – are on sale at the National Gallery gift shop along with a series of smaller watercolours she produced to co-incide with the current show.
Bending is also working on pieces for upcoming national festival of the arts, Cayfest, and will be having a solo exhibition at the Westin in December.
She said participating in Watermarks is a chance to help replenish the National Museum’s watercolour collection which was badly damaged in the storm.
‘We’re hoping people will purchase works and donate them to the museum so that the collection can be renewed.’
Watermarks continues to 11 May.