Retrospective chronicles changes in local life

Janet Walker at National Gallery

Nearly 200 art lovers recently
flocked to opening night of the Janet Walker Retrospective at the National
Gallery of the Cayman Islands and hosted by Calendonian.

The show, held in partnership with
Caledonian, enjoyed one of the largest first nights the gallery has had and
created a buzz that was palpable – even more so given that the artist was in
attendance.

Vivid and compelling, the exhibit
comprises 35 paintings depicting landscapes, Caymanian architecture, seascapes,
the natural environment and vignettes of everyday life on island over the
decades.

“As traditional architecture and
vistas disappeared, lost to development or ravaged by hurricanes, I turned more
and more to painting seascapes,” Ms Walker said.

“My primary medium is watercolour
as its immediacy appeals to me and is easier than oils to manage when painting
en plein aire. All the work in this show was painted on site, outside. I love
the transparency and spontaneous nature of watercolour as a medium.”

The retrospective was collected by
the gallery, with pieces generously on loan from the private collections of
Appleby, the Cayman Islands National Museum, Bill Christophers, Sydney and
Claire Coleman, Neil and Lucinda Cruickshank, Peter Hillenbrand, Gladys Howard,
Des and Cathy Kinch, Ed and Gay Morse, Graham and Elizabeth Walker, Henry and
Eliza Harford, Alastair and Meg Paterson, Jeremy and Joanne Sibley, Janet
Walker, and Robert and Marie-Joelle Walker.

The artwork represents probably the
most comprehensive collection of Ms Walker’s work from the 1980s to the
present, the artist said.

What grabs the observer when
viewing the retrospective is the warmth and clear-sighted empathy Ms Walker
bestows in each. The fabric of everyday life and the interplay of light and
shade in Cayman is accurately depicted in a way that invites you to reflect on
the islands’ natural beauty and the ever- changing ebb and flow of life in the
islands. The works – a balance of Cayman’s cultural heritage and its natural
environment – stand the test of time and remain popular with art patrons,
judging by the healthy turnout.

Ms Walker spoke with visitors at
the opening night about what draws her to her subject – Cayman – after all this
time. Her answer was simple: “Painting is an expression of passion for your
subject matter. The marks the artist makes to express that passion should
hopefully evoke some response in the viewer.

“I hope my excitement for my
subject matter shows in the paintings. [It] has given me the opportunity to
meet many lovely people who allowed me to sit in their yards to paint, and who
were always ready to share their stories and the stories of their houses.

“As well as being captivated by the
Caymanian architecture and landscapes, I am fascinated by the beautiful sea
surrounding the islands… sometimes calm and serene, and sometimes wild and
powerful and menacing, and by the beautiful native flowers and trees,” Ms
Walker added.

Like many who have lived in Cayman
for many years, she is concerned about some of the changes that are the
consequence of progress and rapid development. “Sadly, all this is changing as
our values shift from quality of life to quantity,” she said.

The exhibit, in the gallery at
Harbour Place, runs through 17 November.

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