“They’ve got under my skin”, says Lyme Regis artist Christine Allison, as she stands in the museum’s quirky rotunda, surrounded by the metre-square ‘portraits’ of six highly individual trees. “And I realise that I am approaching painting them as I would a portrait of a human or an animal.”
Gnarled and twisted or smooth and youthful, dancing or poised, in leaf or bare-branched, each tree’s character is captured in these bold, clean paintings.
In the glass cabinets, Christine’s sketchbooks are open to show the preparatory drawings made out in the countryside, in public parks, on Dartmoor or at National Trust properties – most notably Killerton House, near Exeter.
Christine was initially inspired by Es Devlin’s indoor forest at Cop26: entitled ‘Conference of Trees’, it was a powerful installation of 197 trees to match the 197 nations attending the summit.
“We take trees for granted, but we need to pay them more attention and to cherish and protect them. They are our second pair of lungs, our ventilators and lifesavers.”
“Last Christmas, with the help of the National Trust, I planted 50 trees, one for every friend and family member on my Christmas present list,” she said. “This Easter I have pledged to plant even more trees from the sale of my paintings.”
The exhibition is a life-affirming delight and worth climbing the spiral stairs!
Back at her studio (surely with the best view in the whole of Lyme Regis!), Christine is working on a painting of another of Killerton House’s ancient trees, capturing the ridges and folds of the bark that twists and stretches to the sky. You can visit her studio during Dorset Art Weeks, 14-29 May.
“Every Breath We Take” is at the museum until 24 April. Opening times: Tue–Sat 10am–5pm and Sun 10am–4pm
If you would like to participate in the National Trust’s ‘plant a tree’ scheme, click here.
For more information on Christine Allison and to see more of her work, please visit her website.