Back to our Roots Miniature Exhibition: The Backstory

The diversity and talent of Watlington always astonishes me.  It was wonderful to see the miniature Art Exhibition being used as art therapy and as a way of keeping Artists connected during lockdown, and with contributions from 9 year olds to over 80. Supporting creativity at any time is important but even more so during difficult times.” Sinead Cusack

March 16th 2020, we were in lockdown. Covid-19 was already creating so much distress, loss and loneliness. My immediate response was needing to connect and to help people through this time. I truly believe in the healing power of art and I wanted to reach out to as many people as I could. So when the lockdown began, I started painting a daily miniature landscape that could fit in the palm of my hand. I took photos of them everyday on miniature easels in my back garden and shared them on social media. The feedback was incredible, I really did not expect such heartfelt responses. Receiving a little gem of positivity, nature and art on a daily basis were touching the hearts of people in a deep way. 

On week 4 of lockdown, I had the idea to exhibit the daily paintings at the roots of an ancient tree which my son found on our daily lockdown walk in the Watlington countryside.  Adorning the tree with miniature paintings and easels, felt mystical and magical, reminiscent of a fairytale and I fell completely under its spell. It brought back fond childhood memories of decorating a Christmas tree and I was eager to share this special place. 

With this at the forefront of my mind, I contacted the Watlington Art Week organisers to see if the local community would also be interested in producing a miniature in response to lockdown for an exhibition at the roots. With the help of Jaine MacCormack who rallied the artists round, they were eager to collaborate. Each week the contributing artists dropped off  miniatures to my house and safely placed it on my doorstep. I would eagerly await the arrival of precious gems and I felt very honoured to be their custodian. Connecting the community and making new friends became a weekly ritual at The Back To Our Roots exhibition. It felt like a pilgrimage walking up to the tree roots and curating the exhibition with the Watlingtonart organisers was truly enchanting and a privilege.

By week 6 of The Back To My Roots exhibition,  38 artists contributed with 100 pieces of artwork.  A whole menagerie of media were displayed,  paintings, ceramics, glass, prints, photography, sculptures and textiles. The ancient tree worked its magic and the exhibition grew to the top of the roots and into a wonderful collaborative art experience for the Watlington community and for the charities they are supporting. Thank you artists for sharing your gift.

“What a wonderful unravelling surprise to experience the “Back to our Roots” exhibition nestled in its original lockdown location in the woods on the outskirts of Watlington. The unexpectedness of it all was truly uplifting.  Reading the “Little Girl with no Voice” seemed very apt to be included and was a pleasure to do”.

 Jeremy Irons