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Tenacity Serves the Warrior Well (2021)

Charmaine Watkiss

graphite, pencil, watercolour and ink on paper

Abbot Hall Art Gallery, Kendal



Drawing and Watercolour


Graphite, Pencil, Watercolour, Ink, Paper


76 x 56 cm


Presented by the Contemporary Art Society, with support from Lakeland Arts, 2021/22

Ownership history:

Purchased from Tiwani Contemporary by the Contemporary Art Society, December 2021; presented to Abbot Hall Art Gallery, Kendal, Lakeland Arts Trust, 20212/22


Black (presence)
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 then 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 that navigate and reimagine pertinent ideas.

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. Born in London to Jamaican parents, 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, which evokes the lace which adorned the necks of Victorian women and connects Watkiss’s 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 because of the belief it can be used as a cure-all, aloe vera is seen as the most spiritually evolved of all plants.

Each warrior resonates with existing themes in the Lakeland Arts collection, particularly the pieces at Blackwell, the Arts and Crafts House. The Arts and Crafts Movement’s advocacy of reconnecting to nature and use of symbolism and mythologies inherent within the natural world to inform design and pattern will provide a meaningful context in which to display Watkiss’s work. The two warriors also find resonance in the works on paper collection, which numbers over 3000 objects and includes recent acquisitions by Emma Stibbon which explore the impact of climate change.

This image may be shared and re-used under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives licence (CC BY-NC-ND). Any further use will need to be cleared directly with the rights holder.

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