Cultivate and Celebrate: Christine Wilcox-Baker

As the days grow lighter and we start to think about getting back outdoors, here’s the perfect exhibition to look back on and be inspired by…

Cultivate and Celebrate: Treasures of the Kitchen Garden, a glorious collection of work by artist Christine Wilcox-Baker, was shown at Kirkby Gallery back in 2011.

Christine is a Cheshire based artist with a passion for food plants – not just eating and growing them, but also creating two and three-dimensional representations of them.

She spent a year as artist-in-residence at Tatton Park, Cheshire, where she worked closely with the garden and mansion staff and created this exhibition she re-made links between the Mansion, as treasure house, and the Kitchen Garden, as heart of the estate.

Her paintings, drawings, photographs, fabric & wallpaper designs, mixed media and three-dimensional pieces all focus on the value and inherent beauty of food plants.

“The Mansion is a treasure house full of things to be protected and cared for and to me the Kitchen Garden is just as full of treasures. We take our food for granted at our peril and we need to look after our whole planet in order for life to continue as we know it. My work aims to celebrate the value and beauty of our food plants through looking not just at the harvest but at the whole cultivation cycle”.

Christine elevated the status of food plants, creating a precious necklace of pumpkin seeds, and a “Garden Pearl” tomato necklace. She used egg tempera and gold leaf to create her delicate paintings of common, often overlooked plants: tomatoes, runner beans, maize, revealing their beauty.

The pretty loveseat is upholstered in fabric designed by Christine, featuring botanical drawings of potato plants. The works were first shown in Tatton’s Mansion, along with ‘growing artworks’ in the Kitchen Garden.

Since exhibiting Cultivate and Celebrate at Kirkby Gallery I’ve been busy with all sorts of art projects and collaborative exhibitions. Many of these have been in public spaces for local communities. I’ve created several entrances and sculptural signs for parks, these are made using bespoke metalwork. I’ve engaged with local communities and produced ‘storytelling’ designs and then worked closely with blacksmiths who’ve crafted and installed the pieces. My stainless steel sculpture of King Canute, originally exhibited as part of a show garden at RHS Tatton Park, is now on permanent display outside Knutsford Council Offices.Click here to see King Canute.

“Alongside these projects I’ve illustrated flora and fauna that can be found on information panels in Dane Meadow Country Park, Holmes Chapel and other locations. I’ve also produced illustrations for a book about butterflies and a fairy story.”

“Since 2018 I’ve been masterminding an arts and health project about diabetes, its symptoms and prevention. Working with medics, researchers and artists culminated in the artworks being exhibited as part of the Manchester Science Festival in 2018 and at a professional conference in Liverpool in 2019. We’ve created a project website and have won several awards, from the NHS, the healthcare sector and the University of Manchester and we continue to look at new initiatives.”

One of my current projects, with Warrington Borough Council, is all about the history of wire making in Warrington. I’ll be working with sixth form students to produce wire mesh sculptures informed by our research into this rich history.”

Christine Wilcox-Baker