Stepping out artistically for the first time with her artwork exhibited at the Fine Arts Affordable Show over the holiday period, graphic designer by trade, painter by inspiration and spiritual healer by life mission, Christine Borge is already popular in Gibraltar for her ‘gratitude stones’, a novel way to help you concretise your appreciation of life by clutching a cheerfully hand-decorated pebble while counting your blessings every day.
Loving yourself before others and being able to live with yourself is one of the most difficult skills to master. “Your first thought in the morning is what defines the rest of your day,” she says. “I wake up and I am grateful for another day, where I can be all I wish to be, although life gets in the way with duties like working and spending precious time with my toddler granddaughter, but I dedicate my spare time to painting and learning from life.”
An intuitive artist, versatile water-colourist and an active motivational heal-your-life workshops leader, Christine hasn’t indeed spared efforts to expand her repertoire by attending several courses, seminars and conferences on how to ameliorate her penmanship and the therapeutic power of embracing oneself holistically: just to mention the most significant ones for either aspect of her self-mending journey, she attended James Foot’s watercolour painting holiday in the Greek resort of Kyparissi, where she produced punctilious work in the maestro’s famous style, and travelled to Maui, Hawaii, to attend a weekend seminar by Dr Wayne Dyer, plus several ‘I Can Do It’ conferences by worldwide motivational and spiritual leaders including Louise L. Hay, whose affirmations Christine has since enthusiastically followed, promoting the philosophy locally with workshops and study courses and through their website.
The ‘gratitude stone’, a nugget prettily decorated with flowers or hearts is a tangible token of how her two intellectual interests can merge into spiritual growth. It takes time to accurately paint a different miniature on each of them, and Christine wishes you’d take some time off every day to meditate on your life accomplishments without passing judgement on what is perceived as good or bad, but juxtaposing every occurrence fairly, acceptingly and poignantly as one equal step in your personal staircase to happiness.
And she speaks from experience, because has faced her share of tragedy in her life, with multiple loss of loved ones a few years from each other, followed by her own life-threatening illness, but she has always climbed the extra step and risen above it towards a brand new day, with a sparkle in her eyes when she speaks about her artwork, especially her roses, which she considers her trademark and the visualisation on canvas of many a mood.
She explains: “I instinctively doodled a bouquet of roses using some leftover paint when I learnt about one of my dearest friend’s passing from cancer, and again when my daughter gave me the news she was going to be a mum, I felt compelled to draw a bunch of roses in watercolours that leave blanks on the paper as if they were stencilled, and I titled it ‘Annunciation’.”
But Christine isn’t only about roses, as she paints many other subject matters that take her fancy, with flowers still playing a big part in her portfolio, whether figurative or surrealist, which she confesses a penchant for. There are serene landscapes, like the one of the Rock of Gibraltar from Getares Beach, a sunny view with a tropical twist due to the slender palm trees in the foreground, elaborated from a photograph she took in which the blues of sky and sea and the saturated greens of the vegetation are counter-balanced by the jolly orange of the surfers’ icon Volkswagen Microbus, that unfortunately isn’t featured in her painting.
She is also proficient at life drawing: “I attended a workshop at Face Frames Gallery in Town Range” and we had an old-fashion session in which we had to measure the model from distance with a piece of string and accurately retrace proportions on paper or canvas. Very precisely, standing firmly in our spot, just rotating our torso slightly from the model to the picture and back. It was hard work but rewarding artistically and I also got my picture framed courtesy of the gallery’s owner Sebastian Rodriguez.”
This is a charming piece in charcoal on paper, in which the model is outlined with grace and expertise in the pose of a classic Greek statue, whose soft perfection is entirely entrusted to sapient chiaroscuro highlighting volumes suggested rather than represented by allowing the paper’s stark blankness pop through the strokes.
Furthermore, her delicate pencil portrait of actress Audrey Hepburn in the aura of the rising sun is featured in David Bentata’s poetry anthology ‘Head, Heart & Soul’ which collects one hundred and one compositions illustrated by a number of local fine artists. This being more academic and mannerist in nature than the dramatic instinctive nude she aced string-drawing class with, there is no doubt Christine managed to fully capture the Hollywood icon’s poise in a monochrome rendition that tiptoes in the pages of David’s project to harmonise words and pictures together.
Portraiture is another of Christine’s fortes, especially children’s, in which she likes to add what she describes as ‘surreal’ effects as if they were illustrations for a book of fairy tales. “Often I paint from my heart and my mind’s eye, fixing on paper what only I can see,” she explains how her best floral pictures are born.
Surely, her artwork doesn’t scream for your outraged attention from any art gallery’s wall, first of all because of its dainty size and secondly because there are no clashing in-your-face colours or arrogant shapes in it, but her elegant understated style is all it takes to mend and pacify her soul while she produces it and yours when you contemplate it.
words | Elena Scialtiel