Currently I am working on a series of paintings that strives to capture in oils my understanding that life is a continual state of flux in which formless takes on form then returns to formlessness. Many philosophical traditions suggest that the only way to live within this flux is to focus on the present moment. This series depicts the momentary nature of existence as that which has become form is in the process of becoming something else as we observe it. It is a celebration of the beauty and wonder of this constant creation/destruction using as a visual metaphor the vegetable kingdom in which tiny seeds become edible plants then return to the earth in the inevitable seasonal cycle of growth & decay.
The series portrays this continual state of change by showing the fruits of my gardening labours emerging then subsiding into background particles of energy. The computer digitization process is a perfect analogy for this process as all digital information exists as one of two digits, either 0 or 1. Digital images are made up of patterns of 1’s & 0’s.
These 18” x 24” (45cm x 60cm) oil paintings on canvas are the result of a multi-stage process. First I grow the subject fruits & vegetables in my garden,
then photograph them,
then manipulate the digital images in Photoshop and finally transpose these images into paint in my studio.
Lately growing vegetables has become an increasingly important part of my life, often warring with time in the studio. So it has been particularly satisfying to be able to connect two things I love doing in this series of paintings.
This series has also provided an opportunity to work with photographs & exercise my Photoshop skills. I’ve been taking photographs since 1972 when I borrowed the art school camera and learned to develop my own negatives & prints. Since then I have mostly used photography to document my artwork and/or play with creating interesting juxtapositions of sculptures in still-lifes or landscapes such as the” eggs” and “female torsos” series described in blog #14: On Love.
The paintings expand on a painting & drawing technique that has always fascinated me – where dots or lines are used to represent light as in traditional cross-hatch techniques. This technique was the backbone of my illustration career (see pages Drawing, Black & White and Illustration.
They also pick up on a style of painting that I was experimenting with in the late 1990’s & early 2000’s.
So what might appear to be a checkered body of work to some is to me a seamless tapestry of ideas & themes that appear & re-appear.
In some ways it has taken a lot of nerve to paint flowers & plants. Like painting nude women, a subject investigated in an earlier Blog, #10: On Women, painting botanicals is fraught with danger. As in paintings of women, such as Venus & Cupid by Lely shown below,
languid nudes have become such a stereotype that it is almost impossible to use an image of a nude woman in art without it being trite – a cliche´
Similarly, paintings of flowers & plants have been done to death.
They look so nice over the sofa.
A quick Google image search of paintings of flowers reveals the extent of this genre and some of the more obvious painterly pitfalls therein.
So it has been necessary to overcome serious trepidation about exploring this over-blown subject.
But the truth is, I am enjoying working on this series so it’s time to throw caution to the wind, and create the work that wants to emerge, even if it’s the risky field of botanicals.