Many artists were greatly influenced by the writings of British artist and philosopher John Ruskin who encouraged artists to paint "a wild , vigorous plant as it grows" rather than a bouquet of flowers in a glass which has been wrenched from it's surroundings and artificially assembled. He leaves us in little doubt about his beliefs in this quote:
"A flower garden is an ugly thing, even when best managed. It is an assemblage of unfortunate beings, pampered and bloated above their natural size, stewed and heated into diseased growth; corrupted by evil communication into inharmonious colors; torn from the soil which they loved, and of which they were the spirit and the glory, to glare away their term of tormented life among the mixed and incongruous essences of each other in earth that they know not, and in air that is poison to them."
Displaced painted in 2004 is a reaction to this quote. The text up the right side says "plucked from nurturing soil and forced to re-think the notion of home".
I don't think I ever looked at a cultivated garden the same way after reading this quote . It certainly impacted my perceptions of the gardens at Birr Castle.
An artist greatly influenced by Ruskin's writings was Henry Roderick Newman ( 1843- 1917) an American artist born in Easton , New York. He developed his love of nature during summers in Massachusetts and the Green Mountains in Vermont.
The delicate watercolour Wildflowers, 1887 is representative of Newman's work. I find similarities between my meadow paintings presented in the previous post and Newman's Wildflowers. Both have a myopic perspective that encourages the viewer to get down on all fours and observe the exquisite details of nature. There are no hints of a broader landscape, no sky, river, animals or people - only the close up world of perfection where every blade of grass, petal and leaf are equally important. I had forgotten about this painting since my first reading of Art in Bloom but when I encountered it again several day ago, I felt at home and comfortable in it.
I've been asked why my garden paintings are so detailed. There's nothing like a question to bring you up short. I had to think about this for awhile. First and foremost I respond to my instincts when I work on a new series. I just do it the way that seems right. Some aspects are thought out others just appear and are captured for future use. Giving myself permission to explore usually produces my best work.
I am only interested in the close up view of the garden. Rarely will you see me paint anything that resembles a vista. This is how I see the world. I take in minute details others would never notice. When you go close up to a scene everything takes on importance and vies for your attention. It is difficult to ignore any details or to establish what one thing is important. I've come to realize that I am more interested in the connections among the individual elements - the patterning of nature- which is so often replicated in produced designs .
At the same time I am playing with the viewer who thinks that the work is very realistic. It is realistic but the scenes themselves are not real. All of my compositions are produced from the the integration of various elements from different places that look similar. My use of photo transfer into gel skins that are collaged here and there around the painting surface (board) are then integrated fully into my painting. In other words, I start with the details of nature and then continue to paint and repaint my own memory of the scenes. The resulting work is a hybrid of realistic aspects and information filtered through memory. If I were not starting from a realistic reference point (bits and pieces of photo transfer) I would never achieve the amount of detail that appears in this work. Since I began to use photo transfer elements in my Remnants series, the inclusion of details in my work has increased significantly. Who knows where my next series will go!