Flowers have been a favourite subject for many an artist and writer through the ages. From the ancient depiction of flora of all sorts in ancient Greek art, one of my favourites is the way the lillies have been rendered in the Minoan fresco at Knossos, known as the 'Prince of the Lillies'. The acanthus plant is another favourite of the ancient Greeks, often seen in reliefs and sculptures. In other cultures around the world, flowers again reign supreme in art and literature: from the ancient Indian and Persian textile designs that influenced the development of Paisley, to the pop art flowers of Andy Warhol. The Art Deco, Art and Crafts and Art Nouveau movements saw to the stylization of floral motifs, while Monet's obsession with flowers led him to create his wonderful garden in Giverny, where he could paint what he grew. His many paintings of flowers have been a great inspiration to me in particular.
"I find comfort in sunflowers" Van Gogh once said, and he's not the only one to find comfort in observing the beauty of the fragile form of a flower. Every spring, nature's blooms inspire us to shed our winter mood, and promote and symbolize a rebirth of the body and soul. Humans have added so much symbolism to various flowers: from the purity of the lilly, to the symbol of love that has been attributed to the rose. For William Blake however, the rose becomes a victim: "Oh rose thou art sick", he wrote in his poem 'The Sick Rose', that focuses on how innocence can fall prey to "the invisible worm" of experience. For Wordsworth on the other hand, the sight of "golden daffodils" are like a symbol of hope that help alleviate his loneliness, in his poem 'Daffodils'.
All the above artists, writers and movements, have influenced my own renditions of flowers. I have always loved painting flowers, and have tried to explore different ways of rendering them, through the use of watercolours, watercolour and pen, pen and ink, acrylics on canvas or acrylics on paper. I have explored different styles, from the realistic to the impressionistic, even Chinese watercolour techniques have been added to the mix.
I have admired the Chinese aesthetics of flower and landscape painting ever since I was a young child, when I would visit a particular shop with my family, that specialized in Chinese artefacts and works of art. I remember vividly the whole atmosphere of that shop even today.
Another influence on my work has been the Dutch flower paintings, which led me to create 3 watercolours 'Hommage to Bosschaert I', 'Hommage to Bosschaert II', and 'Hommage to Bosschaert III'. In the dutch flower paintings, what is of particular interest, is the way insects are used as 'memento mori'. In these works by the dutch artists, the flower as a symbol of life is evident more than ever, with death always around the corner.
As a symbol of life, the flower goes through all the stages: from seed to blooming flower, until its petals wither, and new life is created if it has been pollinated. Although nowadays, many women would prefer not to be compared to a flower, it still also remains a strong symbol of femininity, often exploited by fashion and advertising. The works of Georgia O'Keeffe certainly took this notion to new heights, and she too is an artist I greatly admire. But, however you want to see it, the delicate nature of the flower certainly alludes to the delicate nature of life, while its beauty remains inspirational to us all, to this day.