Botanic Transcendental Paintings 2007-13... love, life, walking and tangential reality
You could say I am one of the foremost botanic painters of my generation, but you'd be lying. However, I do walk around the local area a lot and when I see flowers I often sketch them then jot down my thoughts - what's going on in my head at the time. My approach to flowers is the same as my approach to portraits - a spontaneous experiential exercise in wang-eyed pop art, bright paint burning the objects into existence.
These paintings are part of an ongoing Botanic Transcendental series and were inspired by walks I have made over the last few years through the limestone fields in the west of Ireland, across the windswept flatlands of my home county of Lincolnshire, around the cracked pavements near my North London home. This is zen psychogeography, a nature-rooted stance influenced by the poetry of Patrick Kavanagh, William Blake and Spike Milligan and the great Zen poets such as Basho.
all that remains of great soldiers’
There are holes in the sky where the rain gets in,
but they're ever so small that's why rain is thin
My flower paintings, if they are 'about' anything, are a way of expressing the enduring nature of love and the heartbreaking shortness of life. They become conduits for our spirituality and dreams, a way of entering another world - inside ourselves.
Initially I make watercolour sketches covered with notes, then quickly work up a composition on canvas. I underpaint with acrylics, using my hands and fingers, usually in a mix of yellow, crimson and gold then work quickly over the top and scratch away details and (sometimes) words. As with most of my paintings, the vivid, mostly primary, colours are intended to have a life-affirming effect on the viewer, perhaps with the sense of having a revelatory vision, a mild migraine or recovering from a hangover.
A girl I went out with when I was a teenager had an auntie who was a botanic artist and I would spend hours studying the precise details of petals, stamens and stems of the plants floating in the white space of watercolour paper. I was inspired by what she was grasping towards. My approach is to paint the flower within its environment, the jumbled background foliage symbolic of my own non-academic approach (which owes more to South American folk art and religious portrait painting than traditional botanic art).
In these paintings I'm most fascinated by the space between the image and the text. Sometimes the text refers to the flower or how I felt when I observed it. At other times it goes off at tangents and describes what the flower might remind me of. Or who I'm with. Or who I'm thinking about. Or something (apparently) unrelated that comes to mind, like football results, a memory of childhood or how much I hate the Tory party.