Sunday, August 14, 2011

Flower painting pains

I would really like to see painters take some creative risks when it comes to painting flowers. They are such a lovely subject in that they are delicate, wildly colourful, structural, and have all sorts of symbolic meaning and thematic potential (etc etc), but it only seems like there are two approaches. 1. Georgia O'Keefe (only more reserved so there is no icky questions as to whether or not they reference to sexual organs) and 2. Dutch still life style (only more overworked).
Georgia O'Keefe, Poppies

Rachel Ruysch, Still Life with Flowers

Here's some thoughts: what if flowers were symbols of death and not springly life-yness? (Dead flowers are 1000 times more expressive than live ones!) Flower petals as blades/knives/something harmful? What if the molecular pattern of plants was referenced? What if the roots and vine/shoot system were the main focus instead of the bloom?
I guess most genres of painting suffer from their type-casts, but that doesn't excuse anything. Look at what Chuck Close did for portraits. All art making means living with risk and uncertainty and it seems odd to me that a subject like flowers that draws so many people hasn't been more fully explored. I can understand emulating a Master's technique to learn about painting but that shouldn't be the end product . . . it would be like copying a poem verbatim. I suppose there are also commercial concerns but seriously . . . even Jeff Koons pushes himself a little (now I've done it).
I don't mean to dis flower painters cuz we're all in this together, but much like BC coast landscape painters, it isn't enough to copy modes that have been reused, reissued, and worn out to death. The key is to add some life, put your own, personal spin on things. Who knows, maybe I'll be walking down Fort Street next week and have to eat my hat!

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