“What is art? Nature concentrated” (Honore de Balzac -1799-1850)
Having trained in areas of art that require rapid, loose sketching and painting such as life drawing and expressive drawing, I found myself drawn back to practices that require slow, deliberative, even meditative, work. Firstly I worked with still life in oils and acrylic and finally botanical art, an art form that requires long, slow observation and a close attention to detail.
It is probably no coincidence that within this discipline I am still further attracted to difficult and time consuming media and surfaces like silverpoint and vellum that simply cannot be rushed. (I will be blogging in more detail about how I work with these later on.)
I was inspired initially to work on vellum by the works of Rory McEwen and still return to vellum when I feel the need to work in rich saturated watercolour. The rest of the time I prefer the monochrome of silverpoint, graphite and ink which allow me to explore textures and tonal ranges, light and shade. Having studied Japanese ink painting (sumi e) some years ago I particularly love the sensory qualities of grinding Chinese stick ink and breathing in its warm scent. Silverpoint too is uniquely meditative in practice; each stroke of gold or silver wire must be applied gently and repetitively to achieve the richness of tone desired.
At this point in time I am heavily influenced by the early botanical artists of the Renaissance such as Leonardo da Vinci and Albrect Durer. Durer, in particular, believed that nature, as a creation of the Divine, should be represented in as truthful and accurate manner as possible. In my work the accurate depiction of reality is critical.
Additionally I particularly like to contrast old and new such as techniques of the Renaissance and modern compositional ideas. The contrast between the ideas of the past and modern times can be seen in my piece depicting Morning Glory and Monarch butterflies, both invasive European pests in Australia but shown entwining with and alighting upon an antique illuminated golden border in which stylised versions of Rose and Convolvulus were frequently revered for their religious symbolism.
Iconography in art has long fascinated me and in the botanical art context I am interested in further exploring some of the symbolism that has long been interwoven in depictions of nature. Another recurring theme in my work is the use of the frame and an examination of the way in which we view and internally frame what we see in nature.
Finally, one of my earliest influences has been the artwork of Ernst Haeckel whom I can thank for sparking a lifelong interest in the pattern, forms and symmetries of the natural world.
“Nature is not only all that is visible to the eye…it also includes the inner pictures of the soul.” (Edvard Munch – 1863-1944)