Ikebana 2018 –
These works investigate the practices of Ikebana, Japanese flower arranging and Ukiyo-e woodblock prints, interpreting these traditional styles to expand the visual language of my principal pursuit, contemporary abstract painting.
I am drawn to these disciplines for more than their initial beauty – they present inherent limitations that force a creativity to working within their parameters, and a reflective respite from the daunting image-overload that confronts today’s creatives. Ikebana repurposes natural elements as structural, minimalist forms that are suggestively figurative and architectural. Ukiyo-e’s compositions convey thematic design and intricate pattern using restrained pallets that have a deceptive complexity. I apply these observations to my own works foundation- the form of the flower arrangements I depict can seem like the subject as a modernized still life, yet viewed from another angle become the central character within a landscape scene, as found often in Ukiyo-e imagery.
Although the paintings are rooted in abstraction with evident gesture and expressiveness, these spontaneous actions are balanced with deliberate craftsmanship. I begin the work by ‘drawing’ into the hard panel surface, gouging and chopping the forms using controlled hacks from bladed hand tools- a physical approach that fittingly might resemble a horticulturist in action. These initial cuts direct the placement of the paint, applied in a heavy impasto that is dense and sculptural, purposefully assembled in specific areas.
There is something cathartic and intriguingly absurd at this excessive mark making conveying the classically graceful subject of flowers. The material itself becomes celebrated as an object with its own beauty, the imagery of flora still recognizable if not literal, the colour schemes borrowed from Ukiyo-e prints in a harmonious shift from the flower’s natural qualities.
Arrived at through a subversive process, these works resist a romanticized depiction of their inspirational sources; beyond an investigation of established disciplines is a search for new traditions.