Saturday, 22 February 2014

Talking around about roses

Here are some notes from my Artist Floor Talk accompanying my Awakening Around Roses exhibition on show until March 12th, at G3 Artspace, Shirley Burke Theatre, Parkers Rd, Parkdale Wed-Fri 9-5 & Sat 12-5

A lot of people ask me why I paint on circular canvases. Well circles in art is not a new thing. If we go back to very early indigenous art forms we find circles. In Australian aboriginal art you will see the use of concentric circles to represent waterholes, meeting places and ceremonial sites.

Circles have been used widely in religious art, in stained glass windows, mandalas, labyrinths and mosaics.

Circles were popular for a time in English pastoral art of rural and farmyard scenes. Also circles and ovals were popular for cameos, miniatures and portraiture in Victorian times and earlier. You will also find circular motifs being used in art deco and art nouveau styles.

Renoir painted some beautiful circular garlands of roses and he actually started his artistic career as a porcelain painter, painting flowers on china plates before the process became automated.

If you went to see the Monet exhibition last year you would have seen one of the four circular canvases that Monet painted. He found that people would dwell longer and contemplate a round painting more and it also inspired him to paint his large waterlily murals which were displayed in the round.

Rose are the perfect subject for a round canvas because roses are all about circles and spirals.

I paint from photographs because there are many hours involved and many layers and the roses would shrivel up and die before I finished the painting. I love photographing roses especially in bright sunshine to capture the dramatic shadows. When I take a photo my camera sometimes recognises the roses as a face and that is how I see roses too, and in this show I have tried to capture the different personalities of the different roses, so let me introduce you to some of these different characters.


This was the first rose I painted on a circular canvas back in 2012. I photographed this rose in the main street of Nuriootpa in the Barossa Valley. There are some beautiful roses in South Australia and if you go to Hahndorf in the Adelaide Hills you can visit The Cedars which is the historic home of Hans Heysen who was most famous for his landscape paintings, but both Hans and his daughter Nora painted beautiful rose paintings and you can still wander through their gardens and see their roses.


I don't know all of the names of the roses in my paintings but this one is most likely to be Blue Moon. A true blue colour doesn't occur naturally in roses. Since 1840 rose breeders have tried to create a blue rose but the closest they have got is mauve and lavender colours, so in the language of flowers a mauve rose symbolises mystery.


This was an unusual rose too, it was a bit creamy and lemony with dark toffee shadows – sounds a bit like a lemon meringue pie. And the shadows on the petals were purpley in colour rather than grey.


This rose was photographed at the Victorian State Rose garden down at Werribee where they have over 5000 roses growing and they say the best months to visit are November and March. I love this rose because of its expression, in the caption for this one I've written that it breathes a sigh of rapture and it really does look like it has its little mouth open.


In some roses the petals really curl back as they open up and that was the case with this one and it had a real sheen to it so I used an iridescent white paint which has little particles of the mineral mica (or fool's gold) to give it a pearly sheen.


I was really excited to find this rose in the gardens at Ararat just near the lake. It's structure was really unusual . People have been asking me about the word reticule. It's a very old-fashioned word and if you read historical fiction you might read of someone slipping their fan or their dance card into their reticule and it is a drawstring purse and this rose looks like a drawstring purse with all its little compartments. There's a great art gallery in Ararat too, if you're passing through.


Some roses have a beautiful velvety texture and that was the case with this one – it had beautiful soft lush petals.


The whole lifecycle of a rose is illustrated in this painting – we have the bud, the rose in full bloom and the spent bloom in the background just about to drop its petals ( a bit like the roses in my floral arrangement! But roses are beautiful at each stage, and in this painting we have a background looking out to distant hills giving a sense of this cycle of life continuing on into eternity.


Ah red roses – a symbol of romantic love and passion – think of the tango with a red rose between the teeth. For this show I wanted to get the darkest and most moody rose I could find – I've called it Immortal Beloved which was the name of the biographical film about Beethoven and Beethoven certainly had a lot to be moody about, worst of all losing his hearing and never getting to hear his final compositions. I believe this rose may be a Mr Lincoln which is quite famous for its many petals and strong fragrance.


When I run about photographing roses, I'm always on the lookout for the perfectly formed rose blooms which are most commonly found in the Hybrid Tea roses and this rose which I photographed in a monastery garden came close to having that perfect shape.


Coffee coloured roses are very popular and are collected by people, they're also popular in bridal bouquets and are quite exotic. This painting is soon to be very famous as it has been selected by Avant Card to be used as one of their art series postcards, so later in the year 10,000 postcards of this painting are going to be printed and distributed nationally in theatres and other venues.


This is the pin up rose for this exhibition being used on the invitations and posters and I photographed this rose in Parkdale, it was hanging over the fence in someone's front garden. This was an incredibly beautiful rose in structure and it had such a lot of colour variation in the petals, so to achieve this affect I had to paint multiple glazes to build up the colour and develop richness in the shadows.


The flowers in these roses lack the classic rose shape, but they make up for it with the sheer number of blooms on the bush and their open and sunny faces. They're very pretty but there's a lot of work in a multi-bloom rose and you've got the stamens as well which are notoriously tricky, but I loved how the stamens cast these beautiful little shadows.

Now the two paintings in the foyer as you came in are my most recent paintings and they're both cream roses – a single and a bouquet.
Cream roses, too, are a tricky subject because they pick up the colour of everything that surrounds them and if you're photographing cream or white roses you need to be careful what you are wearing – if I was to wear a bright red top when photographing them I could be reflecting a pink light onto the roses.

BOUQUET DE ROSES is a glimpse into a sophisticated bunch of roses – imagine them in a crystal vase on a lace table cloth – very elegant and chic

And finally we have the MARILYN MONROE rose. I photographed this one at the Victorian Rose Society's annual rose show and half a dozen people had entered their Marilyn Monroe's into the show because it really is the most shapely and beautifully structured blonde rose and Marilyn Monroe is the perfect name for it.

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