Flowers are probably considered by most a clichéd subject matter in that they are bright and cheery but I have been thinking of them as a symbol for dealing with loss, the way we culturally have flowers for different occasions, for celebrations, to express love or sorrow, sympathy and for recovery. I have had a rough 2023 and have had several people close to me pass away. I started making flower vase paintings as a distraction for myself while mourning, and after a period of time working on them I started thinking about them as a form of art therapy for myself, using the subject matter to convey a personal message, almost like a Hallmark card. I’ve titled the works after common generic phrases of condolences and well wishes as a way of helping me express and work through my own grief.
At first I used bouquets sent to me as references but over time have embraced an inventive approach, experimenting in mark making and paint application. Flowers are a very traditional subject matter and I consider it a challenge in trying to work with them in a way that seems contemporary. The paintings are less literal in any realistic sense and are more ‘painting forward’ in the sense that the material comes before the subject matter, the surfaces are flattened and autonomous, employing sections with heavy impastos of paint squeezed right out of the tubes. The indexical marks of different paint applications sitting next to each other create a simultaneous contrast across the canvas. The trompe l'oeil of the flowers is juxtaposed with hard edged lines and iridescent glows of glass vases, simulating a prismatic light.
The act of painting itself seems to be tied to my mental health, and working on these paintings has become a healing process for me. Depending on how much you want to read into them, flowers are colourful and happy, but I also consider these works as a metaphor for life and mortality. The ephemeral nature of flowers is forever captured within these paintings. The project title “arrangements” refers to floral arrangements, arrangements in paint handling and composition, and also final arrangements.
Jack Bishop 2023