As we move out of the summer and will soon welcome the ‘season of mists and mellow fruitfulness’, Edinburgh’s Heriot Gallery has curated a most topical exhibition to celebrate the beauty of flowers and nature.
Based in Ireland for nearly forty years since art college, Lucy Doyle has been inspired by a range of artists from Bonnard and Matisse to Elizabeth Blackadder, for her exploration of still life and flower paintings. ‘I set out to produce richly textured, well-constructed, timeless paintings, that are emotionally uplifting, paying homage to the impact of colour’. You can see this technique in Open Tulips, which echoes the classic French Impressionist style: the coral red table cloth decorated with birds, a glazed pottery vase with a bunch of white, crimson, pink and purple tulips. Simply delightful.
The Letter, ‘21 is also exquisitely composed, drawing the viewer into a quiet domestic scene where a woman, only her hand and patterned sleeve visible, sits reading at a table surrounded by kitchen crockery, books and a vase of garden flowers.
Kirsty Lorenz is inspired by nature, informed by research into the work of Victorian botanical artist Mary Delany, science and spirituality. Her decorative illustrations reimagine the glowing light of the moon and sun as blossoming flowers, such as the golden halo around Flowering Sun in Knapweed III. This plant, with a head of tiny florets grows wild in meadows and woodland, attracting butterflies.
In shining white and indigo-blue, Full Moon in Bindweed is a bold botanical study of this trumpet-shaped flower – but, however pretty, bindweed is an invasive vine in the garden.
Alex Callaway is renowned for his still life paintings, and inspired by William Blake’s philosophy, his aim is to create a little magic from the mundane.
Auguries of Innocence
‘To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour…’
– William Blake
In Snowdrops 3 the delicate simplicity of four fragile buds in a slim glass of water represents the symbol of natural growth in Springtime. The shades of buttercream and green for petals and leaves are creatively used for table and backdrop with pleasing effect.
Here too are ripe juicy cherries and a scarlet Begonia as well as a single red, romantic Rose to show the velvety petals and sharp prickly leaf.
Pascale Rentsch is a Swiss artist living in East Lothian where she draws and paints outdoors in all weather conditions, reacting to what she sees, hears and feels – ‘I hear the gentle sound of the waves in the background whilst I draw and paint.’ With abstracted vision, Grasses and wildflowers by the Loch are blowing in the wind with such atmospheric mood in a swirl of grey clouds and watery smir of rain.
The bright, beaming yellow gorse with the scent of coconut brightens up the hedgerows from January to June, as seen in Emerging Colours, Gorse Flowers’ Painted with gold leaf and mixed media, no wonder this shimmers with such vibrancy.
Jenny Matthews studied at Edinburgh College of Art where Elizabeth Blackadder was her tutor at the Royal Botanic Garden: The versatility of watercolour lends itself to the depiction of flowers. I like to play with the balance between detailed work and the abstract effects of too much water and lots of colour. With neat botanical detail, Dahlias is a charming composition with its haphazard splatter of flowers and scatter of falling petals, akin to wallpaper or fabric design.
In contrast, as Jenny describes her painterly technique, Sweet Peas in the Rain is a more loosely crafted abstract with the fluidity of the watercolour giving a softly washed effect.
Shona Harcus is an abstract expressive painter, communicating thoughts and feelings onto canvas. ‘I process memories of landscape, place and emotions through intuitive painting. I’m not interested in painting in a representational way, rather what I felt in that place.’ Rather like an out-of-focus photograph, Jungling is a magical, impressionist snapshot of fragrant garden flowers with a glorious splash of pink, blue and green, glowing in sunlight.
A gentle sweep of brushstrokes create a similar luminosity to a vase of flowers in A Little Moment of Peace, with carefully placed smudges of white, green and pink to depict each delicate petal, leaf and shards of soft light.
The fine art of precision is very much at the heart of the work by Angela Reilly, who specialises in Portraiture (selected for the BP Portrait Award and Ruth Borchard Self Portrait Prize). With similar photographic realism, Arrangement in Green and Gold is a magnificent painting of a richly decorated antique plate. Study this closely to see the delicate texture of porcelain, a perfect scalloped edge and the detailed, glistening gold floral pattern in the centre – such a masterly painting you just feel that you could pick it up off the canvas.
This is just a quick browse around this colourful and creative exhibition with a further selection of work by these artists and also by Cecilia Cardiff and Julia Asenbaum.
With many thanks to Vivien Devlin for this review.