Thursday, January 21, 2010
This unfinished painting of a snowshoe hare in a winter landscape has crystallized a question that has been looming in my work as, over the past few years, my paintings have become more realistic and less surrealistic. I used to invent plants and creatures and set them in imagined spaces but now I am happier painting "real" plants and animals copied accurately from nature.
But the accurate depiction of a plants and animals is still not the purpose of my work - it is just the language I use to tell the story. The animals represent me, or you the viewer, surrounded by a world of emotion. For this reason, I do not consider myself a "wildlife artist" or a "botanical artist". I suppose I am anthropomorphising the world, even though I don't dress my animals in cute clothing and give them cell phones and cars. I paint, not so much the world around me, as the world inside me.
I use nature as my language and she kindly provides me with plants and animals more fantastic than anything my imagination can conjure up. I also feel so humbled by the world around me that copying nature as accurately as I can has deep meaning for me. It now feels arrogant to try to invent anything to rival what nature has developed over the Milena. So I have reached a place where the plants and animals are as real as I can make them.
But how far should this go? In this painting I have invented a snowy landscape full of snowberries. This part is scientifically possible. Snowberries, snowshoe hares and snow can all be found together in nature. But now I find I want to introduce some color to this painting and have been tempted to paint one of those beautiful Yuletide camellias with the deep red flowers which would turn my nice sciencey landscape into something imaginary. Should I honour nature by assembling only the elements that she herself has orchestrated? Or should I clumsily throw in all sorts of plants that showshoe hares would never encounter in the wild? Would this be sloppy? Arrogant? I want to be sensitive to my environment. It feels right to honour the natural world and, as I write this, I feel myself leaning toward science and away from fantasy. Surely I can still tell the stories I want without messing around with the natural world.
I welcome any opinions on this "nature" vs "nurture" question. Really it is "reality" vs "fantasy". Robert Bateman vs Mark Ryden. Ouch my brain. Is it ok if I still indulge in a few flying weasels when the need arises?
Posted by Safi Crafts at 6:44 AM