Contemporary Botanical Painting

27 Oct 2011
Alistair Macintosh, writing in the Mail & Guardian of Oct 26 2011, asserts that Narcissistic modern art cannot help us in these troubled times: 

 http://mg.co.za/article/2011-10-25-narcissistic-modern-art-cannot-help-us-in-these-troubled-times 

He quotes Wassily Kandinsky from a century ago: The artist must "be a priest of beauty". Beauty itself is that "which springs from the soul", being anchored in the sacred.

Macintosh concludes: “I hear people yearning for what Kandinsky saw as prophetic art. Art that reveals hope. Art that breathes the flow of life into the veins.”
Eckart Tolle, in A New Earth, 2005, used this analogy of the sacred: “… these delicate and fragrant beings we call flowers would come to play an essential part in the evolution of consciousness of another species. Humans would increasingly be drawn to and fascinated by them” (p.2)

The flower, according to Wikipedia, first evolved from the vegetative stem of plants around 140 million years ago as a purely reproductive primordia (The principal purpose of a flower is the reproduction of the individual and the species)– and in direct complicity with animal and insect pollinators.

It has become one of a handful of symbols according to Tolle, with which modern humans may transcend the cul de sac of ego-driven, materialistic 21st century existence. “Without our fully realizing it, flowers would become for us an expression in form of that which is most high, most sacred, and ultimately formless within ourselves”. Apart from the fact that without flowers, there would have been no reproduction of plant life, ergo no further development of life on planet Earth, these exceptional manifestations of the reproductive energy of plants - and thus of life per se - are a prime symbol of our very existence within the cosmos.

Beyond the modish “green” and “eco” lobbys, these technicolour, sophisticated, beautiful and trickster flowers constitute spiritual building blocks towards an enlightened “New Earth”. Possibly for the first time in remembered history, artists of all ages and both genders are documenting and paying homage to botanical phenomena, collectors are collecting botanical art on a grand scale, and You Tube is showing gardener-artists from East and West as they lay down the veils of vibrating colour and light which constitute the ephemeral, spiritual qualities of a flower, its petals and leaves.
Flowers - and it follows - botanical art are in the vanguard of current human aspirations to preserve our ancient habitat on planet Earth. Their continued existence signifies hope, the quality Macintosh discovered people are currently so yearning for.

As a painter of life-pulsing yet ephemeral plant blossoms, leaves and pods, I feel the hour of botanical art has indeed come. Art that breathes the flow of life into the veins. Far from the madding crowd with its ego-driven insecurities, resulting paranoias and often alienating, international art market “art”, there is space for the uplifting, transcending power of a delicate, solitary flower in all its meditative beauty. 
As Georgia O’Keeffe noted: “When you take a flower in your hand and really look at it, it’s your world for a moment”.

Beyond showing their pretty faces and embodying romantic allusions, flowers and their botanical accoutrements are both path markers and prophetic alarm signals accompanying the headlong human rush for more growth, more consumption and more profit. Ignore them at your peril.

© Sally Arnold 2011