Sunday, April 25, 2010

Daffodillia II. The girl in the yellow dress.

 It is Spring at last on Saltspring Island and all around our land the daffodils are in blossom. Such cheerful bright yellow trumpets announcing the return of life after winter`s sleep. They are so deeply symbolic, so I do some research and find that the “fields of asphodel’ that Odysseus walked through as he approached Hades, the land of the dead, were in fact daffodils. Such perfect symbols for bright life, gradual maturation and final withering, with the essence remaining below ground in the bulb until the trumpet call of Spring begins the cycle once more. So much of religious belief is so deeply rooted in the seasonal waves of life, death and renewal. Easter. This human tendency to see the story, the symbol, behind the surface image works in the visual arts as well.

The other day I picked some daffodils and began a series of photographs that involved water in glass containers and some black ink and red paint. I acted as though I was doing a portrait session with my flash unit. Experimenting with an open mind and no preconceived ideas of what would be the outcome.

A daffodil lying in a bowl of water. Add a little red colour and it is instantly a girl in a yellow dress, - something nasty and bloody has happened. A murder mystery book cover. I have made the leap from flower and red paint to seeing it as symbolic of something else. William Blake would call this a two-fold vision. (A thistle is also ‘an old man grey’).

I start again with fresh water, add black ink and begin a rapid series while the ink spreads quickly into the clear. The flowers become stained, the water takes on a smooth oily quality. ‘Black gold’ are the colours and the symbolic message.

Finally I take the stained flower and crush it beneath the glass bowl. The flash filters through the water and picks out the still delicate folds, now flattened. A pressed flower under glass, - and underground.

All these photos are nasty and beautiful at the same time, and they are teaching me to look at every photograph I take to seek the symbolic idea that may lie hidden within. Art has always done this, it is within the tradition from cave art up through religious paintings and to the present day. We look at a photo and our minds run a secondary program seeking the meaning that may lie within the image.

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