Thursday, January 10, 2019

TULIPS


Tulips
1 Schoon Solffer 2 Lawrence’s Polyphemus 3 Rose Bacchus 4 Strong’s King
5 Beste Bruyne 6 Tulipa lutea lituris aureis 7 T. orphanidea 8 Speramondi
9Semper Augustus 10 Nazende al 11 Furuzende 12 Agate Maurine.
The wild tulips are native to the Mediterranean regions, Asia Minor and the Caucasus and extend as far east as China. The finest of these species are found around Bokhara and in Turkestan. It is generally considered to have been introduced here from Turkey during the mid-16th century. The German collector Graeber who worked for the Dutch nursery firm of van Tubergen wrote in the Botanical Magazine of Tulia lanata in the Asiatic Soviet Russia, “Every ravine in the red sandstone slopes reveals new forms which break the monotony of the leathery leaved pistachio and almond scrub. From the first days of spring there sprout here anemones, crocuses, irises, tulips, fritillaries and long shafted eremuruses.”
It puts me in mind of springtime in Tolsta, the crofts carpeted in orchids and on the machair and dunes the scent of primroses.
 Having purchased an illustrated volume on tulips from the Bathesda charity shop for 50p I was inspired to paint a few specimens that illustrate the diversity the family tulipa encompass. While flowers attract insect life to aid in the method of reproduction so they also lift our spirits. We enjoy both giving and receiving flowers and the youngest of children without bidding would pick a bunch of wild flowers for mother. I remember a friend telling me she was so overwhelmed with the carpets of daffodils on the outskirts of Bath that she didn’t think at all before stopping and picking a bunch. She was brought back to reality with a jolt when a passer-by hurled some verbal abuse her way and threatened to call the police. Today’s bouquet of exotic blooms can be purchased throughout the year at any filling station or supermarket, carefully chosen foliage texture setting off the vibrant flowers full of sadly odourless colour. There are flowers for every occasion with Lily of the valley still being given to customers on May 1st. Weddings demand flowers but one has to specify no flowers at a funeral if you don’t want a repetition of the Lady Di syndrome. In France chrysanthemums are reserved for the dead and while arum lilies associated with funerals in England it is common to see them in a French bride’s corsage. Roses are inexplicably linked to love and war while the blood red of poppies are reserved for remembrance. The extra ordinary value put on tulips in the 16th century meant they were seen as a symbol of wealth that in the inevitable crash was once again observed in the late 20th century equivalent of bursting of the dot com bubble.       




Birds of a feather


This time last year I was enjoying the warmth of Western Australia and the hospitality of friends, recovering from the usual round of seasonal party gatherings and looking forward to a walk about adventure in the National Parks of Cape Le Grand and Fitzgerald. This also proved to be a lucrative time as far as collecting feathers in the form of road kill. I hasten to add that I was borrowing the old Discovery Land Rover solely for transport and not as a method of destroying feathered wildlife. Given the speed of vehicles these days it is hardly surprising that casualties on the roads are inevitable but when I find myself at the side of the highway recovering some innocent victim to pluck I do take time to thank them for allowing me to take some of their feathers for my artwork. 
Exporting feathers from Australia is not a problem but getting them back in most definitely is. When in the spring of 2013 I held an exhibition of these feather bird pictures in Perth WA I brought them in unframed and decided to take the risk of not declaring them to customs. They were well wrapped into a sealed sketch pad and I breathed a sigh of relief when the nice Golden Labrador sniffed my back pack and moved on. That time all the work had been completed in Brittany but this time I decided to complete the botanical water colour part while in Australia. Now back in Brittany I am busy with the gluing of feathers and trying to keep warm in the studio during the rather non-physical process. As with all of my art I try to push myself to the limits of my capability, which in the case of this exacting work leads to ever more complexity and precision. The birds are entirely of my own Hickmanii imagination and bare only passing resemblance to any living species. When mounted and framed they will feature as another wall of exhibits in the “All that I do” exhibition at An Lanntair, Stornoway Arts Centre this coming September. 
By reusing natures detritus to form works of art there is also a true sense of recycling and while in no way can this be regarded as up-cycling in shape or form they do possess more decorative charm than their dearly departed. The finished framed pictures will be for sale from £250 to £400 each.