About the Painting

Dendrophthoe vitellina - long-flowered mistletoe 2021

50x50cm acrylic mixed media on wood panel. Sealed and wax varnished

You might think of mistletoe as that thing that people kissed under in old movies, but did you know that Australia is home to almost 90 mistletoe endemic species (but none in Tasmania)? Mistletoe is a parasitic flowering plant, woody and shrubby or vine-like, attached to the branches of their host trees or shrubs.  They are actually semi-parasitic since they use their host for support and and water, but carry out photosynthesis independently. Mistletoe provides food and shelter for all sorts of creatures including birds, bugs and other invertebrates.  23 butterfly species depend on these plants for their primary food source.  This species is found in the NSW Coast ranges and tablelands to the Victorian boarder and are particular to specific eucalyptus trees. 

This piece part of my Flora Invades Life series - I am fascinated and comforted by how, when left to its own life cycle, nature, in this case, a parasitic plant adapts to its environment. Dendrophthoe vitallina is part of an ancient mistletoe, many which grow on Gadigal land, and although some species are now extinct, others thrive, and always will. Textures created in the first layers of this painting include gauze, modelling mediums, stencils and stamps. The star of the painting, commonly known as "long-flowered mistletoe" , with its bright yellow-orange flowers, takes over the canvas in the end. 

Detail of Dendrophthoe vitellina
 

Cherry Orchard 2021

60x60cm acrylic mixed media on wood panel. Sealed and wax varnished

Every piece I paint tells a story.  Sometimes it’s well hidden – because it’s personal to me.  Sometimes it’s more apparent.  This painting is inspired by lines from Anton Chekhov’s 1904 play The Cherry Orchard. In brief summary, it tells the story of a wealthy aristocratic family that has fallen on hard financial times.  Their estate contains a vast cherry orchard.  The family is being advised to sell the orchard so they can cancel the debts they owe.  The matriarch does not want to do this because, among other reasons, the orchard has been in their family for centuries and seems to define them.  But she is reminded that the orchard is full of “ghosts” – serfs, indentured humans who have worked the orchard which has kept the family in their lavish lifestyle.   

 

And so, the painting, although bright with ripe and ripening cherries, also reveals faded fruit and the lines from the play:

 

Think, Anya, your grandfather, your great-grandfather, and all your ancestors were serf-owners, they owned living souls; and now, doesn't something human look at you from every cherry in the orchard, every leaf and every stalk? Don't you hear voices . . . ? 

 

This piece was created using a variety of watercolour media, acrylic paint, ink and other mediums to produce textures and reliefs. Pieces of hand dyed rice paper are used as collage. Words from the lines of the play are written throughout the piece. The painting is sealed, varnished with polymer and wax.  

Cherry Detail
 

Passion Fruit 2021

50x50cm acrylic mixed media on wood panel. Sealed and wax varnished

The cockatoos are loud and boisterous, screeching their arrival every morning and every evening.  At our Pretty Beach garden, they find their pickings:  the lime, the Seville orange and, the doomed passion fruit.  Nothing deters these invaders.  No Stopping, No Standing, No Parking is ignored.  Nets are merely temporary obstacles.  Perhaps they’re letting us know that we are the invaders. 

 

This painting hints of our attempts to keep the fruit to ourselves.  The signs, the wire.  Watercolour and acrylic paint, along with acrylic mediums to create textures.  Sealed and wax varnished.  But look closely and you’ll see a poem, inviting the cockatoos in.  From Alfred Tennyson’s Maud, 

 

Shine out, little head, sunning over with curls, 

      To the flowers, and be their sun. 

   There has fallen a splendid tear 

      From the passion-flower at the gate. 

She is coming, my dove, my dear; 

      She is coming, my life, my fate; 

Cockatoo detail
 

Strelitzia 2021

50x50cm acrylic mixed media on wood panel. Sealed and wax varnished

Strelitzia, commonly known as bird of paradise, is originally from South Africa, but here in Australia, they’ve happily settled in and can be found in many gardens, backyards and bordering driveways.  And often, they can be found in the middle of those roundabouts, that we circle day in and day out.  They are a most fascinating plant – not one colour by a pastel blend of green, orange, red and purple.  

 

Strelitzia have an interesting pollination system.  For this, they need the cooperation of the cape weaver, (or other sunbirds).  Weavers, looking to get to the sweet nectar that’s contained in the floral tubes, land on a handy perch, the bright bluish-purple inflorescence.  Now they can reach the nectar with their beaks.  When they land, their feet force open the inflorescence and as they drink, pollen gathers on their feet.  When the weaver flies off to another plant, pollination is complete.  

 

In this painting, Strelitzia is being visited by a few weavers – some have flown away.  Perhaps sitting in the middle of the roundabout isn’t their favourite place the fly.  The painting is created using a variety of watercolour mediums, acrylic paint and other mediums to produce colours and textures.  The painting is sealed and wax varnished. 

IMG_0244.jpeg
 

Pomegrantes

There are many stories and versions of Persephene (in Greek myth)

Pomegrantes.jpeg

Pomegranates 2021

50x50cm acrylic mixed media on wood panel. Sealed and wax varnished

If one was to come across a tree heavy with pomegranates for the first time, one might wonder - what is this red misshapen sphere. With skin, leather thick and a star opening at one end full of nose hair bristles, one might assume to find something inside dry and brittle.   But pierce and pry it apart, one finds a cavern of ruby arils which pop and stain with sweet blood red juice.   

 

Pomegranate is part of my Flora Invades Life series - I am fascinated and comforted by how, when left to its own life cycle, nature adapts to its environment. Pomegranates are ancient fruits which have fascinated cultures and influenced writers and poets for centuries.  Some say that it was this fruit which Eve actually offered Adam. Symbolism surrounding the fruit abounds, but there’s s myth involving about pomegranate seeds, of which a few lines reside in this painting if you look carefully.  Textures created in the first layers of this painting include collage pages of a book, modelling mediums, stencils and stamps and my own writing:

The servant brought Persephone a golden platter, upon which perched a dry, shrivelled pomegranate.  “Take it away,” Persephone demanded, for she knew that if she ate any food she would be trapped forever in Hades.  “I shall not touch it, I assure you,” she continued, “I would never think of eating such a miserable pomegranate as that.”

But the servant left the platter with the wizened pomegranate and when he was gone Persephone couldn’t resist approaching the poor specimen and peering more closely at it.  Suddenly she was so hungry she could not contain herself, and she picked up the pomegranate and bit the shrivelled fruit.  Before she could stop herself, she had swallowed six ruby red seeds. 

Pomegrantes.jpeg
 

BottleBrush Bottles 2021

50x50cm acrylic mixed media on wood panel. Sealed and wax varnished

Bottlebrush or Callistemon, from the Greek, kallistos, meaning most beautiful and stema, a stamen, is endemic to Australia, but has found its way to many parts of the word.  Why it’s called a bottlebrush is quite obvious, so this painting included lots of bottles, hidden and in plain sight for the flowers to do their work.  Callistemon receives many visitors, from butterflies to wasps and ants and birds of many varieties.  In this painting a few Regent Honeyeaters have come to drink its nectar. 

 

Underneath, there are bottles of a different sort - the kind that made headlines in July 2020 when they flew from the hands of some protestors during the time of global unrest following the murder of a man named George Floyd.  My red Callistemon obscure many such headlines if you venture to find what lies beneath.  

 

Bottlebrush Bottles is part of my Flora Invades Life series.  Textures created in the first layers of this painting include collage pieces of newspaper headlines, modelling mediums, stencils and stamps.

Bottlebrush Bottles
 

Lavender 2021

50x50cm acrylic mixed media on wood panel. Sealed and wax varnished

When walking through my neighbourhood, I love coming across a riot of lavender: dense, unconfined and unfettered, spilling over concrete boarders and tumbling through iron fences, surrounded by buzzing bees and fluttering butterflies.  It’s a joyful sight.  

Lavender has been around for some 2500 years, originating in the Mediterranean, Middle East and India.  Lavandula, its scientific name, comes from the Latin, lavare, meaning to wash.  Indeed, the Romans carried lavender to bath with and to use its antiseptic properties.  Lavender, fresh, dried, seeped, or extracted as oil, has dozens and dozens of uses today.  Here, in this painting, it does the job of hiding a rusty old water tap. 

Lavender is part of my Flora Invades Life series - I am fascinated and comforted by how, when left to its own life cycle, nature, in this case lavender, adapts to its environment. And what a perfect example – in my own garden, lavender is almost impossible to kill (not that I’m trying) – I have pulled out, planted and replanted lavender from pots to spots and it inevitably, stubbornly, survives and thrives.  Textures created in the first layers of this painting include sand, modelling mediums, stencils and stamps.

Lavender detail
 

Mangoes 2021

50x50cm acrylic mixed media on wood panel. Sealed and wax varnished.

 

Mangifera indica, indigenous to southern Asia, is a member of the cashew family.  There are a myriad species of this tree all over the world, from India to Australia to Brazil, Mexico, Madagascar and back to  China. 

 

The subject for this painting is perhaps a Calypso or Honey Gold or Kent, but it’s hard to remember, because they don’t last very long once they make it to our fruit bowl.  In this painting, they hang heavy from branched panicles, sweet and juicy, ready to be plucked and packed into crates. Purples of twilight are just beginning to seep into view. If you look closer, you’ll see beneath the fruit and leaves layered textures created with hand coloured papers and imprints of stencil letters and mango tree in Hindi: आम का पेड़ .  And from literature:

"little bee, you know that the cuckoo goes crazy with delight when she sees the mango-blossom." "Shakuntala" Kalidasa

 

The days are long and humid. The river shrinks and black crows gorge on bright mangoes in still dust green trees. - "The God of Small Things" Arundhati Roy

 

Mangoe detail