The Phenology Cabinet of the Incandescent Petal
Magenta Cultivars of Paeonia lactiflora
from 19th century France
Date Painted and Name of the Peony
LEFT COLUMN FROM TOP TO BASE
2013 Paeonia Lactiflora ‘Pottsi Plena’ (Calot 1857)
2011 Paeonia Lactiflora ‘General McMahon’ (Calot 1867)
2007 Paeonia Lactiflora ‘Felix Crousse’ (Crousse 1881)
CENTRAL COLUMN FROM TOP TO BASE:
2014 Paeonia Lactiflora ‘Edulis superba’ (Limoine 1834)
2012 Paeonia Lactiflora ‘L’Eclatante’ (Calot 1860)
2010 Paeonia Lactiflora ‘Adolph Rousseau’ (Dessert & Mechin 1890)
2008 Paeonia Lactiflora ‘Francois Ortegat’ (Parmentier 1850)
2006 Paeonia Lactiflora ‘Mons Martin Cahuzac’ (Dessert 1899)
RIGHT COLUMN FROM TOP TO BASE:
2013 Paeonia Lactiflora ‘Mme Ducel’ (Mechin 1880)
2011 Paeonia Lactiflora ‘Mme Boulanger’ (Crousse 1886)
2009 Paeonia Lactiflora ‘Modeste Guerin’ (Guerin 1845)
The Study of Appearances
In an earlier exploration, the work involved colour studies and recorded data of the appearance of the same species of Paeonia officinalis. This was completed over five years, and represented the change in colour, weather patterns, and the blooming of the first flower from the same plant.
The Phenology Cabinet of the Incandescent Petal, shown here, is a more complex piece in which I have recorded the imagery of a group of heritage peonies from nineteenth century France.
This work was painted seasonally from observation, each June/July, from 2006 to 2014. The work represents a total of eleven differing cultivars of Paeonia lactiflora that form part of the magenta colour sphere. The peonies featured are classified as mid-season cultivars and were grown in a garden in the SE of England.
The weather controls the flowering of peonies, as they rely on warm soil and air for a good year of flowering to occur. If there should be a particularly cold early summer, such as in 2012, an early-season peony may become a mid-season peony and a mid-season peony may become a late-season peony. In 2012 for example, they flowered three weeks later than usually expected.
This latest work is a visual chart of the phenological data that was intermittently accumulated over 9 years and is a chronicle of the yearly first flowering of each of the favoured French Heritage Peonies that I have collected since 2000.
The cultivars were chosen for their expression of the magenta colour ray, of which I have a particular interest, and one which the 19th century French growers had a particular ability to perfect. The Magenta ray, is one of great intensity and one that filters through deep dark richness of a shaded hue to the light airy delicacy of a tinted pastel. The magenta colour, in my observation, can hold both light and dark and warmth and coolness in endless fusions. This alters in appearance with the weather and consequently with the light.
The work aims to represent these colours through the flowering forms that encapsulate these colours.
Each cultivar is painted at a point of perfection and optimum growth, which is a result of the specific year in which it was grown. The 'point of perfection' phrase is not a reliable standard, and refers in my work to being the best that a plant could achieve in the circumstances. This is because the production of flowers may be excellent one year and disappointing in the next, as all gardeners are aware.
Some of the subjects were destroyed by storms, leaving only shattered petals, some did not bloom fully due to cold wet conditions and remained in the bud. All of those chosen, express some aspect of weathering effects of that year, such as the influence from frost, rain and hail, sun blanching and early petal fall from storm effects.
The work was painted directly from life at around noon at the time of flowering. The work was painted rapidly with acrylic because of its fast-drying capacity and ability to resist a little light rain.
The work does not deal with blooms that have died or gone over, because the painting of dead natural forms is not my practice. Rather differently, this work touches on how circumstances affect what is naturally capable of being both beautiful and glorious if given the power of conducive circumstance. In this work, the circumstance is represented by the weather patterns, and I have wanted to paint what actually happened to the flowers. The fact that the peony returns again and again each year and is long lived, creates a monumental symbol in many cultures where it has been granted a worthy status.
My work adopts an interest in Phenology as the study of appearances and has woven it with the practice of painting and its meaning. The work of the Phenologist is vastly more capable and universal in its capabilities, than I have achieved or been able to explain here. Further links are available on the Information page in the Work Index.
Coral G Guest
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