The REALM of FLOWERING PLANTS
Coral G Guest is profoundly dedicated to the creative exploration of both the plant and mineral kingdoms. This site is dedicated to her botanic work. Coral works directly from life, with the process of precision painting and drawing and rapid study work, in both studio and field.
My botanic work is focused upon the world of flowering plants, classified botanically as the angiosperms. I describe myself as a Flower Painter, and in so doing, I refer equally to the botanical realm of flowering plants, and to the history of flower painting within the fine art sphere.
The subjects that I focus upon include not only the flowers themselves, but also those which have the potential for flowers, or support the growth of flowers, such as fruit, seeds, stems, leaves, and roots.
I have a lifelong interest in hybrid garden plants with root or stem storage systems, such as the peony, tulip, lily and iris. And, a particular liking for individual flowers that have been cultivated for competition, and those that are grown commercially.
'The study of natural form and its relationship to space has become a lifelong experimental inquiry, through which I have sought to free the flower subject from the still life genre and place it at centre stage'
My observational works of flowers, and plant life in general, are depicted within a white or black space.
The history of botanical art has provided us with the flat background as a two-dimensional tradition. I broke with this tradition as a student in 1975, when studying formal abstraction.
The consequential practice of large brush calligraphy in Japan, enabled me to develop an acute awareness of pictorial dimension. This marks my work as different from other forms of botanical art. Conceptually, this goes far and beyond the inclusion of an unpainted area of paper or canvas that is used as part of a design or a composition.
The study of natural form and its relationship to space has formed a lifelong experimental inquiry, through which I have sought to free the flower subject from the still life genre and place it at centre stage.
The naturalistic precision painting, and the study work, is fundamentally focused upon observational painting and drawing directly from life. I use the study works to capture a direct response to nature. As a reference material, they are a means of coming to terms with the transience of plant life, and I use them as reference material for larger works, often continuing the dialogue years later.
Painting and drawing directly from life is edgy and demands a leap into the unknown. A staged photograph will rescue an artist from this disturbing endeavour and provide a ready-made polished end-view, but this is not my approach.
When painting from life, aspects of my inner naivety sometimes make an appearance in the work. Like all painters, I come face to face with myself through the work process.
'The origins of the Colour Study work can be found within the pages of the late medieval Books of Hours, where the naturalistic study was first created. The Precision Work that I practice has its origins in the landscape of the Northern Renaissance'
My early background with the flowers was through the suburban gardens and domestic horticulture of north west London. This, combined with childhood travels with my family, made an incalculable impression upon my life and future work.
I entered into the botanical art world as a painter with a background in fine art. Consequently, my work offers a fine art perspective on the flowering world and it holds content and meaning, which are philosophical in tone.
This remains separate from the documentation work of the scientific botanical illustrator, for which I have a very high regard.
My personal long-term aim has been to establish the fine art aspect of the Botanical Art genre as a worthy counterpoint to all manner of science-based illustration, from the traditional to the digital.
The origins of the Colour Study work can be found within the pages of the late medieval Books of Hours, where the naturalistic study was first created. The Precision Work that I practice has its source in the naturalistic landscape of the Northern Renaissance.
These traditions demonstrate natural beauty in natural light. I have held true to this particular timeline, since discovering it as a young artist, and have sought to rebuild and renew it in ways that are unusual and forward looking, whilst maintaining its original purpose and intent.
I have, in addition, drawn upon my background in both abstraction and landscape painting. Through this, I aimed to raise the game for botanical artists, by putting techniques at their disposal that were previously not a part of the botanical art tradition.
'Through focused concentration, each flower image transmutes into an irradiation of tranquillity'
As a process, my work embraces the idea and reality of beauty. It explores a serious interest in how we experience beauty through the flowering world, and the influence this has upon us, both individually and collectively.
Perhaps not surprisingly, this form of botanic work is not primarily devoted to decorative concerns, neither does it serve the work of the scientist. The flowers do not serve me, I serve the flowers.
Through focused concentration, each flower image transmutes into an irradiation of tranquillity.
I experience this as a creative collaboration with, and a meditation upon, the plant kingdom.
As a painting student in the early 1970s, I studied the philosophy of aesthetics and read about the notion of beauty at a time when this subject was deeply unfashionable. In the early 1980s, I made the decision to endorse the actuality of beauty in the flowering world, through my work. This depth of intention became an ongoing artistic mission.
LIGHT and WEATHER PATTERNS
My travels, and art education in both eastern and western traditions, have allowed me to cultivate a unique insight into the many ways that light reacts with form.
Each piece of work is drawn and/or painted directly from life and within natural light, both in field study and in larger studio work. I view the flowers as inseparable from light. Daylight in all its complexity, holds a very distinct place in my work, and I have an innate need to work with a moment by moment direct connection to the subject matter.
Lamp light is not employed in my studio work, simply because I do not need it. As an observational painter, I am focused on the effects of day light in both the studio and the field. If the days are short, I work with this.
All plants, when they come into the studio, are observed from a north facing daylight source. Many of the plants I work with are cultivated in my home garden. I have, therefore, always worked in empathy with the weather patterns of the time and place, and the seasonal alterations that affect plant life.
Coral G Guest
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