For this research point, I am asked to choose at least three examples from a list of artists, designers and companies that use floral and leaf motifs and research their practice. I am also asked to determine why these motifs are important, dominant or recurring in their work.
Elizabeth Blackadder DBE, RA, RSA, RSW 1931 Scotland
Elizabeth Blackadder is a Scottish painter and printmaker. She is known mainly for her detailed watercolour paintings of cats and flowers, but she has also produced landscapes, townscapes and other still life arrangements portraying decorated tins and boxes with exotic fish, fruit and vegetables. She was the first woman elected to both the Royal Academy and the Royal Scottish Academy.
She considers space between objects carefully, breaking from traditional still life arrangements by composing her subjects on a flattened background, parallel to the picture plane. Most of her backgrounds are plain or a pale colour. This allows the eye to focus on the quality of the subject without distraction from a busy background. Her work takes the essence of a flower or plant, paring it down to simple shapes and colours.
William Morris Britain 1834 – 1896
Arguably one of the most well-known textile designers of all time, Morris was also a poet, novelist, translator and social activist. He was a member of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and a key figure in the Arts & Crafts Movement. Morris took inspiration from plants themselves, and images from 16th century woodcuts, illuminated manuscripts and other textiles using floral imagery. His designs were intended to be subtle evocations, rather than literal copies of nature. You certainly see a degree of classical design in his work, particularly his use of acanthus leaves, which symbolises long and enduring life and immortality in Mediterranean countries. He used blocks of repeating, mirror images, often in bold colour palettes.
Takashi Murakami Japan 1962
Described as “the Warhol of Japan”, Murakami is known for his blending of high and low arts – synthesising fine art and popular culture, especially through his use of graphic, colourful cartoon style. He is primarily a sculptor and painter. His works are bright, bold and frequently feature images such as smiling flowers, eyes, skulls and mushrooms. He also uses traditional Japanese imagery. They could be described as a fusion of psychedelia and pop-art, hence the comparison with Warhol. To me, there is a distinct Kawaii influence – particularly the ‘cute’ flowers that he favours. Although I’m drawn to the bright-colours and imagery, I can imagine a Murakami exhibition would be migraine-inducing. I chose to research this artist simply because he challenges the idea of ‘art’, but it’s safe to say I’m not sure quite what to think of his work.
Timorous Beasties Alistair McAuley/Paul Simmons Scotland 1990
Timorous Beasties is a design studio established in 1990 in Glasgow, Scotland by Alistair McAuley and Paul Simmonds. They specialise in taking traditional motifs and giving them a modern, edgy twist. Their Glasgow Toile reverses the pastoral images of toiles du Jouy, turning it into an urban landscape with high-rise tower blocks, an aeroplane flying over a church and a drug addict. Their ‘Ruskin’ collection features repeating patterns of birds, flowers and other lavishly rendered representations of the natural world. The ‘Thistle’ collection utilises an iconic symbol of Scotland. The designers acknowledge the influence of William Morris on some of their work.