We all build facades in our lives. We alter and embellish the truth. But does this enhance our inner and outer beauty - or does it compromise our authenticity?
In June 2016, I was the only New Zealand artist invited to appear at the Royal Academy’s Summer Exhibition in London. On a visit to the National Gallery, I was enthralled by the still life floral portraits of the 17th Century Dutch Masters. Although these were vanitas paintings that dealt with themes such as the certainty of decay and death, I thought they were beautiful and poignantly uplifting. I realised that this was a way to continue my photographic exploration into the nature of beauty and wanted to bring a contemporary spirit to a centuries-old idea.
I see the flower as a symbol of birth, growth, strength, union, decline, death and rebirth – a cycle that closely matches our own. Embellishing the fresh, randomly selected blooms by painting the petals, adding artificial flowers, small plastic animals and living creatures, and enhancing the result with complementary lighting, creates an entirely new way of viewing the world. Such illusion can amplify beauty but simultaneously celebrates the fake.
And so (back to) The Question:
Art does not set out to provide answers and Embellish throws up more questions than clarifications. Does something have to be authentic to be beautiful? Where does authenticity stop and illusion begin? How do we use embellishments to conceal our own painful realities? Such philosophical musings aside, the works also have a playful side that makes the perceptive soul stop and take a closer look. Mainly though, I hope these individual expressions of seductive beauty will bring joy to the viewer. That sentiment is not fake - it is very, very real.