Flower paintings, 1991

In 1991 I had a burst of painting these flower paintings. I didn't have 'time to paint' that year, but I had my paints always at the ready in my kitchen, and painted at all sorts of odd moments, including when on the phone. I'd been in love with a painter for a short time, and visiting his studio was an intense awakening to the potential of colour in paint. When our short-lived relationship ended, I began to paint these. They enabled me to submerge myself in the vibrancy of colour. 

They describe something I love to soak in through my eyes - the rhythms of colour when flowers are mixed in a patch of grass, or in a hedge, or among contrasting flowers all together in a flower bed. I did not paint them from life, but from a deep inner 'memory' from the many times I have stood transfixed gazing at such a sight. 

I was broke in those days, so I painted these flower paintings on the back of cereal boxes or teabag boxes. The card has a great stiffness as a canvas, and the inside surface of the box has a texture that accepts the paint really well. Some of these I call 'large' - these ones are painted on the inside of cereal boxes and are about two thirds or A4 size. The others I think of as 'miniatures'. They are painted on the inside of teabag boxes. I adored the tiny detail of these. I also painted several 'extra large' ones - painted on cut-up cardboard boxes. I even painted a few on normal drawing paper. 

During this phase my son - age 7 at the time - and I took a holiday in a friend's cottage. I woke early one morning and began a large painting on the living room table. When he awoke and came down the steep stairs, which opened into the living room through a door just behind me, he came upon me and the painting I was doing, kind of from above. "Oh," he exclaimed, "When God made you he painted you!" What a miraculous gift these words were. He did not usually comment on my paintings! And it's not like we spoke about God much at home. We didn't go to a church or belong to an organised religion. Yes, we often prayed to angels, but God was not in our daily vocabulary. My son's 'just woken up' words rang out with the purity of a deep inner place, unschooled, genuine. 

1991 was also a very sad year for me. My father was seriously ill. I took a couple of the 'extra large' paintings to his hospital room to show him. He kept them for a few days. He then returned one, but asked to keep the other. We stuck it on the wall at the foot of his bed. He said it was remarkably soothing to look at it. How joyful this was for me, to be able to offer him some solace, day and night, through the rhythm of those colours. I sometimes wonder at how this painting phase came upon me that year. It nourished me so much, and gave me strength that helped me be present with my father, and my mother and syblings, amidst such searing and tender sadness. 

I've always loved these paintings. Each time I look at them they feed me. So some years later I thought - why not paint more of these? I tried but it was not there. I could not re-find this style at all. My attempts looked terrible! What a mystery. These painting phases are really not in my control at all.

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© Bridget Belgrave 2019