The Flower of Life

19.09.2007 • 27.10.2007

The Flower of Life


Art includes everything that stimulates the desire to live...
It is the flower of life and, as seed, it gives back life.

Remy de Gourmont, Promenades Philosophiques, Selected Writings (1901)

Love is the flower of life, and blossoms unexpectedly
and without law, and must be plucked where it is found.

D. H. Lawrence, Lady Chatterley's Lover (1928)

In celebration of the opening of the new gallery, James Hyman is proud to present a specially curated exhibition of important artworks that explore the relationship between Art, Love and Nature.

Appropriately, for this first exhibition, the theme is transformation, specifically the transforming power of love as an inspiration for the artist.

The exhibition consists of thirteen pictures and a central installation.

At the heart of the exhibition is Anya Gallaccio's Red on Green . This spectacularly vibrant work consists of 10,000 fragrant English tea roses on a bed of their stalks placed in a rectangle on the gallery floor. Inspired by the garden of love at the Chateau Villandry in France, Gallaccio explores the symbolism of plants and colours. Initially filling the gallery with perfume and colour, as the red roses die and change from red to black, this extraordinary, romantic gesture, is transformed into a contemporary vanitas: an elegy to love.

Paintings by some of the most important British artists of the last half century take as their starting point Ovid's tales of love and transformation.

One of Greaves's major paintings, Primavera (1984) has as its basis a tale by Ovid from his unfinished poem, The Fasti. The subject is the erotic pursuit of Chloris by Zephyr and her subsequent transformation into the fecund Flora, the divine patroness of gardens and fields. Greaves depicts a subsequent incident, showing Flora with a magic flower that would make any woman who touched it pregnant.

Kitaj's Statue and Woman (1980-88) depicts a statue that comes to life to embrace a Flora-like image of a woman from whom appears to sprout a tree. But it is another of Ovid's tales, from Metamorphoses, of Pygmalian, that is perhaps most apposite. Indeed the composition appears to echo Gerome's painting of the same subject. Kitaj, however inverts the narrative so that instead of the statue of a woman turning into flesh and blood, it is the sculptor that transforms into a sculpture.

In Ivon Hitchens's triumphant Fountain Of Acis (1964), one of the largest and grandest pictures the artist ever painted, the inspiration was Handel's opera Acis and Galatea, itself based on Ovid's Metamorphoses. Hitchens focuses on the moment of transformation when the lover, Acis, is resurrected as a fountain that will flow for ever.

The traditional association of love with marriage and marriage with flowers informs other paintings in the exhibition, including two very different paintings by Alan Davie and Patrick Caulfield from the flower-power years of the 1960s. Patrick Caulfield's major Pop Art painting Three Roses (1963) is a formalised picture of red roses in an attractively coloured setting suggestive of a diamond engagement ring or wedding invitation. In the year of the summer of love, Alan Davie painted one of his major works, Improvisations on a Chagall Theme (1967), in which a bride in her veil holds an enormous bouquet of flowers that energises the whole painting.

Finally, in contrast to the transformative power of love explored in myth and the transience embodied by Gallaccio's roses, the flowers of Marc Quinn will never fade.

Marc Quinn's latest series, Portraits of Landscapes (2007) presents a lush world of exotic colours and forms. Each subject is presented in glorious super-enhanced technicolour. The result is at once real and contrived. A world of artificial colouring, chemical enhancement and genetic engineering. The style may be hyper-real but there is also something deeply artificial about this vision.

Roses, the Old and the New, Conceptual and Universal, Bold and Epicurean, the works in this exhibition are a life-affirming celebration of the rich stimulation to be found in nature and transformation.

For further information please contact Christabel Armsden at the gallery on 020 7494 3857

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