From May’s blog you will be able to tell that I’m concerned with the environment. This has been heightened even further recently when I received a beautiful book called “A Tribute to Flowers” by Richard Fischer. Richard is a stunning photographer, who is capturing rare and endangered plants for posterity through his photography. The introduction is by Dr Thomas Holzmann, who is the Vice-President of the German Envioronment Agency, and he states some shocking statistics,
“Thirty-five percent of all animal species in Germany are in jeopardy; with plants, it’s twenty-six percent”
“The dying of species is as much a part of life on our planet as its diversification. For the past centuries, the widespread decrease, however has accelerated to such an extent that researchers are in the meantime referring to this dire situation as the sixth mass extinction in our planet’s history”
Dr Thomas Holzmann, p5, A Tribute to Flowers – Plants Under Pressure, By Richard Fischer
Scientists are likening humanity’s impact upon the environment to the extinction of the dinosaurs. It took me a while for the consequences of that statement to sink in. That is HUGE. More worryingly, I still believe that ultimately, we are also putting the human race at risk. There is a fabulous series of books by an ex-NASA scientist called James Lovelock called “Homage to Gaia”, which is a brilliant read. It explains that the Earth is itself is an organism and the global cycles work in harmony, for example the rainforests are the lungs. I am obviously shortening the theory here, somewhat crudely… but It is humanity’s impact upon the Earth that is disrupting the harmony within. Rainforests have been vastly reduced in size over the last 20 years, the Arctic is shrinking and we are affecting the world on a global scale. You may ask, so what does it matter if Arctic melts and we lose a few plants? Rising sea levels even by a few centimetres will obliterate vast areas of land on many continents and the loss of plants will impact upon the insect population. So, who cares about a few insects? Well we should do, from bees to hoverflies because these are our pollinators, without which our crops will suffer. Crops that feed humanity. The potential of the “sixth mass extinction” will not just affect a few animals becoming extinct, but each loss of species impacts on the ecosystem in which it exists. There are a few specialised orchids that are pollinated by a specific moth. If we lose the orchid, we lose the moth. What birds will we lose feeding on the moth? What eats the birds? If the moth dies out, then the orchid loses its only pollinator and dies out too. This is an example of a niche rare orchid and moth, but what if we lost the honey bee in Britain? Think of all the crops, all the wildflower species, birds, other insects and animals that will be affected? Suddenly one small element of the ecosystem has a massive impact. We need to save the little things, because small elements of an ecosystem can have a huge cascade effect.
These are all the things that my art work is about when I create it. For example, the Fading Bloom series, is about dying flowers, not rare ones as Richard Fischer photographs, but ordinary everyday ones that I see all around me both in the garden and in the landscape. Why is a dead flower so important? As with all nature, with death there is life, from a decomposing corpse to a withering bloom. Flowers produce not only seeds for their own reproduction but also for the nutrition of many birds and animals. Perfectionist gardeners are eager to cut off all their “dead heads”, which, at the beginning of the season, this is fine because you want them to flower again, more food and pollen for the insects. However, at the end of the season, many gardeners do it to “tidy up” for winter. I never do this. Any seed dropped will produce more plants around the garden and it becomes a vital larder for the wildlife during the Winter months. I love the fact that my sunflowers throughout the Autumn and Winter feed numerous birds and the Teasels encourage flocks of Goldfinches into the garden. Many might look at my garden and be horrified at its “messiness” which endures all year round, but it is full of wildlife. The front garden is home to toads, frogs and bees among other species. We get a number of hornets, to the point that they are becoming a problem, so we may need to buy fake hornet nests to discourage them coming in the house! This love of the decaying and dying flowers and plants has inspired my Fading blooms series….
This series of paintings is about showing how beautiful decay can be. Dying flowers create life by dispersing seeds for both birds and animals to feed on and to make more flowers grow. As the petals of flowers die and dry out, they start to twist, creating beautiful shapes. It is this which has inspired this body of work. I love to observe the shapes created by the dying flowers which I leave from summer in my garden throughout the winter. I had always left the old flowers from Summer in the garden to feed the wildlife and I always admired the structures from the tall Rudbeckia and Teasels covered in the Winter frosts. However, it was in fact the drooping Amaryllis blooms (shown below) after Christmas in my lounge, which is when I really started to see the beauty in these dying forms, and it was this that started to inspire me to research dying flowers further and their importance in the natural world.
Echinaceas below, shows a bird eating the seeds from their centres, providing a vital food source.
Fading Blooms #3, (shown below) shows an Anenome flower dying; just as the perfect bloom starts to die, the petals begin to over extend and the centre appears to be bigger. These flowers are over at the start of the season, they flower in Spring and only last a week. When the Anemones start to flower you see the first butterflies; some of these have hatched recently, but others have over-wintered and look somewhat worse for wear. The last thing they do before they die, is lay their eggs, so the dying, tattered butterfly gives life when it dies, as does everything else in nature, because death is vital in the cycle of life.
To find out more about this series of work, you can view it here, https://www.claire-harrison.co.uk/Gallery/Gallery%20Fading%20Bloom%20Series.htm