February 2019

Luminous Bouquet

Luminous Bouquet
2014, ground pigment, graphite and watercolor on paper
12 x 9 in. (sheet: 16 x 13 in.)

Luminous Bouquet

At first glance Luminous Bouquet is a simple, unassuming drawing - a straightforward image of a bouquet containing four different kinds of flowers held up by a hand against a circular aura of light. As such it can be seen as a nod to the traditions of floral illustration and floral still life painting. On closer inspection however it reveals other aspects that break with those traditions by exploring the world of flower symbolism and its rich religious and philosophic implications.

The bouquet contains roses that highlight the center and are flanked on either side by thistles. On the perimeter beside the thistles are blackberry brambles with bramble flowers on the left and blackberries on the right. Framing the back are long pussy willow branches.

Traditionally a bouquet of flowers represents an offering of beauty - a gesture of love. In Luminous Bouquet however, the kinds of flowers, the thorns they possess, and the desiccated wound-inflicted hand, all infer a darker meaning of human suffering and the fleeting nature of life. The white roses are positioned at the center of the aura of light and glow with a transcendent radiance. They symbolize purity and spiritual perfection. The thistles, with their royal crowns and spiked stalks, symbolize suffering and the harshness of life. The brambles are a prickly shrub that has both flowers and fruit. As such they symbolize our entanglement with nature, and the process of change and transformation. Lastly the pussy willows, with their bud lined branches that will blossom into flowers, represent the renewal of life.

Luminous Bouquet also contains religious references. The thorns of the roses, thistles and brambles symbolize Christ's crown-of-thorns while the flower, leaf, and branch groupings of three allude to the Holy Trinity. In addition, the blood drops from the hand and the juice from the blackberries symbolize Christ's blood and suffering. Finally pussy willows are seen by many eastern European Christians as a symbol of the Easter season and used in lieu of palms in Palm Sunday services.

Whether others see Luminous Bouquet as a simple illustrative bouquet or a darkly symbolic piece, for me it possesses a glowing disquiet.

- Brian Mains, 2019