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Since time began we have loved flower pictures. Artists have chosen set pieces in vases, wreaths, baskets and bouquets; or painted flowers to enhance a lady's beauty or suggest an idyllic pastoral scene. We put flowers on everything, from calendars to boxes which sell cosmetics or chocolate. With such an abundant history behind us how can we be helped to look afresh at them?
A recent exhibition at Tate Modern showed some of Gerhard Richter’s answers. Some of his paintings are blurred so that we have to concentrate, almost burrow our way into what is there. At other times, seen here in Blumen (Flowers), he crops the subject, much as we are used to doing with photographs, and we see a section with new eyes.
Lombardi, who is painting professor for New York University in Florence, succeeds in a different way. Peach Blossom is part of a body of work based on the garden of Villa La Pietra in Florence. There Lombardi transformed the Limonaia (the lemon house of the villa) into a gallery where her work was exhibited. Her intention was to create a garden within a garden, where the internal space of the Limonaia was linked to the external space of the walled garden and then beyond to the rest of the garden.
What first drew me to the picture is the tension between ‘nature’ and ‘nurture’.
Here’s a living breathing sturdy plant bursting with life, that has in some ways been captured and contained by the modern innovative hanging system that was designed by the head gardener. It’s not the only contrast. There’s the drab, dreamy ochre colour of the walls, against which the delicious sharp, spiky pink of the blossom is framed. And there’s the softness and fragility of the petals and newborn leaves set against that taut, unforgiving wire.
Perhaps it’s the artist’s use of light which makes it all so magical. She writes ‘Light is the departure point for all of my work... my desire is to create richness with the paint but to keep the colours and light fresh. I...feel free to do what needs to be done so that the paintings are a visual reflection of my thoughts and emotion’.
She’s currently working on a series of paintings of butterflies, insects, birds and animals. ‘My observation and exploration of forms in nature has made me further appreciate nature's perfection. It has made me contemplate the beauty, strength and fragility of the creatures who share the earth with us and who are increasingly in peril’.