Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The Curious Case of the White Background in Botanical Art

A curious occurrence I have recently observed on various artistic blogs and sites, is the definition of Botanical Art as an actual style of painting. This is something I have to disagree with.
As I comprehend it, Botanical Art is an umbrella term that is used to define the current renaissance of all forms of painting and drawing that depict plant life. This may be Botanical Illustration, Flower Painting etc.
I understand Botanical Art as clearly a banner under which many types of art and artists co-exist. This is in fact a subtle and appropriate way of supporting many types of work as valuable, under the one banner. With the rise of this Botanical Art banner, it has become common for the many artists involved to use the title Botanical Artist. 

However, the definition of Botanical Art as an actual and specific style of painting is a contradiction to this umbrella term.
A Flower or Botanical Painter (the operative word being 'Painter') be they an impressionist or realist, will incline toward a very serious concern with the meaning and the philosophy that lies at the heart of their work. This is a complimentary polarity to the scientific aspect of the Illustrator. Both of these practitioners are Botanical Artists if the process can sustain the collective consent of the use of Botanical Art as an umbrella definition.
So we have a crossroads here, and which way will the general consensus travel? 

Do you, dear reader, see Botanical Art as an overall definition, or do you see it as an actual specific style of painting that is different from Flower Painting or Scientific Illustration?
It’s a sobering thought that the general world of fine art and the historians that work therein, generally consider what is described as ‘Botanical Art’ to actually be a form of illustration. This is because, in general, the images are placed on white backgrounds, which make it illustration, by definition.
This is something that Painters can change, by attempting to bring greater philosophical meaning into their work, and by coming to terms with what the white background can represent. Philosophy and meaning are currently very absent, because the focus is generally upon technique, making the works beautiful but often without any serious intent.
I would encourage all those working as a Botanical Artist or more specifically, a Flower Painter, to look deeper into the meaning behind their work, to search within themselves, and to write about what their intentions are and what they see as the philosophical purpose of their work. 

White back grounds have to be reconciled and made real by each individual, if they are to find their place beyond the traditions of illustration and become something more to those who observe their work.