For the Bipolar show at Exhibit A Gallery, the artists were to use a "new" (to them) style or medium. Australian artist Melissa Haslam chose to work with the style of Aubrey Beardsley, who was an illustrator in the late 19th century, famous for his illustrations of, for example, Salome, by Oscar Wilde. The above oil painting, "Beardsley's Garden", is the gorgeous result. She has brought a depth to the shadows in his black and white prints, and to me, the delicate, subtle coloring of the woman's face makes the whole painting "pop."
"I have been spending time looking into illustrators from what's referred to as the golden age of illustration. Think fairytales and forests with medieval and pre-raphaelite twists. What I like about this era of illustration is that the imagery is so decadent and lush, but it's tempered by subdued colours. The result gives a kind of darkness to the narratives which makes sense because fairytales often are dark and otherworldly. I want to try and use this technique in my own work, so we'll see how that goes."
In an interview with Arrested Motion, she talked some about her subject matter:
"It’s an instinctive thing, but I paint females because I am one and it is what I relate to the most. It’s an entry point for me into the world that is being painted, or the mood that is being portrayed. The plants interest me for many reasons, firstly for their aesthetics. Aesthetics are very important to me and so they are important to my work. It’s so common for humans to find plants and flowers beautiful that there must be something in our biology that makes it so - nature rather than nurture. I have been reading some books on botanical illustration and the stories of botanists risking their lives to discover new, exotic plants to draw or take back to their homeland and the status associated with these finds. It’s a romantic view of the world."
Melissa describes the above painting as being "about a girl who has joined the Garden Gnome Liberation Front (GGLF), and thus, is 'rescuing' oppressed gnomes."
The Garden Gnome Liberation Front actually exists, and has been quite oddly active in France and Italy. According to Wikipedia:
"The first and most predominant gnome liberating force is the Garden Gnome Liberation Front (also known as the Front for the Liberation of Garden Gnomes—le Front pour la Libération des Nains de Jardin (FLNJ)). The Garden Gnome Liberation Front was introduced to the French public in 1997. Over the course of a year, the Front stole over 150 garden gnomes, contending that garden gnomes deserved the same freedoms they were blessed with. The leader of that group was charged in absentia with stealing over 150 garden gnomes over a period of several years. The Front's leader was given a suspended prison sentence and fined for the 150 stolen gnomes.
In 1998 there was another strike that has been attributed to the Garden Gnome Liberation Front. This strike was known as the "mass suicide." In Briey, a small city in eastern France, citizens woke up to find 11 garden gnomes hanging from a bridge with nooses around their necks. A nearby note stated: "When you read these few words we will no longer be part of your selfish world, where we serve merely as pretty decorations.""
The botanical details in her paintings are pretty amazing. She spends a bit of time traveling to photograph wildflowers in her native Australia, and she seems to find the most interesting ones. Here are some of the details from the gnome-saver painting:
Besides the Garden Gnome Liberation Front, there are other "perils of gardening" she likes to explore in her paintings. An example is this "Suspicious Stalk":
"Girls Versus Echidnas"
"The little ones are pretty cute so the girls thought they might take a few of them home, but the fatter, less attractive echidnas are not too happy with the idea." (Melissa)
Some more of her beautiful work:
"One Fell from the Apple Tree"
"Flowers and Bugs"
She has a blog full of her own work, as well as images of and thoughts on the work of some of her contemporaries, and fantastic botanical images and sources here.