Alice Denison continues her exploration of flowers by merging still life with pattern painting. Each painting depicts a large pitcher or urn floating in the center covered by densely layered flora and filigree. In the past, the main characters were always the flowers. In this new body of work, the vessel is the focus with the flowers in the supporting roles.
The title of the show, MetaFlor, is a play on the traditional and contemporary uses of meta as well as a play on metaphor. The vessel becomes a presence in the paintings in a symbolic sense. It suddenly goes from being a pitcher or urn to a representation of an object with other meanings or associations. The viewer is left wondering what it all means. Why this vessel? What are we to make of a room full of paintings based on this one object?
Each painting is focused on a particular color story that's been predetermined by Denison. In a statement for the exhibition, Denison writes,
Each piece begins with a grid, a drawing and a raised pattern in stenciled acrylic paste. Color is washed on in acrylic. From there, I work in free form, doodling in patterns in thin oil paint with tiny brushes. Once I've covered the surface, I start again, recoating the first layer here, layering on another pattern there, until there is play between the form of the pitcher and the ground. Adjustments continue; each of the large pieces comes together bit by bit over months. Some works are flatter and lacier and some have more form and space.
Working this way, I've made a subject of the relationship between object and ground. The submerging and emerging pitcher is a metaphor for our own place, both apart from and a part of the world.
Influences on the work include patterned wallpaper, fabric and ceramics, Chinese Song dynasty paintings, Dutch 17th and French 18th century still life painting, and the pattern painters of the 1970s.
Denison is the 2013 recipient of the Berkshire Taconic Artist Resource Trust Award.