Ranunculus No. 3

Jan 15, 2021

While entering this, my most recent painting, in an exhibition I was asked what “inspired” the painting. For floral paintings like this one, it’s clearly nature. I’m in rapture with the way this tiny flower’s petals fold in upon themselves like an infinity mirror and how each petal seems to flaunt its own particular combination of colors. It’s both a challenge and a joy to try to preserve it on canvas.

Sometimes artists are asked about the meaning of their work. That’s harder. My paintings tend to be self-evident, WYSIWYG, to use some old timey computer jargon. Their meaning isn’t hidden or ironic. They just are.

Of course, here in my blog I often tell a backstory of how the painting moved me as I created it or how it came to be. People like to hear those stories. Take this painting, for example. For my son’s wedding I was asked to create the flower arrangements and bouquets for the event. Orange, green and white ranunculus played a starring role. I can’t help but to remember that happy time and connect it to my ranunculus paintings. But that’s not the “meaning” of it per se.

What if it held no meaning to me? Would that matter? You might be shocked to hear me reply with a resounding “no!” Why, you ask. Because it’s not about what I think about it really. That’s my opinion and I can either love my paintings or paint over them if I don’t. What I am interested in is that you have a response to them.

Do they evoke a memory? Do they give you pleasure? Do they make you want to go plant a garden or pick a bouquet? Is this painting something you want to look at again or not? Does it bring some serenity into your life? Are you wondering if that background is black or green or what? Do you like getting in close to inspect the brushwork? Or is something amiss and it bugs the hell out of you? Get it away from me! Maybe it makes you want to sneeze. All’s fair in love and art.

Oddly, I’m somewhat indifferent to whether people like my work or not. I’m human though and while I’d prefer they did I’m also able to handle rejection when they’re not. 

So the next time you’re standing in an art gallery or museum and wonder what that artist meant by painting whatever it is you see, know that there’s no “right” way to think about it. Only that you have your own unique experience with it, good or bad, and that’s all that matters, even when the artist is telling you otherwise. Because no matter what was intended at the outset, it’s your experience with it that matters. It’s what makes art so wonderful, personal and, at the same time, universal.

Painting: Ranunculus No. 3 © Lissa Banks 2021