Friday, 7 January 2011

Hybrid Love and Reflecting on Wisdom

Hybrid Love, is so called because of the Hybrid nature of the vase itself and also because Agapanthus is a symbol of love. The name, Agapanthus comprises, 'agape,' meaning love and, 'anthos,' meaning flower. When I refer to the hybridity in the vase, I mean that the upper half, with the flower heads against the cloudy summer sky, looks like a painting of specific Agapanthus flowers, which it is. The lower half, evolved as a flattened, designed pattern; something repeatable and general; a comment or a sign or signifier. At the base, it becomes self-consciously patterned, where I've stylised the roots and added the medallions with my potters mark and the date, 2010. The stems on a couple of the plants are ruled lines, or were, I think I changed my mind half way through when vacillating between general and specific/ pattern and representation.

It has two names this pot. The other name is 'Chinese Vase: Agapanthus.' Both are real, they just have very different feel about them. When reading The Four Quartets, I rebelled against,

'The stillness, as a Chinese jar still
Moves perpetually in its stillness.'

Then the more I read it, the more I felt that the 'moves perpetually' bit releases the jar from the onerous weight of having to be an oh so still, well behaved, authentic Chinese Vase. So I renamed it, thinking that perhaps that perpetual movement might have something of my own vacillation.

Reflecting on Wisdom is the name I have given to the Iris vase. I also called it 'Searching for Renaissance,' which was exactly what I was doing. I wanted this vase to evoke the Irises in Italian Renaissance painting and to have the surface quality of a landscape painting or of the landscapes which appear as backgrounds to Renaissance paintings of Biblical themes.

The Iris flower has acquired countless meanings and mythological associations but the idea of the message and of wisdom and courage seem pre-eminent among them. The goddess Iris was the messenger to the gods in Ancient Greek Mythology and carried her messages back and forth along the rainbow. The Ancient Egyptians believed that the three petals stood for faith, wisdom and valour. This seems to have been absorbed into more recent, Christian and European symbolisms not least in the heraldic sign of the Fleur de Lis, which also proclaims these ancient virtues and also in the Christian Trinity. The flower appears repeatedly in Renaissance painting, as a symbol for the Virgin Mary, for love, and sometimes for the sorrow of the Madonna at the crucifixion. It is clearly able to adapt to circumstances and cultures and provide meaning almost wherever it is needed. I think my own meaning for it are most strongly associated with Renaissance religious iconography but I too find I am unable to fix its mood which moves between optimism and hope - it is abundant on the most ungenerous, unaccommodating ground - and foreboding - deep purple seriousness.


  1. I like your words on both the Agapanthus and the Iris, I was brought up with the holy trinity of the iris at school and this story together with all the iconography and the general magic of transubstantiation left me truly believing that the iris was in possession of mysterious powers.
    Re the Agapanthus; I made a small collection of work which went under the heading “Beware of the Agapanthus”, it showed at Pallant House, Chichester in the 90’s. It was all about the madness of the flowering of love, agape and anthos the flowering of it. It was a short journey for me that started when I was researching my family, I discovered a long dead uncle who had lived in Bridlington, he was an avid horticulturalist, however he was famed in local areas for the sign on his garden gate which said “Beware of the Agapanthus”.
    After much correspondence with the compilers of Brewers Phrase and Fable in Leeds, the only reference to the quote was from the House of Lords where the right honorable (somebody) said …..”so as the say, beware of the agapanthus,”, no other content was available. I went onto make a radio broadcast, and the retuning consensus was that man feared what he did not understand and that to beware of an agapanthus had more clout that a savage dog.
    I had one further line of enquiry with Joanna Trollop. She referred to Beware of the Agapanthus in one of her novels, she replied that she had seen the sign on a garden gate (not Bridlington) and had made a note and kept it for years. Her interpretation was identical; beware of the flowering of love, and so she used it in her novel as a portent prior to the heroine meeting her lover for the first time.

    I very much like Hybrid Love and Searching for Renaissance.

  2. This line of work looks very interesting. I particularly like the 'lily' pot. I can almost smell the heady purfume just looking at it. Seductive is the word that comes to mind.