Commentary

One has heard of Impressionism, Surrealism, Cubism and Fauvism... why not Flowerism? This delightful first solo painting show by Ye Ruoshi will be an installation of more than 100 small (1 ft x 1 ft) oil paintings based on (you’ve guessed it!) flowers! But Ruoshi focuses on close-ups of their central interiors, seeking out the mysteries hidden in their sensual depths, and giving of her own interpretation through expressive distortion and imaginative colouration. In this way, her paintings transcend their floral origins to become gems of vibrant and sensual abstractions, although the effect of stepping directly into a gigantic bouquet when one enters the gallery should not be lost.

While American floral painter Georgia O’Keefe had wanted to draw attention to the beauty of flowers by enlarging her subject matter to monumental proportions, Ruoshi focuses on abstract floral miniatures. She hones in to the relatively undiscovered private world within the petals, the secret conflagration of stigmas and styles with their sensual, slender forms, and transforms them to juxtapositions of lines, curves and coloured sectors reminiscent, but seldom imitative, of their original biological splendour. And then she will occasionally step back and capitalize on the unique arrangements and patterning of petals in her compositions; an experienced botanist or gardener may guess at the original inspiration for each painting, but to the layman, they are organic extravaganzas of colour and form.

The Singapore Botanic Gardens and the plantings of the National Parks Board below her apartment are rich sources of materials, and the process starts with a botanical expedition to collect her specimens with a camera. Then at home, the development of her composition continues through careful studies of the photographs. The process of painting her canvases in oil then begins, using the ideas from her photographic sessions. Influenced by her mood and surrounding events, she brings about another dimension to her paintings beyond aesthetics. The title of each painting also suggests a deeper meaning and is intentionally left open for interpretation by the audience.

Although many of the works are created individually, she may group several that share the same inspirational flower or theme into a single series, for example If Roses Can Speak... which started the Flowerism series in motion, and her orchid fantasy Anggerik (Malay for orchid). This original rose series has now expanded and doubled, and was begun with a stray idea at night, the subsequent purchase of a bouquet of roses, and a systematic study of buds, full blooms and intriguingly, decay. Ruoshi is also continuing the Anggerik series which hints of additional life lurking behind the abstraction, subject matter which is close to her heart. Otherwise the uniform small size of the paintings has a modularity that allows it to be expanded or mixed and matched to one’s own personal arrangement according to tastes and budget, and this may encourage painting ownership for first-time buyers.

Depending on where her mood takes her, the flowers in some paintings are easily recognized as discrete entities such as the waterlily in Lightness or chrysanthemums in Goldie. Or they may be closely-cropped compositions which may mystify most except the experienced gardener/botanist, such as the canna flowers in Bunga Merah, or frangipanis in Red Among the Greens... There are several that are patterned after different varieties of orchid petals, mainly Oncidiums and Dendrobiums, such as Intruder, Distortion 1 and Close Encounter. Then there are abstract fantasies that emerge transformed after filtering through the artist’s mind, such as Old World Charms and Twiggy.

Which lady does not love flowers? Ruoshi has now converted an emotional passion into a tangible collection which she now would love to share with the Singapore public in Flowerism.

Dr. Pwee Keng Hock, UTTERLY ART