Thursday, August 10, 2017

The Art of Letters and Essays



Letters and Essays associated with the Phenology Cabinet of the Incandescent Petal 
2009-15
Coral G Guest


This post is a response to the many messages I have received requesting information about the work on display this summer, at the British Artists show at Shirley Sherwood Gallery.

This concerns the letter and essay writing aspect of my work, and that of audio recordings.

I first documented my individual artworks, both flower and landscape, as a child travelling with my family. Thereafter, as a fine art student this form of documentation began to evolve. This addition to my work has taken the form of essay and letter writing, email messages, and greeting card correspondence. This data is stored as both document and image, and is a part of the archive of my work.

The letters and essays that I produce are not sold with their connected artwork. They are intentionally given freely and gratis to the owner of the work to complement the event of the painting or drawing. 

The letters and essays highlight how the strategy of the work extends far and wide, beyond the actual artwork itself. Some letters have whimsical overtones and may relate to my childhood love of the plant and places that are painted, and others touch upon the origins and the processes involved in the individual artwork. Overall this documentation is dependent upon, and linked to, the creation of the artwork and describes the origins of the work itself.

The readers of earlier versions of this blog will know that I have been on something of a mission to encourage new artists to document their work from the beginning of their career. If we do not do this ourselves, an art historian or auction house will eventually do it for us. If you have no documentation, the future descriptions and interpretation of your work will be invented.

Most of my works held in the Sherwood Collection has letter, email, and essay documentation, which is now beginning to be shown alongside the work.

For anyone who is just starting to provide letters of their work, and is not quite sure how to proceed, here is a list of subjects that I consider worthy and which may be of use to you. I am focusing here upon the Botanical Art genre, because the Landscape tradition has been active in documentation for generations.

I have developed this diverse list through personal interest. Your choice is always unique to you, and will be a part of your individuality. 


The Essential Letters of an Individual Artwork

The time, date, and inception of an artwork in relation to the subject matter:
This concerns weather patterns, the qualities of the natural light source when painting in the field or studio, and the seasonal relationship to the subject matter. This also can cover the growth pattern for that year, in relation to other years and other themed artworks that are made over several years. The sudden or occasional finding of a plant subject in a wild place or a garden, which leads to the creation of an artwork, is always of great interest. Art viewers want to know if an artwork is planned or spontaneous in its genesis.


The Source of the Plant and its History:
The description of the plant in its natural habitat or cultivated home, offers an extended history of the subject matter. This touches on its concomitant relationship to other plants and the environment. For example, the documentation of the history of a wild flower meadow will be in stark contrast to that of florist's flowers cultivated in the bulb fields of The Netherlands. Whatever the circumstances are, this is what needs to be documented.


For the love for the plant:
For gardeners who grow and tend their own flowers, as I do, and the artists who travel, the source of the plant subject may be documented in the form of a time lapse essay or audio recordings, and serial note books that give in depth data. This provides a practical, observational, or romantic background. It may relate to an ongoing interest in a specific plant, and the reasons for this particular interest. The description of the origin of the artwork in relation to a continuing personal quest - perhaps from as far back as childhood - are all pertinent. Poems, micro essays, and associated cultural connections, and the artists own background, are all relevant to the final outcome of an artwork.


Material Connections:
The listing of materials used and why, the idiosyncratic relationship of the painting process to the subject matter, and the day to day engagement with the art making process, all bring depth to the viewing of the art image. This may include the referral to additional study or sketching works that support the main art work.


All of the above, may be justifiably used as a puzzle of dimensional understanding in the realities that inform the viewer about an artist’s work. It also bequeaths a powerful background testimony of interest. As a lifetime pursuit, letters and essays also offer an individual artist their own archive to reflect upon beyond the point when work is sold. 

A few words or many, a focus upon the romantic aspects of the work, or the simple collection of accurate data are all options. Whatever you choose, it will all be relevant, forming an engaging, and often enchanting aspect to the legacy of your artwork.


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