Thinking about symbolism…

Being about mid-way through the second painting of the series that I am currently working on, I think now would be a good time to share some of my thoughts about my current project.

As is typically the case, the deeper I get into a project, the more it evolves away from the concept that I originally began with and towards what I suppose it was always going to be anyway. I’ve mentioned previously that I enjoy working spontaneously, so I’ll often jump straight into a project with only a germ of an idea, and then work intuitively until the painting reaches completion (unless I hit some kind of plateau or technical issue).

In this way, I sometimes ‘realise’ things about the painting halfway through. (I like to philosophise, so it’s usually something airy-fairy and abstract!)

Anyway, the theme of my current series is ‘exploring relationships with nature’. The key concepts that I’m working with at the moment include: nature as an emotional healer; nature as a mirror to primal instincts; and nature as the giver/sustainer of life. Obviously, the list could be endless (and I’d love to hear suggestions from you in the comments!), but I’m just focusing on these three for now.

With such abstract themes, it stands to reason that symbolism is an ideal tool to convey these messages visually, so I did some initial research into nature-related myths and symbols, and began incorporating them into my compositions. Then I threw in a few nondescript floral elements for balance, grabbed a canvas, picked up my paintbrush, and got to work.

What I’ve recently realised is that many of the flowers that I included as an afterthought could (at a stretch) be meaningfully connected to the theme of the painting in a way that I did not originally intend. It is said that our subconscious mind uses symbols to make sense of the world, and we often go out of our way to look for meaning where there may be none (or, at least, I do!). So my thought for today is… how do we decide which symbols symbolise what?

And is it all just a big accident…?

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