Publication: The Times. October 2017
The term votive relates to a kind of offering made in fulfilment of a
vow. Although it has mainly religious associations, it can also be
used in secular contexts. Two years ago, at the Scottish Society of
Artists, painter Kirsty Lorenz showed an installation consisting of a
series of fifty paintings of posies of wild indigenous flowers,
collectively assembled under the title ‘Votive Offerings’. Although
the nature of the implied vow was not entirely clear, it might have
been, given the context, a dedication to nature, which underlined its
strength, fragility and beauty.
Lorenz has developed this project (aptly named floresce – to burst
into flower) as an exhibiting prize won at the SSA for her Votive
Offerings series. Whereas each of works in the original series was
small-scale, here they are larger and accompanied by film, audio, and
other media. The idea of the posy remains, as each wild bouquet is
wrapped with a stem of grass or other plant. It’s significant that
‘posy’ itself derives from ‘poetry’, so that the idea of structure,
composition, and a concentration of meaning are also present.
In the past, Lorenz worked on the rather simpler idea of flower
portraits, although without the attention to scale, detail and
seasonal variation that are the hallmarks of traditional botanical
illustration. Here the departure from scientific method is even more
pronounced. Primula Scotica, from the Orkney series, depicts the small
flower, which is native to northern Scotland, on a large scale. A
small silhouette in the corner of the painting shows the flower’s
actual size (around 2.5cm in height).
The series also contains a number of short films paired with different
posies. The artist’s hand picks a variety of (non rare) flowers, later
assembled into a bouquet and painted – in this case against a series
of uniform blue backgrounds.
The Prayer series, in which Lorenz collaborated with sound engineer
Graham Deas, offers a re-interpretation of Tibetan prayer flags,
traditionally used to symbolise peace and compassion. These were
printed with reproductions of the original Votive works and installed
in a Fife woodland, where they created a small pathway through the
forest, suggesting the loss of habitat and ecological complexity.
Deas’ sound recording offers a layered mosaic of woodland sounds,
punctuated by the steel rhythm of a near-by railway.
Lorenz has moved the traditional depiction of flowers away from the
twee, the decorative, the domestic and the aesthetically conservative
onto a more complex and ultimately satisfying level. Her work
transcends the ordinary and communicates an experience of nature on a
higher, even spiritual, level.