JOHN FINCHER: BOTANICA
JUNE 26 - JULY 20 2015
John Fincher has long been known and revered for his unique style of realism that unfailingly produces images acclaimed for both their beauty and the pleasure produced from their unique color, subject, and composition. Fincher’s work adeptly blends lush color, nuanced line, and gorgeous light with quirky perspective and whimsical detail. For over forty years, he has been acclaimed for his legendary images of prickly pears, big skies, and landscapes of the Southwest. He has referred to his own work as depicting his sense of “the trappings of the West,” although over the years that work has also featured subjects far different from those regional “trappings.” In his newest body of work, for example, Fincher inaugurates a largely unexplored image choice and innovative manner of composition, creating a striking new series based on floral and plant motifs that represents a significant departure from the pictorial vocabulary of his previous and more familiar Southwestern paintings. Entitled Botanica, this new series encompasses more than thirty oils on linen, oils on paper and watercolors. The series takes the artist’s previous love of flora and propels it to an entirely new level of contemporary vitality.
Grey Botanica, 2015, oil on linen, 40” x 38”
that implies a similar sense of the populist nobility attained in the more familiar pictures of his humble “trappings of the West.” In a broad sense, the work also achieves added contemporary relevance by demonstrating compelling relationships between the artist and the environment and inspires close attention to the beauty and mystery within our own natural surroundings. His inclusion of quotidian elements of leaves, stems, and buds floating on lyrically romantic backgrounds of water and sky rendered in smoky lush colors creates a slight visual incongruity, thus maintaining the quiet sense of ironic humor for which much of his painting is known.
With these new works, Fincher engages the tradition of botanical art that dates back 4,500 years to China and 1,700 years in the Eastern Mediterranean and lower Nile Valley of ancient Egypt where it was used in tombs as a form of knowledge preservation. The lineage of this work includes the masterworks of the genre’s legendary practitioners such as Leonardo da Vinci, Albrecht Dürer, Jan Brueghel the Elder, Pierre-Joseph Redouté, among others. Though Fincher’s interpretation rivals the finest of these in terms of striking visual beauty, his new works possess a radically different sense of contemporary presence. Unlike the tradition’s typical formality and nearly exclusive use of exotic or ornamental floral subject, Fincher’s botanical works subtly combine both the elegance of fancy flower blossoms with the unexpected simplicity of desiccated seed pods, thistles and twigs. Rather than formal arrangements customary to the botanic tradition, Fincher composes the paintings in this series from cascading blossoms and pods floating randomly on subtle backgrounds of sky and water. The colors and painting style are as sumptuous as the best florilegia of the 17th century but the overall result also features a thoroughly modern dash of surreal quirk.
The new series possesses an enthralling beauty like that of his previous work, borne less of the subject matter itself and more of Fincher’s unique way of seeing it. His work has always been distinguished by an uncanny ability to transform his highly individual vision of whatever subject he chooses to paint into engaging visual experience. The attainment of beauty in his work has largely been accomplished through indirection rather than selfconsciousness. As Wallace Stevens expressed the idea in his poem “Local Objects,” Fincher’s paintings are often successful precisely because they are “objects of insight… the things that come of their own accord.” Fincher’s work is less consciously labored and more joyfully felt.
Further, by juxtaposing the ordinary with more elegant blossoms, such as tulips and poppies, Fincher creates art
The new botanicals continue Fincher’s signature use of luminescent color and close-up perspective that 2
Essay and images from the LewAllen Galleries exhibition, John Fincher: Botanica, June 26 - July 27, 2015.