Pondering Poppies

Reclining lazily against a greying jarah bush pole, upon my rustic bush ensconced deck, cup of tea in hand, I rested this cup of quiet on curled knees, while breathing in the heady scent of hot pink boronia,  made all the more potent by the unseasonably humid weather we have experienced this summer in Albany.

Between painting, writing and entertaining two year old Eden, every afternoon I have experienced great joy and tranquility sitting in this very spot, absorbing the sun’s rays, drinking hot tea from a fine china cup and allowing nature to wash over my senses.

pod2TTTThis summer, I have found the emergence of red Flanders poppies particularly inspiring. Their home is the lurid green ceramic pot upon the broad steps leading up to our deck. The appearance of their modest slouching lime green buds littered with micro fine red hairs, heralds the appearance of bold scarlet flowers with dramatically dark contrasting centres. The fragility of the large petals and eventual reduction to a sculptural blackened seed pod make them not merely an annually short lived pleasure, but a true example of the art in nature.

It occurred to me while languishing in this moment of wonder, that beyond referring to these flowers as Flanders poppies and recalling a vague relationship to the end of a war and my mother-in-laws birthday, I knew little of the origins of this flower’s connection to Remembrance day and that this may be worth researching, especially since I was emphatic that these poppies serve as subject for my next painting. It all seemed quite timely given their is so much discussion here in Albany regarding the development of the ANZAC interpretive centre and Albany’s associated forthcoming commemorations.

Googling Flanders Poppies, I was rewarded with a bevy of information about red field poppies being synonymous with Remembrance day in Australia, a memorial day observed since the end of world war 1, calling upon us to remember those Australian’s  who lost their lives while serving in battle under an Australian flag. For the most part, this I already knew.

poppy  TTTAn annual plant, red poppies appeared randomly in obliterated wartime landscapes not just in France and Belgium but also Turkey, hence the connection to the World Wars and the ANZACs.

Interestingly, the devastation of war effected ecologies provide the ideal circumstances for the germination of poppy seeds that are carried upon the wind and lay dormant for prolonged periods, until their growth is initiated by soil disruption and the warming of the season.  How amazing that something so fragile and of such dramatic beauty should rise from the ground under such tumultuous circumstance.

Gazing again at my own poppies, I couldn’t help but perceive them with a certain reverence, not only by virtue of their association with Remembrance, but also as a symbol of hope for a peaceful future.

Collectively, this wealth of information and imagery served as inspiration for my painting War, Peace & Hope Eternal. If you would like to see this painting and my interpretation of this subject matter, it will be hanging in the Vancouver Art Centre in Albany as part of the 2013 Great Southern Art Award, from Friday 29th March until Sunday 28th April.

Photo Credit: Tash Rolfe 2012.  Poppies on my back deck steps.

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