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Painting is silent poetry, and poetry is painting that speaks. Simonides

Don Rankin

The Poppy Project

Through looking and reading, I am an artist who is constantly researching the artistic traditions of the present and the past, with a particular interest in the art of painting. The "looking" is based on regular first-hand experience of contemplating original paintings in major collections in Britain, France, Italy and Australia. The Poppy Project is a culmination, of sorts, of this formal and self-education over a long period of time. There is no moving forward without a sound knowledge of contemporary practice and a profound understanding of what has gone before.

My paintings are informed equally by the transition from High Renaissance Italian painting to the excesses of the Baroque, from the contemplative quietness of the 17th century French artist Chardin to the modernity of the 20th century Italian artist Morandi, not to forget the colour of the post-impressionists and the Fauves at the beginning of the 20th century, or the geometric structure Mondrian. The materiality of the paint is primarily what sets painting apart from other forms of visual representation and it is the key to my artistic practice. There is something about the artifice of brush and paint that leads to an ability to capture a truth incapable of being seen with the naked eye.

My thematic explorations seem on the surface to be literal but the intention is to go much deeper and metaphorically touch upon the universal themes of birth, life and death, without resorting to the obvious symbols such as the skull. In the current series of poppy paintings I am tapping a rich load of references: the ancient genetic code of the poppy as a species, the primordial appearance of the poppy pods, the delicate creased tissue-thin petals. All of these speak of the tenuous life cycle of living things, of their fragility and vulnerability, and, by extension, they act as a metaphor for the morality of human beings. In short, they are mysterious whilst at the same time being familiar.

The defining element of The Poppy Project will be a series of diptychs, where one panel depicts poppies in their last days, while the twin panel depicts the poppies in bud and in full bloom. Both panels display the natural beauty of either state and, by inference, evoke an affirmative acknowledgement of the human life and condition. Finally, it is no coincidence that the diptyches take on the proportion of the Golden Section, a defining tenet of Italian Renaissance art.

Don Rankin (b. 1947)

1947 Born Adelaide
1965-69 Studied Adelaide University, B.Sc. (Hons)
1971-74 Studied drawing and printmaking (part-time), South Australian School of Art
1970–2003 Teacher in secondary schools in SA
1978-80 Council Member, Contemporary Art Society, S.A.
1982-86 Member of Young Street Print Workshop
2004 Full time artist since 2004

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