THE FLOWERING OF CONSCIOUSNESS
Since 2005, the paintings of Carmelo Blandino have derived an as yet inexhaustible wealth of visual splendour and emotional resonance from flowers. He has rigorously refined an approach one might call “urban baroque”, carefully combining to maximum effect the sublime subtleties of classical oil painting with the crackling energy of contemporary spray-paint-and–stencils street styles.
The flower as subject is not unusual in itself. Countless artists through the centuries have likewise regarded the blossoms of seed plants as rewarding subjects. After all, their appeal to the animal eye is in many cases essential to the reproduction of its plant, and so human beings, while not serving the function of vector in this process, have nonetheless enjoyed endless pleasure in gazing upon them, a satisfaction above and beyond any practical biological function.
Where Blandino has proved himself exceptional is in his coaxing forth of something far deeper and greater from his subjects, an understanding that unifies raw, earthly sensuality with the transcendental, the ineffable — verve and vivacity interwoven with clarity and serenity. “My work is a sort of continuance in the practice of Buddhist monks,” Blandino explains, “who would bring a single flower to their meditation session and ask the students there to stare at it in silence for a long period of time. Eventually the student comes to realize that he is gazing upon his own true form, a higher Self within the form of the flower, and the flower and its identification properties disappear. Recognizing that all matter originates from one source, a sudden awareness is brought forward that elevates the mind to a more enlightened state. The student and the flower are one.”
Blandino offers his flowers not as mere ornamentation of little consequence but as a focus for the meditative experience, for that is at the root of his work and thus the greatest gift he can bestow upon those who view his canvases. “The exercise of meditating,” he says, “is comparable to that of being a painter in its demands — dedication, consistency, faith, truth, and persistence. Both disciplines offer me a means of relaxation, as well as frustration at never quite reaching a finish line that is in truth illusory. Both are about the journey and each ends only with further paths opening up ahead.”
With his latest collection of paintings, a series entitled “The Flowering of Consciousness,” Blandino has sought a new path, or perhaps a more specific and disciplined one. He has reached beyond his familiar approach of assembling a variety of flowers into wondrous, intuitive compositions, quiet riots of comforting colours and delicate dynamics, and discovered entire new worlds to contemplate in the solitary flower.
The “flowering” to which the exhibition’s title refers isn’t simply the blooming of a new blossom but a more universal notion, that of the act of becoming, of moving from a state of obliviousness to one of awareness — a moment of change achieved by briefly withdrawing the mind and soul from the wearying noise of daily existence, inside and out.
Each flower is unique in its particular manifestation of the greater genetic coding within it. The same should be said of every individual of our own species. And so just as the Buddhist monks saw their true selves reflected back at them in the flowers they contemplated, so should each viewer find their own inimitable awareness of themselves and their world woven into the play of colour, texture and form on Blandino’s canvases.
Born to Sicilian parents in Tübingen, Germany, and raised in the culturally charged city of Montreal, Quebec, Blandino studied art and design at the city’s local colleges and began a successful career as a freelance illustrator, working with architects, designers, and advertising agencies. In 2002, Blandino shifted his focus to the world of fine art. Today, his paintings are widely known for their immediacy and their sensual, even lascivious expressions of colour, movement, and shape. His work is exhibited in New York, Palm Beach, Naples, Stockholm, Calgary, Vancouver, Toronto and his beloved Montreal. He has conducted summer workshops at Von Liebig Art Center of Naples, Florida, and taught drawing for many years at Dawson College in Montreal before transplanting himself to Naples, Florida where he lives today.