'our creation is that guru; the duration of our lives is that guru; our trials, illnesses and calamaties is that guru. There is a guru that is nearby and a guru that is beyond the beyond. I humbly make my offering to the guru, the beautiful remover of ignorance, the enlightenment principle that is within me and surrounds me at all times.'
Guru Stotram

Monday, 21 May 2012

The tulips at Poppy Sebire are certainly not excitable, despite the bold spring day streaming into All Hallows from the skylights above. These tulips are calm, quiet, dank almost. The colours are ochre, pale lilac, beige and brown, here and there a dab or two of dullish green. It feels like something of a non-event. A woman artist painting flowers, photographing and collaging, stitching flowers even, shocking for all the wrong reasons.

Yet there's a whispered sense of something else at work here. Nikki de Saint Phalle haunts the space, although there's nothing of her wacky exuberant vivacity. Rather there's a listlessness that borders on painful, a nothingness that's almost too much to bear. I don't want to linger long. I want to be somewhere else, somewhere brighter, more alive.

The title of the exhibition, The Wounded Tulip, comes from a poem by Sylvia Plath that she wrote in March 1961 whilst in hospital for an appendix operation and following a miscarriage in February of the same year. “I didn't want any flowers,” she says in the poem as she catches sight of their blood redness beside her, “I only wanted to lie with my hands turned up and be utterly empty.” The flowers seem threatening to her, reminders of the world outside that she has temporary respite from. They demand things of her that she is not able to give. “The tulips should be behind bars like dangerous animals,” she says.

Georgie Hopton's tulips hold no such threat and make no such demands. These tulips are themselves wounded. Perhaps they reflect our own transience and vulnerability, maybe even our brokeness. We recall Georgia O'Keeffe and her wildly passionate flower paintings, erotic and alight with sensuality and movement. All that is present there is absent here.

Hopton's flowers, in an anthropomorphic sense, are brittle and dry, uptight and asexual, frightened almost of their own existence. Or they are bulbous and heavy, drooping under the weight of their own portentiousness. They seem sad, dissociated and forgotten, as though time and life has passed them by. They are old men and women who missed their chance to sing and dance and laugh and cry and now prefer to pretend they have missed nothing, to tell themselves they're happy as they are. They smile a dry, shallow smile. They are nobody. They have given up their names and their day-clothes to the nurses. Their history to the anaesthetists and their bodies to the surgeons. These tulips are not livid red, alive and screaming. They are the patient, quietly numb, dying a slow sad death from which they turn tragically away.

Poppy Sebire
Georgie Hopton
The Wounded Tulip
11 May to 16 June 2012

written for Spoonfed

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