The lotus is a useful as well as a beautiful flower. When I eat sticky rice at my favorite Chinese restaurant, the rice comes wrapped in a lotus leaf. I have, on occasion, taken the leaf home, washed it off, and used it in a collage. The Chinese waiter finds that odd. It’s a wrap for food, not a potential art medium.
Chinese artists often use the lotus symbolically to represent, among other things, purity and high aspirations since it rises beautifully from a muddy lake bottom and stretches elegantly above the water towards a noble place. The lotus is a recurring symbol in Buddhism, as it is in other Eastern religions.
For centuries, brightly colored lotus boats in China have drifted through the lotus “fields,” providing poets, painters, and scholars the opportunity to reflect on beauty or, in another function, the chance to drink and dally with the opposite sex. The popular songs from ancient taverns differed from those of the imperial courts in many ways and were called the songs of the lotus boat.
Of course, the lotus in a painting doesn’t symbolize anything unless it symbolizes something to the painter. It may simple be a lovely flower the artist wishes to capture in paint so it can be viewed often in a place far removed from its watery origin.
Doreen Leverette painted these lotuses with watercolor and a delicate brush, carefully layering on vibrant colors. The flowers mingle with the leaves and the water and fill all of the space on the paper. What we see first is the abundance of color.
Using a contrasting technique, Pam Auerbach painted this single lotus with a Chinese brush using free, exuberant strokes, catching the essence of the flower and leaf and letting the white paper be part of the design. She added that flitting living creature, a bit of animal chi, which we know will soon be zipping off, pollinating as it goes. What we see first is the life force in the flower.
Symbols or representations of nature? Ask the artist, who, if she could explain the emotions which the lotus evokes, would be a writer rather than an artist.
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