Suggested words

Museum Tales 4: Bouquet

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My dictionary curtly defines the word ‘bouquet’ as a ‘bunch of flowers!’

Yet, over the years I’ve seen people channel their artistic tendencies into the creation of colourful, balanced and delightful floral displays. Those dedicated souls who arrange the flowers in churches, for example, surely must consider their efforts as considerably more than the mere tending of bunches of flowers. Their displays are comprised of the gatherings of numerous individual blooms which, tenderly and strategically placed in vases, reveal the wonder of nature and the botanical ingenuity of mankind.

As a member of the Creative Writing group at Brighton Museum I was spoiled for choice of inspirational objects, and privileged to work in a treasure trove of artefacts, each with the power to ignite a writer’s imagination. For today’s exercise, I went to ‘The Flower Painting Room’ to select from its array of framed paintings one with personally appealed, and then to write about it. I wandered around and gazed intently at what appeared to be a collection of still life portraits of many-hued flowers, in water-filled containers, centrally placed on the tops of wooden tables.

These images of hacked down flowering plants connected me to the memory of a most sensitive, nature loving soul I once knew. So closely attuned to the feelings of all living things in her environment that she said she felt their pain when heedlessly abused by humans. She even claimed that she could hear flowers screaming when cut and gathered for people’s frivolous, ornamental and inessential purposes. With that in mind, I turned away from the walls hung with almost copycat variations on a definite theme; the isolated, carefully bunched flowers in crystal vases.

Of their own volition, my eyes focused on the brightness of a piece of abstract art that hung in a corner close to the exit. It appeared to be illuminated by sunlight or spotlights or, perhaps, by the fiercely burning spirit of its artistic creator. The painting gave me the impression, not so much of a floral bouquet, but more, much more, that of a garden full of growing flowers and plants. It was as if I was looking out through a circular window onto a distant complex of paths, shrubs and flowerbeds. It conveyed the sense that I could even smell the bouquet; actually inhale the bounty of life-giving earth. This arresting abstraction, ‘Sappho,’ was challengingly brought to life by the English artist, Gillian Ayres, CBE, RA, born 1930.

If I take away one lasting memory from this Creative Writing at the Museum experience, it will be the internal glow of her outstandingly defiant and awe inspiring piece of an original painter’s art!


James Kerr


Inspiration: Gillian Ayres’ ‘Sappho’