As a time-honoured home decoration motif, flowers have preoccupied artists for generations. We discover one of its latest converts, Wellington painter Rebecca Phillips.
It was in the final year of her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree at Massey University that Rebecca Phillips fell in love with the traditional floral patterns found on old wallpapers and fabrics. Reinterpreting them in her own way, she started using floral motifs in her large-scale acrylic-on-board paintings. After graduating with Honours in 2009, Rebecca continued to explore the art of floral depiction, and re-creating the flat forms found in interior floral design.
Camera in hand, Rebecca starts each painting process with a trip to the Wellington Botanical Gardens. Returning to her studio, she then plays around with her photos in the digital space until she arrives at her desired composition. Next, she redraws the images, turning the realistic forms into figurative shapes, before enlarging them for her oversized canvases. “It’s funny that my process is so drawn out, as I’m not otherwise the kind of person who takes a long time to do things,” she laughs.
The painting process is not completely straightforward either. Using acrylic on wood, Rebecca has developed a signature palette of nostalgic hues. “I enjoy the process of colour mixing, and each work is built up with many thin layers of paint. I have a specific sky blue that I gravitate towards – I love the combination it creates with the dusky corals of the roses.”
Nominated in both 2013 and 2014 as a Signature Piece Finalist at the New Zealand Art Show, Rebecca will be showing the floral paintings that she is becoming known for at the event in June again this year. “I know I’m not going to paint flowers forever, but for now I enjoy the repetition of the process and seeing my work evolving.”
Words Alice Lines
Photography Russell Klyne