Dane Lovett’s flower paintings both embrace and eschew their historical, thematic and allegorical roots. Dark, often monochromatic and subtly tonal in their palette, the scores of works that populate the Melbourne-based artist’s debut book Flowers gesture towards the syntaxes of minimalism and seriality as resolutely as they do the still life. It’s an intriguing dynamic, which expands and further articulates Lovett’s culturally savvy, reference-rich painting practice.
Where earlier works saw the artist construct still life arrangements from indoor plants and pop-cultural ephemera – VHS cassettes, vinyl records, CDs, ageing tech and the like – Lovett’s recent practice has seen him embrace repetition and delicate variation, with an unmistakably reductionist and art historical bent. Here, he recasts French artist Henri Fantin-Latour’s 1864 still life Flowers: Tulips, Camellias, Hyacinths in countless murky, monochromatic iterations – a single vase of flowers becoming a site for sustained painterly exploration, variation and rhythm. Extended series of foxgloves and waterlilies in various unnatural tones follow.
As the curator and academic Rosemary Forde writes in her essay for the book, Lovett’s repetitions ‘each seem to emote uniquely’, his dark and muddy images allowing us to project ‘our own familiar scenes, moments, memories, aspirations, sorrows’. More than many others in the art world, Lovett seems to recognise the fundamentally democratic nature of meaning. His subjects are everything and nothing, laden and null. He offers us a rich framework, only to leave us to our own devices.