There is nothing still about Pamela Wolfe’s flower paintings as she reinvents this still life subject in a contemporary manner. Posies of peonies, poppies, orchids and roses burst forth from a rich velvety blackness, seeming to nearly spill out of the picture frame. There is an almost unsettling insistence of movement in Wolfe’s paintings as each bud jostles for attention in the crowded arrangements, and one feels like they may have only just missed that moment where the wind stirred the rose’s petals, or when bud unfurled to full bloom. This sentiment is echoed in Pamela Wolfe’s choice of titles such as Hush, Rustle, Whisper and Blush.
Wolfe’s intricate arrangements emphasise the quality brushwork for which the artist is known, while her rich saturated palette, filled with crimsons, corals, pinks and purples, enhances the luscious nature of the subject.
That Pamela Wolfe has stepped down slightly in canvas size from her previous two exhibitions has not taken away from the striking intensity of her paintings. Each work still manages to envelop the viewer and the monumental scale of each blossom offers that enchanting and consuming perspective of staring through a microscope.
In her current work, Wolfe has been influenced by Gerhard Richter’s photopaintings, where he replicated a photographic image in paint, incorporating the camera’s ‘blur’ effect. Richter’s approach offered both a photographic appearance, while testifying to the painter’s actions and the plastic nature of paint itself. Pamela Wolfe’s incorporation of the photographic blur caused by a shallow depth of field adds an intensity and dynamism to the flowers in the foreground, while emphasizing the flowers delicate nature in the soft fuzziness of the receding petals.
Wolfe’s paintings have often been compared to the Dutch vanitas paintings, with the artist mimicking their dark backgrounds and layer of drama. However, in contrast to the symbolic message underlying vanitas paintings in regards to the transient nature of existence, Wolfe’s paintings celebrate the present and the beauty of life.