Pamela Wolfe’s large bulbous blooms appear to quietly unfurl when one is not looking – the delicate petals seeming to peel back further from their bud. Wolfe is well known for her large-scale oil paintings of pink-hued flowers, particularly roses, but in her latest exhibition at Artis Gallery, Wolfe has dabbled into a wider variety of colours and foliage, with hydrangeas, lilies, tulips and poppies all vying for attention in her heaving paintings.
The monumental scale of Wolfe’s paintings, as well as her delicate hyperreal rendering of these ephemeral entities, draw similarities to the work of German painter Gerhard Richter and his photopaintings. Richter’s compositions were originally photographs, which he has accurately replicated onto canvas with paint, incorporating the ‘blur’ of the camera.This technique give his paintings a photographic effect but paradoxically also testifies to the act of painting and the plastic nature of the paint itself.Wolfe executes a similar method in her compositions, with several flowers often peeking in-between or over the large blooms that occupy the front of the picture plane. These receding flowers are rendered in a smudged manner, giving the painting a great depth and also complicating the picture as to what is an illusion and what is real.
There is an idealised aspect to Wolfe’s paintings, with each large flower head presented at its most perfect moment of existence – when the bud has burst forth to unravel the petals and the colours have deepened to their most luscious tones. The titles of these works seem to share this penchant for the finer things in life, with heavy words such as ‘hedonism’ and ‘opium’ transforming these bountiful bouquets from attractive forms to addictive pleasures.
In previous analyses of her work Wolfe’s paintings have been compared to the Dutch vanitas paintings, with the artist mimicking their dark backgrounds and layer of drama – her canvases are full to the brim with life and almost seem to spill over the boundary between the frame and the outside world to occupy the wall. 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.