This Canadian Botanical Artist Counts A Duchess As A Fan
From a distance, the work of Toronto artist T.M. Glass resembles a photograph of a lush floral bouquet. But step closer, and you’ll notice micro “brushstrokes” on the bright petals, which seem even more electric against the velvety black background. “I tried an experiment that related to the 17th-century Dutch Masters. They would begin with a black background and paint the flowers that were an available to them. As the seasons went by, more flowers were added. The flowers in these still life pictures don’t exist side-by-side in nature, and that’s what I do: I collage flowers and vases together digitally,” explains T. M.
See more of their work at Les Jardins de Métis/Reford Gardens in Grand-Métis, Quebec until October 6, 2019 and at Art Toronto 2019 in the Galerie de Bellefeuille booth at the Toronto Convention Centre from October 25 to 27, 2019.
T. M. developed these unique digital paintings with a combination of high-powered lenses and six kinds of software. The brushstrokes are made using a Wacom Tablet and a stylus that allows the artist to apply different pressures to alter the strokes, just like a traditional artist’s brush. Shown, Blue Poppies and Forget-Me-Nots in a Chinese Vase (2019).
The vessel in Tulips in a Persian Vessel (2017) was loaned by the Royal Ontario Museum, which gives the art an authentic, historic look. Because of its significance and delicacy, the vase can’t be filled with water or flowers, so the artist digitally merged separate images of the flowers and the vessel.
In the Jardin de Métis series, T. M. photographed flowers from the famous Quebec landmark and vessels from the museum. In Blue Poppy in a Blue and White Chinese Vase (2018), the Jardin’s trademark blue Himalayan poppy is accented by blue and white ceramics.
T. M.’s artwork has earned fans in high places, including Sarah, Duchess of York, who invited the artist to her home, Royal Lodge at Windsor, to photograph vessels belonging to the Queen Mother and flowers from her spring garden. This Sèvres vessel is part of of the Queen Mother’s Royal Lodge collection. Red and White Bouquet and Sévres Vessel (2018).
The marriage between traditional painting and photography has produced a new hybrid. “The flowers really do speak: they say congratulations, our condolences, I love you,” explains T. M. The Duchess of York concurs, “I think the garden and Royal Lodge vases wanted to sing with the flowers.” The ornate footed silver bowl in Camellias in a Silver Punch Bowl (2018), belonged to the Queen Mother, and is another piece from the Royal Lodge collection. We sat down with T.M. to ask them about their latest work.
House & Home: First off, are you a gardener?
T. M. Glass: I rescued my hundred-year-old house in Toronto from developers hoping to tear it down. It was by Eden Smith, who designed all his buildings to relate to the landscape. I knew nothing about gardening and I found a book by William Robinson written in 1860 called The Wild Garden. It was around the time that digital cameras were being invented and I documented the flowers I grew. I was fascinated by the process, and at some point realized I was an art student, and I knew what to do with these pictures. Shown, Narcissus in a Green Falcon Vessel (2018).
H&H: How did you develop your technique?
T. M. G.: There weren’t any books so I had to be a pioneer. The inks were not archival at that time and the paper was this awful coated stuff, so the inks would change colors within a week. Slowly as the technology improved, I started to realize I wasn’t just messing about for my own pleasure. There was an opportunity to do something that was going to open up a new door, the way acrylic paint did when it was introduced in the 1960s. Shown, Yellow, White and Orange Bouquet in an Asian Vessel (2018).
H&H: And how did the Royal Lodge series come about?
T. M. G.: I met the Sarah, the Duchess of York, at a business meeting and showed her examples of my work. I told her I was trying to connect with the Victoria & Albert Museum to photograph their vases, but wasn’t having any luck. And she said: “Why would you want to do that? Our collection is so much better.” Tulips in a Blue, White and Gold Vessel (2018), is from the Royal Lodge series.
T. M. G: The Duchess created a little studio in a conservatory in a round white Victorian greenhouse. The light was extraordinary. Her gardener studied flower arranging at Buckingham Palace, and he took me to the garden with a bucket of water and asked which flowers I wanted him to cut. We brought them all back, and he made beautiful arrangements on a big table outside the conservatory. Shown, Yellow, White and Orange Bouquet in an Asian Vessel (2018).