Work & Bio

Elaine Waisglass

Born in Currently resides in Toronto

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The Beauty of Life

There’s nothing new under the sun, as Shakespeare reminds us in his sonnet to take a backward look, some 500 years, to rediscover the teachings of the old world.

This photography series, The Beauty of Life, takes a backward look through centuries of art history and finds thematic resonance in the forgotten concepts, theories and techniques long since abandoned. The essential themes of this body of work include the inherent beauty within the geometry of nature and the use of natural proportion.

Among the artists who inspired this work is Claude Monet, whose water lily paintings celebrate the beauty of the flowers that grew in his garden. Monet’s paintings inspired me to consider taking a profound look at the flowers growing in my own garden – their complex geometrical structure, their energy vibration that all living things share.

Other outstanding figures from art history with a strong influence on The Beauty of Life include 19th century art critic John Ruskin who wrote, “The most beautiful lines derive from nature.” As well, William Morris, the philosophic leader of the Arts and Crafts movement who promoted the movement’s central theme: a quest for beauty, quickened by a sense of approaching death.

The Beauty of Life reflects the Arts and Crafts central theme as seen represented by a vase containing cut flowers. The very act of cutting flowers begins their inevitable death. Each flower photographed is gathered from a garden that I designed within the Arts and Crafts philosophy of landscape, as set out in William Robinson’s book, The Wild Garden, published in 1860.

This garden changes from week to week as the seasons unfold and the resulting photographs follow the blooms as they arrive. For example, at winter’s end, it’s time to brush aside the melting snow to find the Helleborus flowers. By April, Narcissus and Magnolia buds are opening. In May, it’s time to plant vegetables and herbs in the kitchen garden and there are blossoms on the cherry and apple trees. Meanwhile Bluebells, Clematis, Redbud, and Tulips begin to open. In June, the rose garden is in full flush and the peony border comes alive with a week of glorious burgundy, pink and white flowers. July brings the Lilies, followed by Hibiscus in August with Japanese Anemone following in September. In October the main event is the kitchen garden harvest. In November, it’s time to rake colorful leaves that fall from the oak trees as winter approaches. It’s the proverbial circle of life which gives hope to winter’s end, signaled by the return of Helleborus peeking out from under the snow.

Each photograph begins with a walk through the garden, scissors and a vase in hand, in search of the most beautiful blooms. Photographing often takes place outdoors in natural light, and if the weather cooperates, with the sky acting as the best possible reflector of light. My intention is to capture the light that defines the shape and textures of the flowers.

So as not to leave the impression that The Beauty of Life is all about art history lessons, it should be mentioned that the photographs also embrace contemporary high tech. I do my own printing, working with digital computer-generated print equipment. Controlling the flow of ink and the colors is an important part of the creation of these photographs, giving them a more painterly aspect.

The pigment, ink, and Arches watercolor paper are archival and acid free. Each of the works is a limited edition of 12 prints.

Elaine Waisglass,
Represented by Roberts Gallery, Toronto