POPPIES series 2005


Poppies and Prosopopoeia

By Christine Unger

It is hardly surprising that images of fish recur in Bonnie Baxter's oeuvres. Her works live in a liquid state where elements exist simultaneously on many planes. She has acquired a personal iconography of recurrent images whose nuanced meanings relocate easily, fluidly, from one series of work to another, regardless of medium: print, video, or installation. Her work is full of paradox co-existing comfortably and provocatively in a memory-scape where the frameworks of time and probability do not apply. These paradoxes supply her work with humour and humanity.This most recent of her series, Les coquelicots is perhaps her most fluid print series yet. It is a deeply inward exploration moving toward a surface that is explored in a final epic image.

The poppies of Les coquelicots bind the work with their crimson and scarlet, their dark hearts and oddly human hairy green stems and leaves.Their effect is narcotic, erotic, and surreal. From a distance the flower's grand scale seduces the audience with a luxuriance of vibrant complimentary colours and suggestive curves and folds. Once drawn closer to the surface of the work the onlooker is pulled into a dreamlike tale of contradictions, point and counterpoint overlapping.

There is a kind of postmodern Romanticism at work here amidst the beautiful surreal imagery and its allegory of transition and psychological sublimation. Embedded in the verdant greens and fiery reds are figures, sleeping or even past sleep? - their state remains ambiguous - dwarfed by the monumental scale of the flowers of memory, insignificant and safe in the overwhelming processes of nature. Patterns and architectures provide disquieting layers of mortal human imposition, lines too straight and too regular. But always again, subsumed by unstoppable growth, which seems at times to take on a self-aware posture, to anthropomorphize, to mimic us in humorous poses like some vegetable avatar.Throughout, a fish reappears in tragic-comic disproportion, first curious, then gasping for air above a cracked and arid plane, finally turned on its side, one pleading eye looking out from the unfamiliar green darkness of some exotic oriental garden.

Out of the dense interiors of Les coquelicots series there is a sudden opening-out onto a vast landscape. Coming out of sleep - après mouchetache is an allegorical battleground. There is a secret sub-context here evident in the obscurity of the source imagery, but a more universal meaning is implicit in the juxtaposition of elements, each laden with emotional content and strong tactile and metaphorical memory triggers. Not fish now, but fish hooks, tiny ornate “fishing flies” swarm the landscape, dominated by a single super-sized predatory “fly” (mouche), vain and commanding in its gorgeous feathering and heroic scale.Violent splashes of ink (tache) bombard the surface. Adrift across the canvas, a beautiful carnage, are transparent poppies, and underlying everything are the elegant mechanical lines of printed money. At its side is a companion print. Within the linear regularity of the queen's dollar-face, one realistic blue eye is finally open and literally 'hooked', witnessing the consequences of war, perhaps ready to quit the role of bystander.There is no division here between the mundane and the sacred, the personal and the global, conflict is a flavour that exists without scale, from the individual struggles of a fish out of water to the multinational, money driven conflicts that are set to characterize the first decade or our new century.

Despite its garden scenery Les coquelicots lives beneath the surface of air and light: almost claustrophobic in its dense population of overlapping metaphors.There is a mysterious allegory at play here, a personal metaphysics, laden with a sense of change, transition, an enjoyment of process, and a dread of where it may be leading.This is a work on memory that has nothing to do with nostalgia. We are journeying with the artist towards a new surface which offers a broader perspective of the world, the clear view of someone coming out of profound and dream filled sleep to see the world with refreshed and critical eyes, tongue in cheek, spirit intact, an eye to the future.