In a recent post, I discussed my new passion for painting windows and speculated that it wouldn’t be too long before I painted another one. Well, here it is and if there is a theme in common with Florentine Window, its that of light coming though glass into an otherwise dark or potentially gloomy interior to transform it into something verging on the spiritual – an odd term, you may think, in the context of a greenhouse (or, in this case, an orangery) but I would beg to differ since I have always experienced greenhouses as uncannily spiritual spaces. Something about the thickening of the air into something concentratedly warm, moist and earthy accompanied by the subtle yet profound alteration in acoustics as you step into a building of glass has always filled me with a sort of reverence similar to the feeling of stepping into a church only, perhaps, all the more appropriately experienced in this place as your senses take in the profusion of plant-life growing skyward, the echoing drip-drip sounds of water, an exposed sky and a far greater concentration of light than can be found in the average cathedral.
Or maybe my heart-connection with greenhouses has far more to do with a glut of precious memories that always come to mind, as I breathe in that moist warm air, of tottering behind my father as he picked the mouth-watering fruit from tomato plants that would send heady gusts of one of my most favourite scents into the air as we brushed past them and then placed these warm, red flavour-explosions into eager little hands that were already covered in tell-tale tomato pips; my mother’s routine complaint being that very few tomatoes would ever make it as far as the kitchen when I was “helping”.
Either way, painting The Orangery Window (recognisably the orangery at West Green House Gardens to anybody who has been there) was another labour of love as well as a challenge to paint. I wanted to capture a sense of peering into a hallowed space from the the outside world; the unworldly quality of the interior further enhanced by distortions created by seeing glass through glass and all through a milky layer of shifting colour caused by reflections on the window from the garden outside. All of this presented me with something a little out of the ordinary in terms of composition and intention and so this was a deeply satisfying painting to “carry off” on lots of levels.