Oil on canvas, courtesy of The Doorway Gallery
Iris Murdoch observed that "people from a planet without flowers would think we must be mad with joy the whole time to have such things about us", but art historians tell us that the painting of flowers is relatively recent. Yes, annunciation scenes centuries ago did contain lilies, but they were there as symbols of virginity and purity.
From the 17th century on, flowers in vases, indoors, were painted for their beauty, a practice that coincided with a movement from rural- to town-life. From Rachel Ruysch, through Manet, Cézanne, Van Gogh, Matisse and Picasso to Hockney (using an iPad Brushes app), artists have been creating joyful, exuberant flower paintings.
Wicklow-based Lucy Doyle belongs to that happy tradition. "I've always wanted to capture moments in time - all the joys in my life, like the fleeting beauty of some freshly picked flowers." She loves the "vibrant, positive feelings" colours evoke in her, and for this work, Summer Garden Arrangement, Doyle chose garden loosestrife and inula hookeri to "dominate the composition. I teamed them up with red crocosmia and some dahlias and arranged them in the biggest vase I had."
The flowers are real. Doyle picks the flowers, in her garden, the evening before "so that I can get a full day's painting the flowers before they change and wilt too much". But the vase, in reality, is plain. "It's not decorated; that is me, creating the right vase for the impact I wanted, in this case a Chinese-inspired dragon.
"And the table the vase is placed on echoes the yellows in the flowers, and the pattern anchors the vase in place, again mimicking the flowers in the vase but in a decorative stylised way. The background is there to make the yellows seem more yellow."
As soon as she was "old enough to pick up a crayon", Doyle "loved painting and drawing more than anything else. I found making marks on paper totally absorbing and I've always been aware of colour."
Doyle was born in Cambridge of Irish parents. "We moved around a lot when I was younger and we all lived in Kilmacanogue for many years when I was a child." At Sheffield City Polytechnic art department, "I found it hard at the beginning to work out my style - thick oil paint using a palette knife - but I always knew how I wanted my paintings to look; it just took me a long time to get there.
"My then-boyfriend, now-husband, moved to Ireland for a job when I was 20 and I joined him as soon as I graduated. He's English and had never lived in Ireland before but it really grew on him, which is why 40 years later we're both still here."
Facing the blank canvas "requires a lot of observation and concentration, and before I get going", Doyle feels "slightly daunted that it might not reach the colour intensity and drama that I was hoping for.
"Then the process of painting starts and I am swept up in the dynamic. I try to create colourful, life-enhancing paintings that are uplifting and stimulating in a positive way. I need colour in my life. People need colour in their lives."
After breakfast it's straight to her garden studio. Lyric FM or the same album on repeat for weeks - right now it's Kate Bush's Ariel. Lunch, a walk and then back in for a few more hours. As well as the gloriously vibrant flower paintings, Doyle also paints table-tops with plates, teapot, jugs, cakes, books - she loves Virginia Woolf, Antonia White, Rosamond Lehmann - and figures.
And what does she paint on a miserable, drizzly Thursday in November? "Probably an interior or still life with fruit and figures. All my figures are painted from my imagination so there's no problem there any time of year."
"I want to paint what is inside me," says Lucy Doyle.
With Summer Garden Arrangement, summer sings in her, and with this work on your wall, it's summer all year round.
www.thedoorwaygallery.com www.lucydoyle.com Instagram: @lucydoyleartist