I am inspired by the symbolic meanings of natural elements such at fruit, flowers, insects and marine life that were common from Middle Ages to Victorian times. These elements were often tucked into the corners of Renaissance paintings, covering the canvases of Dutch still-life paintings, illuminating medieval manuscripts, or passed hand-to-hand in the form of small bouquets known as nosegays or tussie-mussies. They conveyed symbolic messages that were readily understood when illiteracy was prevalent and open communication was taboo. In my paintings I like to elevate these symbols by isolating them to give them a life and significance of their own. By naming the finished works after their historical meaning, I am creating a visual dictionary or catalogue of often forgotten symbols. Grouping symbols together in a way that is significant to me, I also create visual poetry, reminiscent of the messages exchanged in the past using bouquets and the language of flowers.
I paint using acrylic on canvas or board with clean, direct use of colour and pattern that celebrate the vibrancy of these symbolic elements, and reflect the style of painting and my passion for Renaissance art. I bring the subject into focus by simplifying or obscuring the background, often using a bokeh inspired effect borrowed from photography (from the Japanese word ‘boke’ meaning “blur” or “haze”), or more recently a chiaroscuro effect (from the Italian words ‘chiaro’ meaning “clear” or “bright” and ‘oscuro’ meaning “obscure” or “dark”).
The space separating two people or things.
“Betwixt and between” - The state of between one thing and another – neither here nor there.
The past few years have changed the world, and exist as a space between what came before and what will be. The symbolic meanings of the flowers in this painting all speak to aspects of my personal emotional journey moving through and sitting in a time betwixt and between, with all the anxiety and hope that position inspires. Together, they create a visual poem, which I have captured in this painting and entitled ‘Betwixt’.
- Gladiolus — strength of character, integrity, victory
- Larkspur — lightness, levity, a desire for laughter
- Milkweed — hardiness, strength, resourcefulness, preserver in extraordinary challenges
- Thistle — resilience, overcoming adversity and pain
- Speedwell — healing, recovery, joyfulness
- Dragonfly — embracing change rather than fearing it
Feature Artist: Sylvia D. Woods
artwork title: 'Betwixt'
medium: Acrylic on Canvas
size: 48" x 48"
Sylvia D. Woods (née Oke) studied at Ontario College of Art (1988-92). Significant time spent living and traveling in Europe influences the visual direction of her work. She currently paints out of the studio in Guelph. She has shown extensively in both group and solo exhibitions, and her work is in private collections throughout Europe and North America.
Selection of Recent work