When I was a boy, I used to sit and watch my grandmother paint. Amongst her brushes and oils, she would normally have open various books and cuttings that she had kept for inspiration and without fail, the work of Georgia O’Keefe was amongst them.
I have never stopped admiring O’Keefe’s work and it was a pleasure to have recently joined my grandmother at the Tate Modern’s latest exhibition, showcasing over 100 works from this phenomenal artist. What I like so much is that O’Keefe is not interested in putting up barriers and encoding emotions in cryptic corners but instead creates a vibrant, welcoming piece that leaves the viewer to decide on its theme.
There are a great many people obsessed with O’Keefe’s apparent feminist, vulva-centric themes and to be honest, it is extremely easy to read the work in this way. Along with her refusal to be acknowledged as a ‘woman painter’, various writings from O’Keefe suggest an approach more harmonious with nature than dissonance with society. The magnification of details helps the viewer to focus on the previously hidden. O’Keefe has a fantastic ability to produce something of fact whilst giving the impression of fantasy. Our surprise at being confronted with details and angles previously unknown to us gives the work a mystical quality, as though peering into some parallel universe.
What I love most about Georgia O’Keefe is her sense of space and balance. Whether she is painting shells, flowers, skulls or leaves, she exhibits a deep connection to the subject. Her pieces are challenging yet meditative, bold yet subtle and demonstrate, most of all, a woman inspired by passion.