Award winning artist Cathy Tuato’o Ross explores the idea that giving flowers is a communication avoidance tactic, in her new exhibition Don’t say it with Flowers.
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“Talking to florists in Whangarei, one of the most common reasons men come in to buy bouquets is “to get out of the dog box.” She says. “We have managed to empty most of the meaning out of the practice of giving flowers, but still have hopefulness in the gesture”
Cathy asks why do we give flowers? Is it because by giving flowers it excuses us from saying how we really feel? Maybe we find it hard to express our emotions or maybe our feelings are not the “right” ones for the occasion. Jealousy instead of joy, lust instead of affection, guilt instead of love.
For this series Cathy commissioned bouquets for imagined occasions. After photographing and printing she paints and draws over the image, leaving only the outlines. “Instead of this process simplifying the image, it actually complicates it by adding an extra layer.” Painting out the details highlights the form and the image looks more like a diagram.
Artwork titles such as “Something Like Love”, “Guilty”, and “Another Year” show a gentle satirical humour and give a clue to the real emotions behind the bouquet. She also asks us to think about how receiving flowers and plants can be both a joy and a burden. “They’re both temporary and a little demanding,” She says.
Cathy’s art practice examines the relationships between people and objects and images. “I’m interested in the responsibility people feel towards “things”, and the occasions that prompt people to give things to each other.”
Cathy Tuato’o Ross lives and works in Parua Bay, Whangarei, with her partner and their four daughters. She exhibits nationally, teaches drawing and works as a freelance writer. In 2010 she was awarded a PhD from the University of Otago. She was awarded the Merit award in the National Contemporary Art Award this year.