Origins & Orchids: The First Absolute Painting

The Story Behind The Original “Absolute” Painting & Updated Images

by Daric Gill

Absolute Orchid (Orchid's Empty). Oil on wood panel. 11" x 17 1/4". 2008
Absolute Orchid (Orchid’s Empty). Oil on wood panel. 11″ x 17 1/4″. 2008

We all love when a great idea travels along a bolt of lightning and blazes right into our skulls. But there’s also something really satisfying about a slow rolling brainstorm that overtime builds into something great. These kinds of ideas seem as if they need time to simmer down to a distilled form; extracting, refining, and aging to something far more potent. The latter of the two was the case for the origins of the Absolute paintings.

It so happens that the first in the Absolute series is also the last piece in a deconstructed triptych. The previous triptych actually starts as a portrait painting and ends in a still life. Originally titled Orchid’s Empty, this painting sat as an unknown transition piece for a few years.

In fact, I stopped making still lives altogether after undergraduate school. The brutal truth is that trompe l’oeil paintings (a painting style used to deceive the eye) is often a study about the ‘objectness’ of the still life rather than the pursuit of a complex concept. I realized I didn’t have any place for that limitation and I stuck to sculpture and portrait paintings until I had something more meaty to hold onto. Graduate school came and went as with my stint as a teacher, and I still felt a  little disenchanted.

 For a while, I almost gave up painting altogether…

 

[More Images Below]

 

Redirections

wpid-Photo-Jun-13-2012-957-PM.jpgAround this time, I had begun what would quickly become a fairly successful illustration line called the ToeHeads. These little paintings were whimsical, fun, and raw. They served as a great transport into expressing serious ideas in a comical or satirical way.

As they gained popularity so did the overwhelming schedule to make them. I’m certainly not complaining — it is no doubt a quality problem to have. I continued to teach at a local college and develop the brand. I don’t know if you’re like me, but I’m always looking for the next big step in my work. I knew that as an interdisciplinary artist I needed to exercise different muscles in a few other areas or risk feeling stuck.

Deconstruction/Reconstruction
Absolute Orchid (detail 2)
Absolute Orchid (click for larger image)

A couple years passed as I searched for the next big thing and I found myself (and my formal education) itching for an added body of work that entertained the more symbolic aspects of my thought process.

The deconstruction/reconstruction that the original Orchid series held was the transition I was looking for. However, I was so consumed by the obvious subject that I was blinded to less apparent content. Of course, this isn’t a bad thing. Like I said before…

… sometimes the good ideas are results of time and distillation.

In Retrospect

I noticed similar themes, aesthetics, and root symbolism showing up in my past work. But it wasn’t until Orchid’s Empty (now titled Absolute: Orchid) that I felt like I had successfully applied them into a refined version. Of course, by this point I had quite a bit of other research and new ideas to work with. Once I had the momentum working on my side, a few other pieces fell into place. The research I’d been doing into western iconography and its philosophic parallels fit wonderfully with the symbolism I had inherently been working with. It was a perfect match that I’m still employing today.

Absolute Orchid (detail)
Absolute Orchid (detail)
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