written by Erica Lindsay Walker, vice president, education chair
In my opinion, this is one of graphite artist Mike Sibley’s finest and most satisfying drawings. It is like a gorgeous medieval tapestry, or like the florals of 17th century Dutch art, displaying the wonders and mysteries of the natural world.
The thing that struck me instantly when I first saw this work is that everything feels quietly, mysteriously alive. Technically I suppose this is a “still” life, but there is nothing still about it. There are so many curving lines: stems and blooms and heart-shaped leaves. The entire image seems to pulse with life, so that we can almost see the bindweed growing.
To offset this, the artist has added two special elements for ballast: the branch and the hoverfly. These elements work in different but very effective ways. They each suggest a contrast: one of energy and one of shape. The hoverfly, for example, suggests flight. It creates a note of tension, for we know that it will leave in a moment. The branch, on the other hand, is a straight vertical. Placed near the centre of the work, it acts as a kind of anchor to keep us from feeling smothered. Yet even so it has a sensuous quality, leaning into the winding stems as if into an embrace.
Although this is a highly detailed image with a lot going on, there is not the slightest bit of confusion. Much of this is due to the use of value. Lights, darks and midtones are so well conveyed that all the planes of depth are distinct and clear. The midtones create a wonderful visual richness: there are so many of them and they are all slightly, subtly different. The darks are so intense and deep that I want to part the leaves to see what lies beyond. The flowers, although delicately shaded to convey their form, are of an almost creamy whiteness. They stand out without overpowering the rest of the work and without getting lost in it.
The irony is that WE can get lost in it easily: I can look at “Bindweed and Hoverfly” for hours and never tire of it. Many thanks to the artist for this beautiful, absorbing work!