‘GIVE ME A CHILD UNTIL HE IS SEVEN AND I WILL SHOW YOU THE MAN’. ARISTOTLE William Robertson andAgapanthus
In 1979 I was four years old. It is the year I recall identifying a blatant inflexibility in my perception of beauty – a rigidity and clarity in my aesthetic preferences. I vividly recollect breaking the ‘stuff’ of life, the mise en scène, into two distinct categories; the beautiful and the completely unacceptable. In my role as aesthetic judge and executioner I was precise and cruel. This proclivity remains unchanged, my precision and cruelty; my sense of awe and astonishment is fixed, in my work with the flowers.
(Left to right) Michael French and Australian Native Iris. T and Grevilla
In 1980 I was five years old – an infant posing as a child – embarking on a formal education. My father, Gary Cooper (the butcher) and my grandfather, Frank Cooper (the milkman) were blood, kindred and idol. These two men, the male protagonists, were also the two people (I had ever met) that I felt the greatest correspondence to. They were the same species as me, while the female characters seemed to me to be quite a different genus. My grandfather grew fragrant, lyrical, garden roses that we visited with excessive regularity and uncommon awe, at each repetition relearning their respective names and fragrances and watching the generations unfurl and pass away in their time. It became our habit together to wonder at the fullness with which they lived and to regard the grace with which they died. My grandfather and I had made a study of gravity and grace.
(Left to right) Paul Mclean and Bougainvillea. Michael French and Australian Native Iris
My father loved the indigenous flowers passionately and planted them on all sides of our brand new, off-the-plan AV Jennings home that stood in a deep valley of giant, ancient, eucalyptus trees. But it was through my witness of his living and dying – his own gravity and grace, that the flowers would become an analogical revelation to me and I would be compelled by their innate allegorical authority to make them my primary, my absolute, medium.
(Left to right) Tom Simpson and Hibiscus. Paul Mclean and Bougainvillea
In 1980 I was five years old – an infant posing as a child – stealing a rose. I couldn’t have articulated it at the time but now I can at least try. In short, I wonder if the couple that lived next door to us might have been ‘swingers’, him more so than her, she might simply have acquiesced or perhaps she was instigator, what the hell do I know, I was five. I did, however, sense some perversity in him, though I have nothing to substantiate it. A sense such as this might have endeared him to some but to my five year old self he wore the stench of transgression. He could however, grow a rose and he did in a large patch of earth very near to our front door, and on the path to everywhere at the time. One morning I noticed a single intoxicating specimen in its fullest manifestation of life; open, fragrant, dancing. In the trance it had put upon me I plunged into its deep green foliage, isolated its strong stem and plucked it from its seemingly staunch position. As I bought the rose up to my nose to fully take in its fragrance the man ran out from his dwelling screaming like the mythological banshee.
(Left to right) T and Grevillea. David Rogers and Lantana
In the afternoon my tiny frame carried a giant watermelon to the door of the wounded, mad, beetroot-red grower and I handed it to him and I apologised as I had been coached. Then I sat on the step with my father and watched the sun set on man and flower, on gravity and grace.
(Left to right) Paul Mclean and Bougainvillea. T and Grevillea