Gardens of plenty, free from death and degradation, can be found throughout world mythologies. Some, like the garden of the Hesperides from Ancient Greece, are the realm of the gods alone. Others are created by god for humankind, who then squander paradise through greed and pride - the original sin committed by Adam and Eve. Some gardens await the righteous upon death, one such is the Qu’ran’s Jannah, a paradise in which will be found “rivers of wine, a joy to those who drink; and rivers of honey pure and clear.” (1)
Darryn George’s paintings clearly draw upon the Christian narrative of “the Garden of Eden, a place of purity before the Fall”, (2) the reference obvious in the titles of his works. Beyond this however, George’s canvases express a universal yearning for a time free from the litany of social and environmental ills that scroll across our screens daily.
The paintings are visual cornucopia, overflowing with colour and life. As in children’s paintings, the scale of an object appears related more to the weight of its memory than its physical size: Garden of Eden (6-10-20) reveals a landscape where flowers bloom as large as trees. Beyond a waterlily-filled watercourse, fantastical plants in rainbow hues abound, and it is easy to imagine that this is the garden of the gods described in the Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh (c1800 BCE):
“all round him stood bushes bearing gems ... fruit of carnelian with the vine hanging from it, beautiful to look at; lapis lazuli leaves hung thick with fruit, sweet to see ... rare stones, agate and pearls from out the sea.” (3)
The whimsy of oversized flowers and pink trees however, is subject to a rigorous internal structure that George repeats throughout the paintings in Water Lilies. All feature a picture-scape divided into thirds: the verdant gardens and crowded human figures inhabit the top and bottom of the paintings, separated by bodies of water; vertical divisions suggest pathways and bridges. The composition is a reflection of the edenic myth which sees humankind longing for a beauty and joy from which they feel remote.
There is a naive quality to the paintings, one that Darryn George deliberately employs to reinforce a sense of child-like wonder. He asks us to imagine a time and place innocent of the world’s evils, before the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge was eaten, before Pandora opened her box. With his artworks full of joy and beauty, George provides windows into these places - like Pandora, he keeps hope alive.