Neal Palmer continues to explore the flora that surrounds us in Return Journeys. As well as the native harakeke and kowhai, he chooses the flamboyant blooms of the magnolia for closer investigation. The individual aspects of each species are emphasised, be it the texture of a branch, the form of a flower, or shadows of the foliage.
The floral studies are set against a neutral background which concentrates the focus on each subject. Mellow Yellow plays with illusion; the vibrant yellow of the kowhai seems to advance out from the canvas as the black background retreats. Palmer edges the petal-tips with a bright, creamy yellow and uses the same technique with the outline of the gnarled stems; these luminous hues reflect light off the painted surface and reinforce the sense of three-dimensionality. Tiny dots of red in the stamens provide visual signposts in the painting, inviting the eyes to rest upon them before moving on to the next detail.
The depth of perspective in Palmer’s harakeke paintings is likewise illusory; the viewer is invited to look through and beyond the tangle of shadowy flax blades. In Union the foreground is dim and shaded, with arching green planes edged with the thinnest of red. The eye travels up and over these towards a source of light at the top left of the canvas. Palmer breaks up the surface of the canvas with the acute angles of bifurcated leaves, strong diagonal forms and multi-toned colour; here too tiny hints of red lead the eye around the painted surface.
The paintings in Return Journeys are intimate studies. The dappled brown of a branch and the furry texture of a sepal are accorded the same importance as the blush of colour on a showy pink petal. Neal Palmer paints his appreciation of every part of his botanical subjects and invites the viewer to do likewise.