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Greg Parma Smith

Groundless Panorama with Butterflies and Echinacea, 2016
oil on canvas, triptych
57.0 x 76.2 x 2.0 cm each
Consisting of three similarly sized paintings, Groundless Panorama with Butterflies and Echinacea presents a horizontal format borrowed directly from the Chinese tradition.

In the foreground, echinaceas stand out freely in the tight composition, making it impossible to contextualize these perennial flower-bearing plants reputed to have medicinal powers. In the title, which immediately alerts us to the absence of reference points, the term Groundless reinforces the dual interpretation that the view is at once ordinary and imaginary.

While punctuating the landscape with their crimson-pink petals, the alignment of the echinaceas leads the viewer to mentally extend this image focused on pollen-gathering butterflies. These pollinators – their wings finely decorated with gracious, multicolored patterns – fly above the flowers without fully merging into the scenery.

The relationship between the background and subjects creates a deliberate disharmony, which the artist intensifies through different pictorial rendering. In the style of China inks, the sky is revealed through transparency and shading, while the butterflies, painted more opaquely, are applied like superimposed stickers. Only the sky creates an illusion of perspective in the upper half of the composition with the light of the setting sun.

Making use of various forms of representation, Parma Smith counters esthetic neutrality in a brilliant dialogue between ideology and taste, letting the butterflies take us away to a joyful and mysterious world of reverie. Although a variety of different images can now be combined in infinite ways through the development of digital, in Parma Smith’s work it preserves the almost nostalgic artisanal mastery of the pictorial medium.

Flowers, butterflies and landscapes are among the most frequently represented and disseminated motifs in the media and other visual, commercial or cultural worlds. From Chinese masters to advertising posters, the endless circulation of these visual codes are precisely what inspire the artist in his compositions, which link triviality with traditions, stereotypes with the artistic.

Greg Parma Smith, Groundless Panorama with Butterflies and Echinacea, 2016