Comparisons are horrible things because you inevitably land up belittling one of the elements or damning the other with faint praise. Artists hate them because, they will insist, their style is their own and not derivative or a synthesis of someone else’s.
So, having got all that out of the way, I’m going to make one. However, this is about my reaction to this extraordinary new book and nothing to do with the contents, which, I’m trying to say, are unique. I haven’t been as excited by a new book as much as this since John Blockley’s Watercolour Interpretations of 1987 or perhaps Charles Reid’s Flower Painting in Watercolour, which goes all the way back to 1979. I’ve been a fan of Ann’s work for a long time and own one of her earlier, and largely conventional, flower paintings. I’ve also been impressed at the way she has, in both books and videos, been able to explain her creative process and working methods in a way that the amateur can follow and yet which is much more than just a piece of art instruction.
There have been hints for some time that this book might be what’s coming and Watercolour Textures, her previous book, showed a willingness to experiment with landscape and to create works which were images for their own sake without being enslaved to representation. Here, as the title implies, Ann returns to the subject she’s perhaps best known for and just lets creativity rip. There’s no dispute that these are flower paintings: they’re recognisably flowers and even someone as non-botanical as I am can tell one variety from another, and yet they’re not botanical illustrations or flower portraits in any way. This is a major step forward in Ann’s development as an artist and the establishment is going to have to take notice, as we have some serious work here.
I think it’s fair to say that this is not a book for the beginner, or even for the faint-hearted, but if you’ve been intrigued by the way I’ve reacted to it, go out and buy yourself a copy. As an example of what art can do, it’ll blow your mind. It’ll also stimulate your own creativity in all kinds of new ways. It’s the most extraordinary thing I’ve ever seen and I’m still wondering whether to lumber it with the title of Best Art Book Ever.