Red Dahlia - May Saleh

©Victoria and Albert Museum, London View Inspiration Details

Artist Statement

May Saleh

The inspiration for 'Red Dahlia' came mainly from China, Room 44 of the V&A Museum. I was taken with the rich red lacquer of the furniture, vases and lidded pieces. The room has lots of flowers carved, drawn, printed or woven and they were very static, plain, geometric or colourful. I wanted to use the vibrancy of the red in the lacquered pieces in a flower. I wanted my flower to be rich in colour and depth and draw me in as if it is stained and oozing with the blood that has flowed throughout the country's history. I chose a free form dahlia where each petal is like a dancer in a troupe, moved and positioned, and crowded into a space to make a story (country) as a whole. I concentrated on the flower form alone and not be distracted by stem or leaves.
The looseness of the background was deliberate to draw the eye to the subject. The dahlia is like an island floating in a sea of blue. The use of blue for the background is an intent to pay homage to the blue and white pieces in that room.
This freedom of form also makes the subject less static. I believe that balance is created in my piece between the crispness of the flower and the roughness of the background. The flower is offering itself up to the viewer.
Acrylic was used as my medium of choice as I felt that it had the quality to make the piece shine and there is depth in the piece with the multi layering of paint. (Unfortunately, I find the photo has not picked up the richness as the original painting.)

Red Dahlia - May Saleh

©Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Inspiration details:


Red lacquer dish

China (made)

1400-1450 (made)

Unknown (production)

Red lacquer on yellow ground, carved

V&A collection reference number(s):
FE.27-1974, C.483-1910, FE.6:1 to 4-1973, W.399:1,2-1922, W.21-1969

2015 Exhibition Guide

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