The Happiest Image

Dianne Longley, Dream of my love flower, 2010 digital wood engraving, oil paint, pokerwork, 38cm diameter.
Dianne Longley, Dream of my love flower, 2010
digital wood engraving, oil paint, pokerwork, 38cm diameter.

“When the first issue was being organised there was a lot of stress, so I wanted the happiest image I could think of for the cover. I had picked this flower from our garden at Welland and scanned it a few years earlier for an artwork. It seemed a combination of fragility and optimism. It became a symbol for the publication.” Shaw Hendry

Of all the hundreds of different types of flowers in the world the daisy has always been my personal favourite. This flower holds a special significance to me, as ‘Daisy’ was the name that my mother gave to my unborn sister. As a little girl I used to pick a daisy every time I walked home from school and recite dreamily to myself “He loves me, he loves me not…” One of my fondest memories from my gap year in 2005 was when I was an au pair in Edinburgh, Scotland and as an after-school activity Chae and I sat in the garden making daisy chains. One of my favourite pieces in Vitamin magazine was Shaw Hendry’s article Spring, which featured a drawing of some daisy chains. I think the daisy must have been Shaw’s special flower too, as he chose an image of a daisy as the logo for all things ‘Vitamin’. The Vitamin daisy was featured on the cover of Episode One, on all the Vitamin merchandise, and on the contents page of every issue. For me, this iconic flower is a symbol of positivity; a concept that was ingrained in Shaw’s art practice and in the way he lived his life.

Vitamin Flowers, curated by Dianne Longley, is an online exhibition that coincides with the launch of the very last Vitamin – the Vitamin Redux. This exhibition has more participating artists than any other exhibition showcased in the Vitamin Online Gallery. Both the exhibition and the zine are a tribute to Shaw. Both are wonderful celebrations of local participatory creative expression; the Vitamin ethos.

Vitamin Flowers brings together the diverse practices of nineteen South Australian emerging and mid-career artists working in glass, ceramics, painting, drawing, printmaking, photography, and textiles. Exhibitors include Gabriella Bisetto, Deidre But-Husaim, Chris DeRosa, James Dodd, Sarah Eastick, Romi Graham, Paul Hoban, Hans Kreiner, Christian Lock, Dianne Longley, Jessie Lumb, Brigid Noone, Deborah Prior, Julia Robinson, Beverley Southcott, Josh2000, Louise Vodic, Sera Waters, and Gerry Wedd. Longley invited the contributing artists to consider the Vitamin daisy as the starting point for their works.

Some artists made literal translations of the Vitamin flower such as Gerry Webb’s ceramic Flower Plate, and Louise Vodic’s paper daisies collaged to a found image. Dianne Longley produced a translation of Shaw’s essential daisy form into a digital wood engraving. Other artists such as Paul Hoban with his ‘paint skin’ painting, Christian Lock’s silvery fading bud and Romi Graham’s portrait of Cyndi Lauper only hint at the theme of flowers. Some artworks, such as Hans Kreiner’s delicately stenciled gouache character and Brigid Noone’s daisy-nippled topless male, are part of a narrative structure that request further interpretation from the viewer. Others have ingeniously applied a cultural significance to their works: Sera Waters subtly references the legendary Hermano Rojo with her Mexican Zinnia and Jessie Lumb’s photograph of peony flowers mounted on silk fabric is richly embedded with references to her recent residency in China. Artists Julia Robinson, Deborah Prior, Beverley Southcott, Sarah Eastick, and Josh2000 have opted for variations on the rose, the flower of love, as represented in fabric, ribbon, photography, and paint. Deidre But-Husaim has referenced the Motown band The Temptations in a realistic painting of an orchid and James Dodd has depicted a blossoming tree in fluorescent enamel paint. Gabriella Bisetto and Chris DeRosa have captured the unique beauty of weeds.

The Vitamin Flowers artists have created splendid works around the theme of flowers. These small-scale artworks are deeply personal and touching, and they were created with Shaw in mind. This collection of flower images is a somewhat devotional representation of the many things that Shaw believed in. Like Shaw’s sweet, sweet offerings of friendship and love, these flower works are the happiest images ever. 


The Happiest Image was a commissioned catalogue essay Vitamin Flowers an online exhibition  on Vitamin Gallery and launched at Gray Street Workshop in 2010.