As though the same blooms had come back, white freaked with red
And heavily scented.’
James Schuyler, Hymn to Life (1974)
When Wordsworth wrote about wandering through fields of daffodils, little did he know that most would remember the daffodils, not the gentle simile that comes right beforehand—lonely as a cloud. His ‘host of golden daffodils’ crowd out the previous line, their trumpet bells overwhelming even the poet, so much so that Wordsworth will be forever associated with the bright dance of a yellow flower, despite his Romantic leanings towards the melancholic. Flowers can do that—such eruptions of colour having a tendency to overtake, to impose their presence (even from the corner of a room), to elicit soft sighs and an overflow of sentiment at the first petal dropping from the vase.
For Too Much, Not Enough Laura Jones returns to the central image of the flower, (re)considering her compulsion to set it in paint. Here Jones is toying with, and pushing against, the long history of the flower’s relationship to the still life, as well as its relegation to the domain of the domestic, the everyday, the hyper-feminine and the sentimental. These works defy such classification: instead they move towards a kind of half abstraction, with Jones removing or painting out the conventional trappings of the still life (the arrangement in a vase, the table, the room, decidedly absent). Jones’ works exist in delicate balance, and yet, like Wordsworth’s daffodils, the flowers become the sole occupant of the frame—they are everything, all at once.
But I like to think that Jones looks at flowers as a poet sees them: they are never merely just flowers, but time-trappers and time-leakers / introspective containers / memory keepers / avenues for joy, pain, hope, desire, and need. The collection of flowers depicted in Too Much, Not Enough are directly connected to Jones, whether by chance or personal history: there are the dropped camellias on rain-soaked asphalt, the fierce magenta tips of a flowering pot plant, nurtured and cared for by a beloved matriarch, and the flowers given as gifts—either as offerings of sympathy or markers of celebration. And just as the poet finds in the flower an ally of description and metaphor, Jones sees its ready-made kinship with paint, its natural play of colour, contrast and texture.
In James Schuyler’s long-form lyric poem Hymn to Life, his meditations on the progression of time are delicately organised around the life cycles and seasons of flowers: we begin with snowdrops and move to crocuses, ‘mouse-eared chickweed’, roses, periwinkles, violets, daffodils, lilacs, dandelions, azaleas, magnolias—and end in May, ‘not a flowering month.’ Schuyler crafts together a web of daily routine, ‘ordinary household pain’, and the reminders of transience and mortality: ‘The impermanence of permanence, is that all there is?’ And as much as Jones’ Too Much, Not Enough is about rebelling against the constraints of the still life and excavating personal history, it is also weaving a similar sort of web—the inscription of specific flowers on canvas always implying a larger attempt to mark out time, to freeze a moment of fragile and excessive beauty before it gives way to the wilt.
Catalogue text by Naomi Riddle, August 2018
 James Schuyler, ‘Hymn to Life’ (1974) in James Schuyler: Selected Poems, (New York: Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 2007), p. 149
“Back to You” and “Healing Flower” 2018, both 183 x 152 cm