Rose and a fly: 'the Visitor'

A lustrous green bottle fly visits a delightful rose. A challenge to our perception of beauty. Watercolour and Gouache on paper – 23 x 31 cm


This odd painting of a rose and a fly had a strange birth. I set out to paint a flower picture, but I’m not much interested in pretty or cute. I like to see flowers with insect damage or some other evidence of rot and disease, and then reflect on how those conditions coexist with our perception of beauty.

The style of the rose became quite flat in the treatment, with a rather medieval look. It wasn’t what I had intended but I liked the image and wondered what I could do with it. I thought that a fly would be suitable mischievous and started with a small black one. It didn’t look that good so I painted it out and replaced it with a magnificent green bottle fly (Phaenicia sericata). Green bottles are blowflies, their maggots consume rotten flesh. Our response is often one of disgust, yet this particular fly is not only important to forensic entomology, but also to medicine. ‘Larval therapy‘ can improve wound closure and treatment (don’t visit the link if you are easily disgusted).

I like the way the green bottle fly looks as if it is visiting the flower at one moment, and sitting on the painting in another. The fly is also quite beautiful, the lustrous iridescence of the thorax is extraordinary – the rose looks pale by comparison.

This painting is perhaps not quite magical realism, but if you like the genre have a look at my song thrush and my swifts.