Margaret Atkinson
'Tulips From Amsterdam' 1998/2009

Tulips From Amsterdam'
which is now a sequence of over three hundred works of
paintings, drawings and etching whose inception lay in a two and half day trip there in
1998. My previous work was printing and abstract painting on canvas, using images of
elephants and lace as my source material. I thus became enchanted when I
encountered what was to become know as the 'elephant bar' in Amsterdam. A mural of
two elephants adorned one of the walls of the bar and a Turkish lantern cast a sort of
lace pattern, creating layers of texture that haunted me when I returned to London. I still
find the work fascinating and the journey has taken me from the canals of Amsterdam to
the Ottoman Empire.
I am concerned to develop the works even more within series of individual works that
visit the sites of the history of my own imagination and experience, and also those of a
collective social ad political history.

Tulips Series
I have always thought of Tulips as coming from Amsterdam but in fact they have an
incredible history. They were brought into the Netherlands during the Dutch trading
empire from Turkey where the tulip is the national flower. But the Tulip started life as a
wild flower of the Asian steppes, which is a belt of grassland that sweeps for roughly
5,000 miles from Europe to China and was once part of the Ottoman Empire.
Throughout Europe and especially Holland there was the lunatic craze of the 'Tulip
Fever'. Tulip bulbs out-priced town houses in Amsterdam, for example the Tulip named
'Admiral Lieffkens' was sold for 4,400 guilders in the early seventeenth century, which
could buy a town house next to the canal.
I became fascinated by the fragility of this beautiful flower and how it has survived and is
still revered throughout the centuries. A tribute to this is the stained glass windows of
the Victorian England where the image of the tulip was used in abundance.
Another aspect of the Tulip is the fact that the more diseased the bulb, the more colorful
is the flower, which for me gives it a sort of parallel to the human psyche that sometimes
masks the sinister underbelly behind the esthetic.
Coming from an arts and crafts background, I draw on my design skills to create my
paintings. Also incorporating the tile affect, which is also a medium, used for the tulip
especially in Turkey. I want to research and develop the designs even more, my most
recent painting being adapted from an old woodcarving.

Bar Series

I have used a variation of colour from the bar interior throughout this work. As a child in
school I would draw faces in my schoolbooks and am still fascinated by the many
archetypes that mask the interior psyche. The hum of a crowd, the buzz of interaction
can sometimes give a sense of isolation.
The work addresses gender, identity, and fragility of the human psyche. I have used lace
to build up layers in some of this work.

Window Series

I was mesmerized by the juxtaposition of prostitutes' 'shop windows' in the red light
district of Amsterdam. The staid physical facades of churches, their steeples creating a
dramatic backdrop for the fairy light lit canals at night, together make up the magic
patchwork of Amsterdam.
After witnessing the liberal approach to 'flesh for sale' I wanted to create and capture the
essence of the 'windows', a cameo caught in time. From this experience the
32 x 32 cm paintings developed, revealing layers of human psyche, enticing the
voyeur to enter into their world.
I have incorporated the influence of artists I admire, Vermeer, de Hooch, Picasso and
many others and am now taking the work into a larger size and medium.