By changing the color of just two or three patches, the artist drastically transforms the mood from calm and cool (the print you see below) into hectic, unpredictable and tense (the following print). In a way, this shift encompasses the entire spectrum of the artist’s nine patch series, from the pale and nearly monochromatic bamboo versions, to more balanced poppy variations (discussed in previous review) to the dense tropical paintings. It may symbolize a seasonal change or the onset of evening, when neutral blues and sunny golds give way to dark bloody reds and iridescent oranges. Either way, the palettes differ so much it would seem that only the flowers, as a nominal common element, bind the two versions.
But there is a more abstract compositional feature that discloses kinship: in both paintings the artist emphasizes the cross shape, marked by darker colors in the first variation, an overall light piece, and lighter ones in the second, an overall dark piece. Arguably, the paintings carry religious overtones, although most probably Don Li-Leger alludes once again to Kasimir Malevich and his classic Black Cross.
The focus on a geometrical shape proves that these works are firstly abstract, secondly figurative. The irises themselves serve an auxiliary role of a thematic foil, which the audience sees through the stained-glass window squares.
There is one characteristic which, depending on individual taste, may prove to be somewhat tiresome. The cross shapes contribute to a certain symmetry — which may feel oppressive after awhile. The artist solves this problem in other variations, the Orchid Nine Patch (print below) being an example of blissful imbalance that nevertheless retains the cross. It seems as though the artist was hesitant to go all abstract in the Irises and compensated for his irresolution by taking more risks in the Orchids. Eventually the abstract tendencies prevail over the flowers as the true experimental subject matter of the series.