Ros Dodd meets Wolverhampton painter Knighton Hosking, whose latest work is a response to personal tragedy.
On first sight, Knighton Hosking's latest body of work appears remarkably cheerful for an artist known for his "dark" landscape paintings. The theme is flowers - lots of them, bright and bold, bursting in profusion from the canvas.
Look a little more closely, particularly at the two largest paintings, and you may get the sense that all is not quite as sunny and opulent as it seems.
Listen to Knighton talk about how and why he came to paint them, and you feel, as well as see, the darkness that lurks behind the intense blues, reds and yellows of the myriad flower heads.
It hangs above them too - an ominous black form that could be merely leaves in silhouette or could be scissors scything into the blooms.
"I've called the two big paintings Mapping Expectations," he explains. "They are about the nature of appearance and deception - both self-deception and the deception of others, including the state and media. They signify the way our lives rarely turn out the way we would want or had planned."
Knighton and his family suffered the most devastating of blows 14 years ago when his son, Joseph, who was nine, died of cancer following many months of suffering. Knight-on's life changed forever.
"I started making paintings that were really very much to do with redemption and trying to sort out all my feelings about his death. They were very powerful paintings," he says.
Throwing himself back into the only thing he knew - art - provided him with a way to visualise his grief. Only once, though, did he "have the courage" to put Joe into a painting, in the form of a small, crouched figure.
The new work evolved out of another family death, that of Knighton's mother five years ago. At her funeral, he took a bunch of roses off her coffin and let them dry out.
He then hung them from a scarred wooden raftered ceiling at a former gunmetal foundry in Wolverhampton where Knighton and 17 other contemporary artists - the Eagle Works' Visual Arts Group - have studios.
"What's interesting about the roof is that there's a gantry system in the middle, which made me think of the underneath of a gallows. So death and grief lie behind stuff you don't always notice," he says.
After experimenting with the dead roses, Knighton bought £40-worth of plastic flowers, which he also nailed to the ceiling.
The result is ten pictures that took him eight months to complete. The two large pieces - one oval, measuring 60in by 48in the other circular with a 5ft diameter - took by far the longest, with Knighton painstakingly painting about 2,000 flower heads on to each canvas.
There is a deliberate garishness to the flowers: Knighton digs out a brochure from seed manufacturer filled with images of glossy flowers.
"These photographs are digitally enhanced. There is so much deception around. We live in a world where we can't face the facts of our existence," says Knighton.
"Nothing is truthful any more; it's as if everything is based on who can tell the biggest, most convincing lie. You could argue we went into a war [with Iraq] based on lies and deceit.
"We think we're in control of our lives, and then you pick up a phone one day to hear that your son is going to die.
"So these paintings are about asking questions, starting with 'is it a flower or is it not a flower'? It seems to be increasingly difficult to accept things at face value - even an apparent painting of flowers."
Devon-born Knighton retired last year at the age of 62 from the University of Wolverhampton where he taught painting for nearly four decades.
Now he spends most of his time in his studio, working almost fever-ishly on work that may never get seen in public.
This is incidental to Knighton, although some of his paintings sell for thousands of pounds - Peter Sellers bought one of his earliest pictures - and his canvases have been exhibited around the world.
"I've been successful, but I think it's a nonsense to live in W olverhampton, which is not very accessible to young artists, and expect to get noticed," says Knighton.
"It was only when Joe died that I felt I had a voice - I had something important to say, maybe not for anyone else, but for me.
"The university gave me three months off and I came down here. I put the key in the door of my studio and I knew where I was: it was my own space.
"Everything I had had been stamped on; this was the only thing I could hang on to. And it's been the same ever since."
His painting helps him to confront "those bits of life we don't want to deal with, but have to. You think terrible things always happen to somebody else, but sooner or later they happen to you. These latest paintings are like that - but packaged differently. So the paintings, in themselves, are a deceit. Life is never a bed of roses".
* Knighton Hosking's new paintings are being exhibited at Number Nine The Gallery, 9 Brindleyplace, Birmingham until July 30. Opening times: Tues-Sat 11am-7pm, Sun 11am-5pm (closed Monday).