Sunday, 18 July 2010

Flowers, fashion and photography

This is not the Chelsea Flower Show, but the new flower inspired exhibition by seven world class photographers at the Diemar/Noble Gallery in London is well worth a visit.

There’s no doubt that flowery decoration is currently in vogue. However, dismiss from your mind the rails of frilled and floaty floral dresses currently filling our chain stores, and distinguished purely by their prosaic Polyester prettiness.

Aside from their innate beauty, flowers are often awarded allegorical significance by curious minded creative types, and are subject to all manner of intriguing artistic interpretations - as in the fascinating works on display in this show:

Photographer Lisa Creagh wanted to combine the handmade elements of detailed and painstakingly constructed handicrafts (like needlework, lace making, quilting and crochet) with the digital possibilities of twenty first century photographic software.

She sought not only to capture the moment, but to also reflect the ‘rich and elaborate patterns of decorative arts… associated with the seasons and cycles of birth and death’ in her ‘Instant Garden’ collection. One of her digitally stylized photographs (above) is based on the design of a floral Persian carpet, with softly lit flower petals, reminiscent of those in Dutch Still Life paintings.

Neeta Madahar photographed her friends alongside plants whose flowers have women’s names, such as Poppy, Orchid and Primrose. Photographs in her Flora collection are styled in the fashion of vintage Hollywood glamour images, with a little bit of a modern twist.

The sitters for the photos suggested the emotions they wished to convey through their portraits. However, a theme central to all is the rejection of conventional fashion models: the photos are a comment on the requirement for women to live up to fantasy ideals of the female form.

This curiously evocative composition (right) by Dora Maar reminds me of Audrey Hepburn, who was often photographed together with flowers. However, the unique oversized 1930s print on show at Diemar/Noble Photography is of Assia, Maar’s favourite model.

Maar herself, admired in the art world for her avant garde and surrealist imagery, is actually most famous for being the sitter, muse and partner of Pablo Picasso and, of course, ‘The Weeping Woman’.

28 Day Flower Diary by Kate Owens is a series of digital bouquets that mirror Victorian floral arrangements, which were used to express unspoken feelings. Owens wished to make visible the physical, sexual and emotional effects of the menstrual cycle. She wanted to contrast the uncontrollable forces of female nature with attempts to repress emotional urges through occupations such as floristry which, in the past, were seen as a way of keeping women occupied and out of trouble.

My, how times have changed! Nevertheless, expressing a love of all things floral is something that’s probably been a constant through the ages.

Anyway, if you’re a flower fancier, you should definitely check out the Italian garden inspired hand painted bangles that are newly available at ShopCurious – and do pop into the gallery to see these fabulous photos, and many more too.

Will you?


worm said...

I've always been a sucker for rose decoupage, and flowers for decoration generally. Strangely I also have an odd preference for really well made fake flowers over real ones. I just find the beguiling artifice quite impressive I suppose

Susan said...

I'm stunned by your shock fake flower fetish, worm. Good job you weren't around in Victorian times - would have put the ladies totally off scent.

Must admit though, that some of the 'designer flowers' I see at trade fairs are curiously deceptive... but I'm still not enticed by the prospect of flower arrangements that need dusting.

Jan said...

Flower power.
It's permanent alright.
I kind of like ditsy prints
(don't actually wear any though.)

atelier said...

I love flowers.. I've been lately to the Hampton Court Flower Show, it was totally amazing!

Susan said...

Jan, look forward to seeing you all ditsy printed in a photo on your blog soon?!

Thanks for the recommendation, atelier. I've heard so many great things about the Hampton Court Flower Show - the weather must have been pretty good this Summer too - must pop along next year.

Style Porn said...

Wow, those patterns in the flower photos above really are something special! It's always interesting to see geometric shapes and patterns in such soft, natural materials.

As always, a 'curiously' great post! (Sorry, couldn't resist)

Profoundly Superficial said...

I love how pretty these photos are. And the bangle as well!

janettaylor said...

How brilliant!

Susan said...

Aw, thanks for the positive feedback x