"…was it not the late Ryszard Kapuscinski, in his magnificent book on the Shah, who realised why Iranians made such beautiful carpets. They wove birds with splendidly coloured wings on to silken trees and rivers and blossom-covered branches. And they would throw their carpets to the ground, creating a garden in the desert.”
Using the idea of the ‘instant garden’ created when a richly floral carpet was thrown to the ground in ancient Persia, I create a new kind of ‘garden’ using composite images of industrially grown flowers. The result is a product of a slow, ponderous process of assembling ‘pieces’. The soft lighting, reminiscent of Dutch Still Life paintings, is used to enhance a sense of distance and deep space as the “real” flower is converted through software into the flower symbol found in many ancient decorative arts.
‘Floriculture’ is an attempt to bridge the ‘hand-made’ elements of highly detailed and painstakingly constructed crafts (needlework, lace making, quilts, crochet, etc. ) with the techniques of digital manipulation and construction that have emerged with new twenty-first century photographic software.
So ‘Floriculture’ plays with ideas around control and stylization that have been present in discussions of ‘nature’ for centuries. This work sits in the uncomfortable space between the aestheticization and the exploitation of nature, offering not conclusions, but suggestions about ‘making’ rather than ‘shooting’ and a new relationship between ancient and modern that speaks to both.
The story of the world begins with a garden. In Persia, carpets were thrown down in the desert to create an ‘instant garden’ in the sand. This idea of throwing down an instant garden in a desert encapsulates the relationship between humans and nature: our incredible creative ability to manipulate and magic nature out of nothing. The flowers are a mixture of generic, shop bought, hothouse bred varieties and other imposters from streets and gardens. Using techniques borrowed from Botanical Art, flowers are shot from all sides and in all states of budding to drooping.
In Europe, the Dutch Flower Painting tradition arose out of a particular set of circumstances during The Republic when painting was centred in Guilds. These paintings were for a domestic market, often purchased and produced by women. The tradition that emerged was both illusionistic and decorative, with an obsessive attention to detail that can be described as an ‘über-craft’: slow, ponderous, painstaking, illusion-making. The ‘decorative’ is traditionally associated with feminine crafts; needlework, lace making, quilts and crochet. This is a subject that has been closely interpreted and challenged by feminist art historians of the last thirty years.
For more than a century the camera has been used to “catch” or “shoot”. The final Floriculture images are the result of a slow, ponderous process of assembling ‘pieces’, rather than an instantaneous moment.