Thursday, 7 July 2011

A2 Level Art Project: Flora


So today is the day of my art exhibition but as I unfortunately cannot go, will not be able to bring you pictures of the exhibition so instead have uploaded select pieces of my work to share with you. This is my first project, focussing on flora and organic forms.

The diverse plant life on Earth is the result of their successful reproductive mechanisms, evolving from algae to the complex trees and flowering plants we see today. As Humans, our deep relationship to plants stem from our dependency on fruits and vegetables as food; cotton and reeds for materials, and herbs for medicine. Our exploitation of plants does not end with our survival needs, with flora being a central part of Human society, culture and tradition. In Western culture, flowers had symbolic meanings, based on their appearance and colour, for example, red roses represent passion and romantic love. The variation in shape, colour and size of flora makes them visually attractive to us. In this project, I aim to explore the physical form of flora and the properties they possess which make them so alluring.

The installation found in Brazilian artist Ernesto Neto’s “Edges of the World” exhibition at the Hayward Gallery invited you to walk through and interact with it. As you wander around the tunnel structure, the colours gradually change and fade, whilst the use of soft, stretchy material to create the organic forms resemble the fragility of flower petals. Circular windows cut in the fabric, is much like cellular pores, and as you look through it, lime green tubular connections are like phoem tubes in plant stems. The exhibition provided an experience in which your curious exploration with the structures is like a bee or an insect’s interaction with flora, which changed the way I viewed flora.

Photographers Tony Sweet and Raymond Ker’s images showcase the contrasting crisp harsh lines and the fluid movement of petals respectively, whilst Heather Edwards focus on the textures and surface of petals. Enthused to view flora in this intimate way both by Ernesto Neto and these photographers, I focused on capturing the different parts of flowers through macro photography in a playful manner, with reference to the style of the photographers, looking at petals of poppies and roses; detailed network of leaf veins and stamens of sunflowers. 

Through my photos, I discovered features I was previously oblivious to: the subtle changes of colours and pigments on petals, the fine pollen grains on stamens and the materiality of the diverse floral forms. To translate my understanding of my observations my drawings were completed in a range of media, allowing me to investigate the qualities of batik and masking fluid. Both of these mediums were appropriate for working negatively, with batik being more expressive, whilst masking fluid more controlled, successful especially for water droplets and leaf veins. 

[Andy Goldsworthy Transcription]
Karl Blossfeldt also photographed flora in detail, but viewed them in an extremely clinical and organized way. His black and white photography of floral structures such as leaf shoots, ferns and poppy heads provide plenty of information to the regular patterns of the biological exterior. 

I attempted this method of photography and collected a sample of flower heads, buds and grasses. Against a plain background, I focused on obtaining sharp, crisp images like those used for cataloguing or for scientific study. Further to this, I completed scientific observation through a tonal sketch of a poppy head from a Blossfeldt inspired photograph, in the style of Ernst Haeckel, who discovered and named many species of flora and fauna and through detailed illustration, linked similar organisms and grouped them. His analytical approach is similar in style to Blossfeldt, so using pencils in a harsh fashion; I managed to highlight the rugged surface of the poppy head.

[Inspired by Richard Serra]
To further my work in a two dimensional way would misrepresent or fail to maximise the potential of the complex biological forms, so I developed sculptures referencing Angie Lewin’s prints: compositions containting heavy floral structures covered with colourful shapes. Willow is malleablewhen wet; arches, spirals and loops were constructed and composed into a structure, using the main structures from my photos, before exploring coverings. The translucency of tissue paper and nylon against the shapes of the willow very much echoes the prints.

In an interview about his “Hayward” exhibition, Ernesto Neto revealed his intentions with this installation- the exploration of space and connectivity. The contruction requires no nails, but uses ball and socket joints, which he calls a “biological construction”. He discusses the interaction of the installation as being personal and sensual, how he hopes to put meaning in the otherwise empty space by connecting and breaking up the space, which provides opportunity to explore it from numerous viewpoints.

In another exhibition, Neto’s Mentre niente accade (While nothing happens), the fabric was filled with aromatic spices to form a series of suspended globular forms, reminding me of the intricate forms protruding from flora: stamens and stigmas. The combination of these two elements would’ve most certainly drawn people both visually and sensually.

Chihuly’s glass work ranges from large scale installations and chandeliers to small sculptures, the complex and dynamic blown glass sculptures are influenced by sealife and flora. Exhibited at Kew Gardens in 2005, Chihuly’s glass work integrated seamlessly into this natural environment, where his suspended centerpieces attracted the gaze of tourists, stealing the attention from the exotic plants and flowers.

The important biological relationship plants have to light through photosynthesis (the ability for plants to synthesis energy from sunlight) is reflected upon the media Chihuly uses. Glass has a reflective quality due to its transparency that allows it to capture light with a captivating and enchanting glow, very much like how moths and other insects are attracted to light as they are positively phototactic.

Inspired by the allure of Ernesto Neto’s installations and Dale Chihuly’s sculptures, my developments of manipulating willow revolved around the idea of visual magnetism (attractiveness) as well as physical magnetism (effects of gravity). My progression from tentlike structures to mobiles is the result of Neto’s fascination in the effects of “gravity”, of which he talks a lot about in his interview, as it gives his structures form and is “what keeps everything connected”. 

The combination of Chihuly’s intricate glass shapes with Ernesto Neto’s suspended droplets inspire my final piece, an organic structure which strives to pull the viewer towards it much like a flower would.


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