The RHS Chelsea Flower Show, London’s most iconic flower festival, inspires millions through showcasing the best in garden design and has blossomed on us at Tagsmart too! In celebration of the event, now in full bloom until Saturday, May 27, here are our favourite flower-themed contemporary artworks:
1. Alex Katz’ White Roses 9 (2012)
In a 1968 interview, Katz described his paintings of flowers as an extension of the cocktail party scenes he often painted. He remarked that the flowers are also ‘overlapping volumes’, which cover one another as they advance into the painting’s pictorial space. By selecting flowers as a subject, Katz sought to introduce a greater degree of movement in the work without literally representing something in motion, focusing on the unfolding form of a rose bud. And indeed, White Roses 9 offers a composition of volumes and spaces that dance across the surface of the canvas. Painted rapidly and assuredly, the flowers oscillate between states of awkwardness and grace typically associated with the human body. Katz’s roses, with their fleshy petals and serrated leaves, are aggressive and fierce, contradicting the serene association that flowers typically summon. (Source: Guggenheim Bilbao)
2. Takashi Murakami’s Blue Flowers & Skulls (2012)
Perhaps Takashi Murakami’s most emblematic motif, these smiling flowers came into the artist’s work when he was preparing for his entrance exams for the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts. He then embraced the form over nine years teaching college students to draw flowers, even though as he once said, “I didn’t like flowers.” Blue Flowers & Skulls explores one of the central dichotomies of his art—between joy and terror, his optimistic as an artist and his pessimistic perspective on postwar Japan. This contradiction is symbolised by the contrast of bright smiling flowers and menacing representations of skulls. Both oppositional and parallel, the flower and the skull are reminders of the fragile vibrancy of life and the inexorable passing of time. (Source: Gagosian)
3. Beatriz Milhazes’ Gamboa Seasons Summer Love (2010)
Influenced by the tropical climate and vegetation of Brazil as well as by the urban vibe of Rio de Janeiro, Milhazes combines traditional imagery and cultural clichés with plain geometric forms and structured compositions, creating dynamical and unexpected works. (Source: Galerie Max Hetzler)
4. Michael De Feo's Untitled (Last nude Playmate Kristy Garett by Sasha Eisenman for Playboy, Jan-Feb 2016) (2016)
Inhabiting a space between fine art, street art, and appropriation, Michael De Feo’s (a.k.a. The Flower Guy) iconic flower symbols and graphic interventions began appearing on New York City streets as early as 1993. Re-working fashion imagery from magazine ads to bus shelter billboards by painting cascades of multicoloured petals onto the printed images, De Feo brings new life to his source material in a way that is both subversive and joyful. (Source: Danziger Gallery)
5. Marc Quinn’s The Archaeology of Desire (2009)
Marc Quinn’s monumental Archaeology of Desire is based upon a naturalistic Phalaenopsis, a genus of the orchid family. The fine, papery petals defy the properties of the bronze medium in which they are cast to appear almost weightless and ethereal. The work belongs to a series of sculptures and paintings through which Quinn has explored the concept of ideal beauty achieved, especially, through genetic modification. On an immense scale, the delicate petals take on an ominous presence, resembling the wings of a Phalaena moth from which the flower takes its name; the lower part, in turn, assumes the appearance of pincer-like mandibles on the threshold of inertia, poised to snap shut, pierce and penetrate. The title of the work also hints at the sculpture’s latent sexual connotations; the heart of the flower’s anatomy is its reproductive organ, which lures insects for pollination. So, in turn, does this part suggest the human female genitalia. (Source: Marc Quinn)
Of all the images with which he seduces and confounds the viewer, Mat Collishaw’s Infectious Flowers are probably his most beguiling achievements. On first encounter, we are struck by their exquisite colours and shapes, but closer inspection reveals their imperfections. The petals are not perfectly formed – areas are ravaged by, and almost pulsating, with a disease. In this way, the viewer becomes both seduced and horrified. Collishaw was inspired by the story of a 19th-century dandy who became so obsessed with flowers that he decided to lock himself away in his mansion that was filled with only his plants. His opulence became so much that the flowers became diseased, a parallel to the sickening of his mind.
7. Gerald Machona’s The Edelweiss (2013)
One of the most notable aspects of Gerald Machona’s work is his innovative use of foreign currency (particularly decommissioned Zimbabwean dollars) as a medium. Initially, Machona started using the material in an attempt to convey the difficulties of the hyper-inflationary environment that Zimbabweans were living under until recently. But in 2008, it also became an interesting way to explore some of the underlying issues of class, migration and nationalism and the feelings of estrangement associated with the experience of “foreignness” while living in South Africa.
8. Banksy’s Flower Thrower (2003)
This stencilled image may be Banksy’s most famous work. At first glance, it looks like a rioter about to throw a molotov cocktail. However, this ‘rioter’ is throwing a bouquet of flowers instead. By substituting flowers for a weapon Banksy makes us think about peace in a place we wouldn’t expect to find it. The work is surprisingly hopeful and upbeat.
Anya Gallaccio is known for her work with organic materials such as flowers, fruits and sugar. Her installations often change over time as they decompose, sprout new life, or melt. In preserve ‘beauty’ 2000 gerberas are sandwiched between huge panes of glass and left to wither and rot. Gallaccio has described gerberas as a ‘disposable commodity’, mass-produced all year round. preserve ‘beauty’ was first displayed in the window of a London gallery, where it became a metaphor for her perception of the male-dominated art scene. (Source: Tate)
With its roots anchored overhead, more than 2,000 suspended flowers float in a white bubble. As if endowed with a conscience, the flowers rise when the spectator approaches, and then descend once again. Offering a way to restore our sense of unity with nature, the interactive installation takes inspiration from a zen kôan in which a zen priest, in the 13th-century, left his meditative retreat in the mountains to teach the path of awakening. One day, he pointed to a flower in a garden and said: “The Heaven and I come from the same roots. Everything around me and myself is made of the same substance.”