Spring

Who said ‘Flower Power’ is dead? Celebrating the RHS Chelsea Flower Show

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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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)


6. Mat Collishaw’s Orchid 1 (2005)

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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)

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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)

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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.


9. Anya Gallaccio’s preserve ‘beauty’ (1991–2003)

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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)


10. teamLab’s Floating Flower Garden (2015)

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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.”

Tagsmart hand-pick: Getting our spring vibes on!

With the arrival of spring, we felt like celebrating the upcoming launch of our new Smart Tag by asking some of our team members what are their favourite works on canvas when thinking of the new season.

The vast array in style demonstrates the wide diversity of taste in art amongst us. Nonetheless, one thing remains the same for all: there is plenty of enthusiasm and excitement for the days to come!

Luke Kang, Production and Fulfilment Manager & Artist 
Lois Dodd’s Self-Portrait in Green Window (1971)

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When I think of spring, nature immediately comes to mind. I feel that this piece by Lois Dodd is an embodiment of the season. The painting catches my eyes due to the use of off-green colours she uses and which I find rather curious given that the artist is known for her depiction of life and landscapes.

She portrays herself in a darker, shadowy green, giving her an undead appearance, the colours used on her self-portrait evoke a slightly sickly appearance. Yet, altogether the subject matter reflects opposing feelings, of fecundity, abundance, fruitfulness and life. I feel Dodd is making an ironic statement here possibly hinting back into the ideas of zombies and reanimation.

I also appreciate how confident she is with her painting style. She might mix paint before hand, but she doesn’t mix many colours one they are laid out on the canvas, instead opting for a flat and bold application of paint.

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Freddie Powell, Product Assistant
Alice Browne’s Powder (Poised) (2015)

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I searched ‘the best things about spring’ and the first answer to pop up was 'because it brings the hope of some sunshine for a least a few days in a row’.  I immediately thought of Alice Browne’s Powder (Poised) in which the colours of the season seem to be waiting to burst through. It’s not hard to be attracted to the almost fragrant selection of green, red and yellows on view, getting a sense for the lighter and longer days just after the clocks come forward.

Browne’s work focuses on her own fictional and imaginary architectures, shown here through connected blue lines and the works growing layered spaces between. Perhaps here she has painted spring itself, no longer just a season but a physical space for the viewer to explore and (finally) enjoy!

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Annalise Brocklehurst, Business Development & Client Services Executive
Damien Hirst’s Midas of Phrygia (2007)

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Damien Hirst’s Butterfly Colour Paintings remind me of spring because it is the time when trees blossom, a new life begins and our world becomes more colourful again. His piece with butterflies positioned in a circle suggests an idea of a cycle, with the passing of winter and the celebration of spring and life. Although some believe the piece could be interpreted as morbid and evoking death, as butterflies live on average for only a month, I believe the opposite. I see everything flourishing and it makes me feel uplifted and alive. 

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Julia Ferreira de Abreu, Marketing Manager
David Hockney’s The Arrival of Spring in Woldgate, East Yorkshire (2011)

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This monumental 32-canvas painting forms one part of a 52-part work by David Hockney. The first time I saw this gem was at Hockney’s A Bigger Picture exhibition at the Royal Academy. It was February 2012 and I had had enough of winter. Spring seemed to be too far away and this artwork made me yearn for warmer weathers, brighter skies and flowers coming into bloom. It felt as if Hockney is inviting me to slip right inside the painting and walk along that lovely path under the trees!

The Arrival of Spring’s vibrant colours scream spring and represent the change of seasons with the same enthusiasm as mine. The rich reds and greens make me anticipate what’s to come and reflect on nature’s cycles, the passage of time and the small but significant changes that unfold daily before our eyes. Conveying the beauty and grandeur of nature’s transience and the warmth of the new season, it sets us on a journey to the rediscovery of the landscape. 

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Anastasia Aya Aroukatos, PR & Marketing Executive
Hope Gangloff’s Late Night (Olga Alexandrovskaya) (2015)

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Recently everywhere I look I amazed by the sprouting colours all around me, shocked that in a city like London such vibrant colours and flowers actually bloom. Maybe I have never paid enough attention? The sensation of feeling overwhelmed by the beautiful weather and nature that envelops me during spring makes me think of this painting by Hope Gangloff.

I feel like I draw some parallels between his work and that of Gustav Klimt, who is one of my all-time favourite painters. I especially love the intricate details and colours in the clothing and room decor. These patterns remind me of that time of year that I wait for in anticipation to go into our storage and pull out my spring wardrobe which is filled with an array of colourful prints. At the same time, there is a lack of light and life in the colours, reminding me that summer is not yet here, but around the corner!