The photographic duo exploring the language of flowers

The photographic duo exploring the language of flowers

It’s one of the oldest subjects in the history of art – but can it still be interesting in 2018? From carved lotus flowers engraved onto ancient Egyptian jewellery, to Renaissance still lifes and of course, van Gogh’s odes in oil to poppies and sunflowers, flowers have fascinated visual artists all over the world for centuries and inspired a myriad of metaphors in poems and literature.

For van Gogh – who encouraged his sister to take up gardening for its therapeutic properties – looking at flowers was looking at life. Everything you needed to learn about colour and form could be found in a simply arranged vase. Georgia O’Keeffe painted flowers so large you couldn’t ignore them. Their transience makes them all the more appealing for the artist who seeks to immortalise beauty before it fades.

Set design: Anna Lomax. Photography: Metz + Racine

Photographic duo Barbara Metz and Eve Racine, who have worked together for 18 years, have turned their talents to flowers with their latest personal project, a limited-edition book titled Flowers / Together Pt. 1, designed by Mototake Makishima and made in collaboration with set designers they have met through their work. For the first part of what will become a series, Metz and Racine invited set designers to create still life compositions interpreting the theme of flowers, which they then photographed, spending a day with each designer to work on the shoot.

As the resulting pictures prove, the floral subject still has plenty to give. As Liam Hess writes in the publication foreword, flowers symbolise ‘the deepest sadness love and the deepest sadness’, and the images run the gamut of emotions and aesthetics, from sleek to messy, starkly minimal to playful maximalist.

Flowers can certainly, as the book proves, be pretty, but can they be political? Flowers / Together Pt.1, as the title suggests, is also as much a rumination of the power of creative collaboration. No one vision is dominant here; there’s space for all perspectives, and put together, they can create something beautiful. That, for Metz and Racine, is a vital message for our times. §

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