GRINEVART

Irving Penn

About Flowers – Perfecting Perfection in Art

This article was inspired by the motivational examples from one of Paul Arden’s books, “Whatever you think, think the opposite”. We all love flowers. We love them alive or their essence and aesthetic captured by artists. We buy flowers, we grow flowers. We are flower enthusiasts, we love flower art.

Drawing a Flower – Inescapable Flower Art

Being aesthete or artist, you have definitely , at one point at least, had the intention to draw a flower. You’ve probably followed through on the impulse, drawing a beautiful blooming magnolia, or a rose in aquarelle.
Perhaps you’ve captured a photo of the first narcissus that you saw during your mountain walk or the bouquet that you received from your partner? 

You probably start with drawing some petals, then a stem, then probably some leaves…
While composing a photo, we choose the most attractive flower, arrange the lighting and even sprinkle a little (not too much) water to give our object that extra touch of verve.

It turns out beautiful, no doubt, but never memorable. 

Here is our selection of the artists that were able to perfect the perfect. We witness the whole, seeing first the outstanding piece of art, and then we see the flowers.

André Kertéz

Pulling the Object from Its Context

flower art - a photo of a tulip by Andre Kertez
André Kertéz 1930s, Wilted Tulip

This photo was commissioned from him by the French humour magazine, Le Sourire to complete two series of figural studies. These portraits were published alongside a text by the writer A.P. Barancy, entitled Fenêtre ouverte sur l’au-dela [window open (on) to the other side], which reads the series as a meditation on what it means to defamiliarise the ordinary by extracting objects from their surroundings.

Our eyes are immediately drawn to the head of the tulip, which hangs bizarrely lower than the surface upon which the vase is set. 

Could we assume that the joyful tulip could be shown as emblematic of disappointment and sadness?

Georgia O’Keeffe

André Kertéz 1930s, Wilted Tulip

With all the dramatic shifting of her artistic practices – from abstract to New York Urban landscapes, paintings of spectacular stark landscapes and Native American and Hispanic cultures – O’Keeffe always returned to the flower motif.

O’Keeffe Offering New Yorkers a Moment in Time

She once explained:

 “So I said to myself – I’ll paint what I see – what the flower is to me but I’ll paint it big and they will be surprised into taking time to look at it – I will make even busy New Yorkers take time to see what I see of flowers.” 

And New York and the world was left  fascinated, dubbing her the “mother of American modernism” and the icon of the feminist art movement.

William Farr

William Farr, No name composition

Born in Huddersfield, this young, multidisciplinary artist conjures beauty from other people’s rubbish and from the flowers he picks from the garden. William’s photo series reflects around the artist’s ego and our natural human desire to leave a mark in the world we live in.

By producing his temporary objects, he deconstructs our fantasy of living forever as but a fig leaf for the fear of death. He claims to make temporary things because “we all are temporary”.

Nobuyoshi Araki

“Flowers” is a collection of vivid close-ups of flowers, both sensually evocative and charged with a colourful realism linking Araki’s oeuvre to his cultural roots, recalling traditional Japanese art of ikebana.

Nobuyoshi Araki's flower art, symbols of sexuality and femininity.

Nobuyoshi Araki (b. 1940) | Pink Flower,1990

Araki’s Flowers – Femininity, Mortality, and Mystery

His flowers are symbols of sex, they are likened femininity, they may be bringers of death or bearers of mysteries. The first flowers that Araki ever photographed were modest flower compositions of higanbana or cemetery flowers. He asked the graveyard guardian to save flowers for him and he would photograph them against a plain white background.

These flower images of the retrospective of life touch us, simply.

Irving Penn

Irving Penn (1917-2009) – Lavender Poppy

Irving Penn was drawn to flowers “considerably after they’ve passed the point of perfection”, captivated by their blemishes and shrivelling petals. This enduring symbol of remembrance of the First World War looks like it was pressed in a book and then found and suddenly revokes the memories.

Penn was less interested in the well-acknowledged, yet short-lived beauty of the flower. After its natural catharsis, he captured its second eternal life and immortalised the beauty.

A Study in Flower Art Perspective

Of course this article is not about flowers and just flower art. Is art really about what’s displayed in front of you? Let’s look at this, instead, as a vantage point from which to view talent and to see the world from a different perspective.