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Art of making photographs of flower blocks by Joe Horner is a meditative journey

Being a frequent subject of desire through the annals of art history, the flowers receive a new lease of life in the hands of the UK-based photographer Joe Horner.

by Dilpreet BhullarPublished on : Jul 15, 2023

Often synonymous with decorative arts, floral artwork has been the kernel subject of interest to artists across the history of arts. The myths and anecdotes around the floral go back to the cultural tradition of Europe, Asia, and Africa. British history, especially, is replete with the floral aesthetic and an array of connotations around the flowers. It reached a pinnacle of interest during the Victorian Era when floriography or the language of flowers was published in the form of floral dictionaries. When the times dotted with Victorian purity were directed towards a set of particular etiquettes and aesthetic sensibility—the flower transmuted to be a metaphorical figure to extend a particular emotive self. John Ingram's Flora Symbolica was published during the height of the Victorian Era and included not only the meanings of one hundred flowers but stressed the decorum of giving the appropriate flowers to present the message intended.

Shine Through, 2021, Photograph |Joe Horner | STIRworld
Shine Through, 2021, Photograph Image: Joe Horner

Over the years as the artistic practice changed with the spell of meanings, manual techniques and technology, the floral representation also shifted. The latest photographs of the flower blocks by the British photographer Joe Horner are a composition made with ice and acute sensibility of natural and studio light. The works offer a new lease of life to them. In an interview with STIR, the artist discloses, “Flowers have always held a special place in my heart, stemming from my childhood days of being surrounded by my mother's love for them. Her passion for flowers has had a profound impact on me, instilling a lifelong fascination and appreciation for them. As I grew up, this fascination evolved into a creative passion for floral design and photography. I enjoy capturing the intricate details of flowers.”

Morning Dew, 2022, Photograph |Joe Horner | STIRworld
Morning Dew, 2022, Photograph Image: Joe Horner

Not just as the blocks, these pieces are displayed as a series of NFT worlds such as exhibited at SuperRare Gallery, New York. Besides this, the blocks are part of the NFT collections, Foundation and Saatchi Art NFT. The advent of NFTs has received a mixed response from the art world, be it, collectors, curators or practitioners. Even if the accessibility is made much smoother with NFTs, the authenticity of the same is shrouded under uncertainty. Yet, through his art, Horner seeks to capture the essence of flowers in a way that allows them to be seen and appreciated long after they have wilted away. “I embrace the impermanence of these blooms, using it to create art that is as beautiful and ephemeral as the flowers themselves,” says the artist.

Untitled, 2023, Photograph |Joe Horner | STIRworld
Untitled, 2023, Photograph Image: Joe Horner

Having spent his formative years in Knaresborough, North Yorkshire allowed him to forge a special relationship with nature and its abundance. Raised by a mother who shared a consistent love for gardening, the flower continued to hold a special meaning for Horner. Creating artwork using living things is a dynamic and ever-evolving process. The very nature of incorporating organic materials means that the artwork is constantly in motion throughout the creative process. It is challenging to pin down the exact moment when the ideation phase transitions into execution, as the concept is always in flux until the artwork is fully realised and documented through photography. But having flowers as a raw material does pose a unique challenge to the artist. Their delicate nature demands that they be handled with the utmost care, making it imperative to work with them in a meticulous manner. Furthermore, the ephemeral beauty of flowers and their short lifespan can make it difficult to create lasting art with them. Simultaneously, it is precisely this fleeting quality of flowers that draws him to them. Their beauty is transient, but that only serves to make it more precious and impactful. “As I work with these blooms and capture them through photography, I am able to create something that endures beyond their natural lifespan,” adds Horner.

Made In A Heatwave, 2022, Photograph|Joe Horner | STIRworld
Made in a Heatwave, 2022, Photograph Image: Joe Horner

To mention, Horner is also a winner of the British Portrait Award for his photographWalking Off That Edge. The image stands distinctly apart from the rest of the portrait since it does not showcase the face of the subject Ryan, but what the viewer sees is his back while he is overlooking the Sheffield Peak District. Horner’s grandfather served as a photographer and printer in the Second World War. An admirer of the photographs made by Martin Parr and William Eggleston, for Horner the flower blocks are an extension of preserving the enchanted allurement manifested in the flower. Personally handpicked by the photographer, the flowers are preserved for a short period of time only to be lent a sense of permanency with photographs by Horner. The art of making these works is a deeply personal and therapeutic practice for Horner. “In the midst of struggles with anxiety, immersing myself in the process of collecting and arranging these fleeting blooms has brought me solace and peace of mind. Each petal and stem represent a small victory over my own internal turmoil and serves as a reminder that even in the darkest moments, there is always a glimmer of hope and resilience,” concludes Horner.

Joe Horner’s Portrait | Joe Horner | STIRworld
Joe Horner’s portrait Image: Joe Horner
Orchids, 2022, Video Video: Joe Horner

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