by Dilpreet BhullarMay 16, 2021
The ubiquitous presence of the floral motifs in traditional art practice has saturated the eyes of the beholder. It is the frequency with which a flower is painted, sculpted or even photographed in a run-of-the-mill manner that has dried out its appreciation. Not that the flowers as an organic feature of our environment have run out of its natural beauty. Restoring the beauty of the flowers and going beyond any of its conventional display are the site-specific installations by the British artist Rebecca Louise Law. She uses the natural material – flowers – to create her colossal installations, and it would not be an exaggeration to say that her works carry a life even if it is for a while.
Law, a sixth-generation gardener, with a patient mind let the works breathe and decay with her organic material. As the mortal self is bound to wither against the wind of time, the installations become a living manifestation of this duality. Working closely with nature’s order of emotions running between ecstasy and sorrow, Law in an interview with STIR, shares about the wonder of nature as her inspiration: “All of my life I have looked at nature’s beauty and strived to capture an essence of the life we have growing around us. The connection between the earth and how we inhabit it as human beings has been integral to my installations. When I first began creating installations, I had a strong feeling that as human beings we had stopped observing simple natural beauty and had begun taking nature for granted".
Her formal training as an artist was instrumental to generate her interest towards a wide variety of flowers rendered in paintings, especially with the bright hues of the abstract expressionists. Hailing from the family of gardeners, her familiarity with flowers was, of course, founded in the real sprawling botanical fields too. Law dwells further into her interests, “The convenience of consumerism has made everything too easy and too fast. The lack of attention to detail and little understanding of where things come from made me want to focus the viewers' attention back to nature. Flowers are my paint and I work with space as my canvas, but as you enter any installation you are taken back to nature’s divine beauty. The human soul needs nature and time to appreciate all that the earth provides. Over the past 16 years, I have collected over one million flowers, reusing every flower I work with. Recently this has allowed my installations to be large enough to have a complete experience of nature. Installations that have completely enveloped the viewer are Community (2018) at Toledo Museum of Art, and The Womb (2019) at Fredrick Meijer Sculpture Park and Gallery”.
Her site-specific installations suspended from the ceiling or placed on the floor are indeed mesmerising, leaving the audience with a sense of awe. When seen outside the regular frame, it becomes challenging for the artist to keep the beauty of flowers intact yet ensure the viewers notice the three-dimensional installations. Law explains the art of making her installations before the audience is invited to immerse in it with undivided attention, “I have learnt how to preserve flowers, but it has taken many years of exploration. The fragility of flowers is a continual challenge and I am forever learning how to get the best out of them as a sculptural material. I begin with space and I continue with my exploration of the human interaction with nature within that space. I love to bring my ongoing collection of flowers to each new installation and add local flowers to each new artwork. Some institutions will enable a program of volunteers to assist in the wiring of flowers. I love having local hands making a part of the artwork. As much as possible I work together with the local community to create an installation that celebrates nature and the community that surrounds it”.
For Law watching her own works “is a humbling experience - to be enveloped in millions of flowers. Each element is perfectly formed and given to us as a gift from the earth. Initially, it is overwhelming to be surrounded by so much nature, but a peacefulness presides and for a moment there is a healthy perspective of what we are as human beings on earth”.
Law’s immersive installation while metamorphosising the white cubes into the experiential indoor gardens reaffirms what the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu once mentioned, “nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished”.