David Hockney, he of summer dappled pools and Miami pastels, has made a statement in this season of lockdown. He has painted daffodils in all their simple, sculptural glory. His is a charmed offering to the gods, a hope for a new season. A digital artwork for our time — to balm the spirits of our troubled world. His yellow vision washed over me and cheered my soul as only flowers can. Even digital ones.
Hockney, like all great artists, has captured the undercurrents of the general mood. He’s given us the hope of renewal and the spirit of human ingenuity when it plays nicely with nature, while the ephemeral quality of life plays its solemn tune just below the surface. This is what the best of contemporary floral design is about. An aesthetic tussle with matters of life and death.
Perhaps my favourite floral artist — for that is what she is — is Emily Thompson. Her small corner of delight in the Roman and Williams Guild New York emporium and café radiates her talent across the world. She calls herself a butcher of flowers. A description of her art that captures the essential violence inherent in the act of creating an arrangement. Each floral display is a still life, or more accurately expressed in the French, a nature morte — dead nature captured for a fleeting moment. Her work is driven by seasonal flowers sourced ethically and organically and #madebywildanimals, which she then re-contextualises and repurposes as dying art. Is there any art form that is more apt for our time? Her plague posies are small allegories for our circumstances. Her Instagram captions are a poetry for the mysterious present moment: “Concurrent emergence and rot! Fetid earth and birth. Always, never not.”
In Paris my abiding love Christian Tortu is on the abundant end of the natural world’s spectrum: a maximalist whose forays into order have given way to great displays of lush disorder. In Berlin, Ruby Barber of Mary Lennox is giving the humble weed a sculptural floating renaissance. Weeping amaranth, smoke bush, wild grasses and Queen Anne’s lace — in dried and fresh-cut floating fantasies she teases out what we consider useful and what has been brushed aside in the world as invasive. She challenges our ordered ideas of what is valuable and beautiful. Here, her magnificent sweeping assemblages are all the suggestions for a new way of thinking about the future. A new way of engaging with nature – abundant, free, and, above all, sustainable. A new way to live post a plague that we may have brought down on ourselves by neglecting these fundamental lessons from nature.
Based somewhere between Cape Town and the 3D realm of an architectural imagination, Alexis Christodoulou seamlessly blends a fictional modernist aesthetic with abundant floral fantasies in scenes to blow your mind. Christodoulou is a self-taught 3D artist and designer whose global clientele are inspired by these alternate universes and a design ethos primed to “let nature in.”
In the gentle lessons of Japan’s age-old Ikebana art, floral design comes home literally, bringing these spectacular installations to a small, human scale. A template for life considered and entirely of the moment — driven by a subtle respect for the natural world and our role in it. Doan Ly in New York brings a contemporary edge and inspires me to play, and hope, and dream of a brighter future.
• From the June issue of Wanted 2020.