NOW Gallery taps Rebecca Louise Law for a new installation.
If your florally tuned Insta game is strong you’ll know that the buck doesn’t actually stop at Raf Simons, despite a series of strong collaborations with the florists Mark Colle and Eric Chauvin producing some of the finest catwalk moments Paris has ever seen featuring blooms.
Beyond fashion week, the likes of Abraham Cruzvillegas and Rebecca Louise Law (not to mention the full cast of the Chelsea Flower Show, editions 1913 through to the present) have each provided ample cases for nature as an art form. Mexican artist Cruzvillegas most recently with his Empty Lot piece that filled the Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall last year, and Law with her long term practice marrying flora with installation.
For the east Londoner’s latest piece, The Iris, Law was tapped by Greenwich’s Now Gallery – they of Molly Goddard’s favourite things fame – for a new show exploring the land beyond the gallery’s exterior (neighbouring O2 aside). The result is 10,000 fresh irises suspended with copper wire as if floating above the gallery space; an arresting visual and a suitably engaging introduction for those new to Law’s work. In place until May, no visitor will enter the same room, sort of, as three months of deterioration alters the state of the flowers, transforming the display.
What drew you to the Iris specifically for this project?
After researching the history of Greenwich Peninsula I discovered amazing stories surrounding a land that was originally waste marshland. Once used to deter pirates, store gunpowder and make chemicals, the land was a place for anything that couldn’t be within London’s city walls. I loved imagining the marshland flowers popping up around the unsavoury industries. Typical for this time of year, the Iris is a common British marshland flower, yet a highly cultivated common household accessory. I wanted to create an installation about nature that encapsulated and combined historical reference and the present modern metropolis.
And what was your initial brief?
NOW Gallery asked me to create an interactive installation that considered its surroundings. My work is always site specific and incorporates natural symbolism surrounding the site so I found it a great brief to work with.
When did you first begin working exclusively with flowers and natural materials?
I swapped my paints for flowers in 2003, while I was at art school. I have always wanted my artwork to allow the viewer to experience nature holistically, and switching from painting to installation art allowed me the freedom to experiment with all the senses. I have been experimenting with flowers as a sculptural material ever since and I’m testing the flower’s material limitations.
And in terms to floristry, how does this position itself within your work?
Floristry uses the flower as an ephemeral decorative object; I like to use flowers as a sculptural material that lives beyond expectation. My art process experiments with the longevity of the material – every flower is preserved and never wasted. The work invites the viewer to consider the value of flowers and how we perceive them, I work towards creating sensory spaces that allow time to observe nature.
Who or what is your biggest influence?
Nature and my childhood. My parents brought me up to observe the world and appreciate all it provides. I’m always in awe of natural beauty.
In regards to your use of natural elements, time is obviously an integral part of your work.
Time is entwined within my art practice. The installations are created to embrace time and manipulate the process of decay. Each flower is intended for preservation and longevity. I often feel like the installations reflect suspended time.
You mentioned previously how important the area surrounding the gallery was as a research tool. What was your knowledge of the area like before you began working on The Iris?
To be honest I knew very little. My brother and sister-in-law worked at the Millennium Dome when it opened and I saw Lady Gaga perform at the O2, but I had never explored or researched the area. It was fascinating looking into the history of Greenwich Peninsula and I loved the idea of marshland plants growing up and around industrial sites, gun powder storage and unsavoury business.
Finally, what do you hope visitors will take away from the show?
I hope that they will have a chance to experience nature in a unique and serene environment.
The Iris is at NOW Gallery, Greenwich Peninsula until 7th May.