So I’ve heard that at one time in Amsterdam, a tulip bulb was the same price as a house.
The trading of exotic tulip bulbs in the Netherlands is the first known example of an economic bubble and there’s a whole genre of 17th Century beautiful, floral still life paintings depicting the phenomenon. A couple of months ago I’d unknowingly cherry picked Golden Age still life paintings as my favourite at the Wallace Collection.
But you know me, flower obsessed, I was destined to soon figure out the existence of this dark and handsome Dutch Golden Age. Cue the exhibition: ‘Bloemen’ (Dutch for ‘flower’).
Bloemen, open – 15th September 2018,
Gallery RNat5A, London
Rob and Nick are a married duo, known for using creative photography and film to reinvent age-old imagery. Their pioneering work is collected by everyone from the Beckhams; Sir Elton John; the Groucho Club; the V&A and the Royal Academy of Arts at the latest summer exhibition curated by Grayson Perry.
Bloemen features a collection of works by the artists, inspired by the Dutch flower paintings of the Golden Age, created over the last six years.
At the exhibition is an amazing piece in their Transformative Series, ‘Transforming Five Tulips in a Wan-Li Vase’, 2017.
It’s named after the 17th Century still life by Ambrosius Bosschaert the Elder (1573-1621).
The recreated bouquet was filmed for ten days and the footage sped up during spells of inactivity. The significant movements and dance of the decaying plants remain unchanged, in real time. The whole film is played on a 32 minute loop.
The film is andante. You can’t simply stand and stare. You have to walk away and then revisit the artwork to notice its delicate changes.
The film lingers in your mind, whilst it’s out of sight. I’m reminded of The Picture of Dorian Gray and the role the ageing portrait plays in the novel’s Faustian plot.
I’ve never thought so much about how a piece of art would fit within a home. The idea that at each time of day that you pass the still life it would be at a different life stage, I find really romantic. The film loop would create a soothing and cyclic life presence to a home.
In the artists’ own words:
It is part of what is known as ‘time-based media work’ – we employ the most cutting edge technology to actually slow the viewer down and allow them to reconsider the meaning and importance of the original paintings…
We realised that nowadays we are so surrounded by imagery that the risk of being bombarded and distracted is very real. What if instead we could use the digital age to look back at the Old Masters in a concentrated way that was rewarded by a sustained engagement. In that way we started to work on the idea of ‘Transforming’ – interpretation and presentation of a new contemporary way to look at something that is part of our history.
Taken from an Interview with Hunger TV
Another insanely wonderful set of artworks is Rob and Nick’s Icelandic Poppies series.
The sharp, yet floaty and delicate, photographs are created with a purist photography method, using a custom built Camera Obscura.
This ancient optical method is camera-less, photography in its purest form. A subject, lens and a piece of photographic paper. There is no negative. A single flash of light at 1/250th of a second illuminates the poppy, which is focused through a lens onto the light sensitive Cibachrome paper. The results act as a direct and almost physical rendition of the poppies. With a depth of field of 3-4mm these works have the sharpness of ultra large format photography as well as the feeling of a lose painting where the edge of the flowers blur into the background.
Like the Dutch Masters’ Still Life Flower Paintings the Icelandic Poppies series these works have a luminosity and precision only made possible through this unique process.
More about the Artists
In one of the most beautiful streets of London, Bathurst Street, next to Hyde Park Stables, Rob and Nick have a totally new way of exhibiting their work. Their gallery is a permanent exhibition space, solely for their work.
I’m particularly interested in colour philosophy from my time at University and I really admire their past work on colour, pigment and light waves. They also have a huge stash of amazing different publications on Chinese Whispers, Transforming Still Life Paintings and Yoga Photograms.