2004 was the year things really started for Thinking Flowers?. Through working with flowers the opportunity arose to pitch a floral design concept for the inauguration celebrations of University of the Arts London, formerly known as the London Institute. There were quite a few celebration dinners at this time, one was a traditional affair for the inauguration ceremony at the Banqueting House at Horse Guards Parade. In attendance were several UAL alumnae such as Stella McCartney, Alexander McQueen and Vivienne Westwood. This was particularly meaningful for me as a UAL alum myself! The success of the dinner led to a string of private commissions for underground fashion parties and exposure to elements of the surreal, the bizarre and the extraordinary. My mind was opened to the opportunity flowers could bring to create and connect different realities. Designing with flowers for the inauguration ceremony was mind-blowing in some ways because I’d never had to respond to another art form – in this case, I was asked to incorporate the aesthetic of the hall’s Reuben ceiling. On the contrary, designing as a response to industrial and urban environments felt like second nature when coming up with the concept for the inauguration dinner at the Turbine Hall of the Tate Modern.
Image courtesy of Tate Modern website,
The installation in the hall at the time was Louise Bourgeois’ Maman. An overwhelming series of giant spider sculptures with full egg sacs that explored the kindness, cruelty and fragility of motherhood. I didn’t realise the enormity Bourgeois’ work would have as an influence on my life as an artist. Her interpretations of gender in her sculptures still resonate with me today.
Table piece, Tate Modern, 2004
I chose to use green anthuriums because they were pretty absurd to have as a buttonhole. The use of the pink roses at the bottom of the topiary tree almost seem as though they could be normal table arrangements.
The overt references to the male and female were confrontational and would encourage people to think and talk about flowers in a different way – and hopefully encourage people to talk about both the art and the flowers at the dinner. Covering the phallic stamen with a pink ribbon was really a subtle joke about our cultural shyness around the body. I wanted the wires to be shown because they spoke to the mechanics of the industrial space at the Turbine Hall as well as referencing the spiral of Louise Bourgeois’ towers from her work entitled “I do, I undo and I redo”, Tate Modern, 2000
Image courtesy of Tate Modern website, 2000
Similarly, the designs for the table arrangements were about poking fun at the topiary tree and giving it more of a space-age feel, in line with the large industrial feel of the hall. I took inspiration from a self-directed table setting I had created some time before.
UFO, Self-directed creation, 2004
Next post coming soon!