Archive: Inauguration celebration for the University of Arts London, 2004

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.

Maman 1999 by Louise Bourgeois 1911-2010

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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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UFO, Self-directed creation, 2004

Next post coming soon!

Thinking Flowers? is having a bit of a throwback!

After a while in our dusty photographic archive, the Thinking Flowers? blog is back and better than ever!

In the coming months, we are going to be delving into the past to find old commissions and projects to share in order to create a complete digital archive of our work. Prints [both framed and unframed] will be available on request.

Thinking Flowers? has always dedicated itself to providing meaningful, minimal and modern floral installations through ethical and sustainable practices. We have seen an increase of interest in these areas over the last 11 years and we hope to map the physical and social impact that our ethos and practices have had not only in the cut-flower industry but the intersections of social enterprise, visual arts, global business and community engagement.

It is with this in mind that we want to create this archive to share our experiences and findings in order to support future designers and artists.

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I want to go to Japan, [2004]

We always try to find beauty, life and wealth in discarded items and wherever possible to recycle and repurpose material. Through the gradual unfolding of the archive, we hope to demonstrate how and why modern, meaningful and minimal design principles have been applied and furthermore, how we have used floral installation to create site-specific opportunities for people to engage with our work and with each other.

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Waste is wealth! [2003]

It can be hard for us to see how and why this artwork, its process and its context is essential and groundbreaking when flowers are so commonplace in our everyday visual landscapes. Even such terms as ‘floral installation’, ‘upcycling’ or ‘green waste disposal’ have only become popularised in the last ten years or so. But we hope by sharing our images and information and our projects that we can map the construction of floral installation and how it has evolved over time.

Stay tuned for more posts!