The romance of flowers
Victoria Adam, Aaron Angell, Holly Graham, May Hands, Sean Roy Parker
17 November – 16 December 2018
PV Friday 16 November 6 – 9pm
On his walk to the studio each morning, Sofu Teshigahara would pick up bits of metal from a nearby scrapyard to use in his ikebana arrangements. Often, not a single piece of fresh material would find its way into an arrangement.
Sofu encouraged his students to create ikebana at any time, in any place and with any material. He believed ikebana must appear as if it is a product of the environment in which it is displayed 1. It is about capturing a feeling, whether that be the personality of the arranger, the season or an atmosphere.
The term ikebana derives from two words; ike and hana. Hana means flower, but can also be used to refer to a plant or part of a plant. Ike is derived from three verbs; ikeru – to place or arrange plants, ikiru – to live, to be alive, to arrive at one’s true essence, and ikasu – to put in the best light, or to make life clearer 2.
In Cosmina’s flat, the plastic flowers were all around: on the corridor walls, on tables or on the margins of beds from the sleeping rooms, in the kitchen…3
Cosmina didn’t bring much with her from Romania. The plastic flowers that decorate her home are all new acquisitions.
Cosmina, and other Romanian migrants living in Spain, fear new laws may be introduced, requiring them to leave immediately. They live in anticipation of returning home “when there will be no way to stay here” 4. Cosmina has decided that when this happens, she will take the newly bought flowers with her. And so, she is furnishing and investing in two homes – her present one in Spain – and the imaginary ever present one in Romania.
The artificial flowers she has accumulated are robust and can be easily packed away. They are both a practical solution to Cosmina’s desire to create a homely environment, and simultaneously a symbol of her split sense of place.
The romance of flowers brings together five artists who use flowers in curious ways. They appear in their natural, fresh form; pestled and dried; as emblems; as synthetic scents; and cut and sliced from archive imagery.
Victoria Adam uses materials that relate to intimacy, proximity and the body. Rummaging through bathroom cabinets, inspecting the array of deodorants in her local supermarket, one finds a sweaty
kind of romance, like a slightly off-smelling bunch of flowers from a lover.
Aaron Angell continually reuses the emblem of the flower. Its once softly sculpted edges become hardened, burnt and fixed when fired in the kiln – their growth stunted and decay denied.
Holly Graham crops and enlarges images found in the archive of Harry Jacobs – a photographer active in Stockwell in the 1950s. Graham hones in on the exuberant fake flower display ever-present in Jacobs’ portraits. Many of the photographs Jacobs’ took were of people who had recently arrived from the West Indies. Sitters would often send their photographs to family members to show them how they were doing in their new home.
May Hands rarely buys new materials to work with. Instead they are found or donated. Locations that become a rich source of material – like a bin near Oxford Street where offcuts of branded ribbon are thrown – are often visited several times. These synthetic materials are woven together with others which Hands has augmented herself, such as cloth dyed with rose petals. What emerges are collages that capture everyday allure, fantasy and transience.
Sean Roy Parker collects flowers and other debris from the roadside and wasteland areas. They’re bagged up or pocketed, before being pressed and sometimes scanned, to become a record of time, a walk or an idea.
Alongside works by these five artists, the exhibition will also display a series of flower veining moulds loaned from one of London’s last artificial flower makers, W. F Johnson’s which closed down in the late 1990s. The veining moulds were used to press pre-cut fabric petals or leaves with the detailed contours of the plant and make them look more naturalistic. Thank you to Thomas and Elaine Bloor for loaning us the moulds to display in this exhibition.
1. Castelijn, D., 2016, The 50 Rules of Sogetsu Ikebana by Sofu Teshigahara, viewed 23 Oct 2018, <ikebana/>
2. Komoda, S., 1980, Ikebana, Spirit & Technique, Blandford Press Ltd., Dorset
3 & 4. Racles, A., 2017, ‘Social aesthetics and plastic flowers in home-making processes’, Revista Confluências Culturais, v. 6, n. 2, p9-27
Victoria Adam graduated from the Royal Academy of Art in 2015 and previously attended the Slade. Recent solo exhibitions include: orchardwhitelightning* at LUNGLEY, London (2018), a healthy soil, Hunter/Whitfield, London (2017), the common toad, Temporary Gallery, Cologne (2017), Chaperones, Milieu Gallery, Bern (2016), and ☽Φ, Zabludowicz Collection Invites, London (2016). Selected group shows include: Echoes of the Ornamental Garden, Seventeen Gallery, London (2018), Becoming Plant, Tenderpixel, London (2018), Lived In, Galleri Opdahl, Stavanger (2017); and Bloomberg New Contemporaries, Bluecoat, Liverpool / ICA, London (2016).
Aaron Angell born 1987. Recent solo exhibitions include: GOMA, Glasgow (2017), Heat-Haze Theatre, Kunstverein Freiburg, Germany (2018), and Why I built the Cloaca Maxima, Rob Tufnell, London (2017). Selected group exhibitions include: That continuous thing - Artists and the ceramic studio 1920-Today (also co-curator), Tate Saint Ives (2017), and British Art Show 8, Leeds Art Gallery (2015). Angell is represented by Rob Tufnell, London and is the founder and director of Troy Town Art Pottery.
Holly Graham graduated from an MA in Printmaking at the Royal College of Art in 2014, and previously completed a BFA at The Ruskin School of Art in 2012. Recent solo exhibitions include: Carefully Cleansed of Labour and Softened by Cooking, Compressor, London (2018), Leaning Against or Holding, Skelf, Online (2018), Sweet Swollen, Jerwood Visual Arts: Project Space, London (2018), and After Harry Jacobs: Outside, Cypher Billboard, London (2017). Group shows include: Common Third, Copperfield, London (2018), House Work, 53 Beck Road, London (2017), and Altai in Residence; Experiments in Collective Practice, Dyson Gallery: Royal College of Art, London (2017). In 2014, she received the Thames Barrier Print Studio Graduate Award and the Augustus Martin Award for Innovation in Print.
May Hands graduated with a BA in Fine Art: Painting from Camberwell College of Art in 2013 and is currently studying for a MFA in Fine Art at Goldsmiths, University of London. Recent solo exhibitions include: May Hands: Artist-in-Residence, Bosse & Baum, London (2018), I’ve Loved You For a Long Time, Supplement, London (2018), Horizons, Coachwerks Gallery, Brighton (2017), and Freschissimi, T293, Rome (2015). Selected group shows include: SURPLUS (w Sean Roy Parker), Peak Art, London (2018), Counter Quality, 650mAh, Brighton (2018), On Cold Spring Lane, Assembly Point, London (2017) and Sell Yourself, East Street Arts, Leeds (2017).
Sean Roy Parker graduated from London College of Communication in 2011 and School of the Damned class of 2018. Recent exhibitions include: Every Thing, Assembly Point, London; Vision & Signs, Sluice, London; Permission Slip (w Hugh Frost), Good Press, Glasgow; and SURPLUS (w May Hands), Peak Art, London (all 2018). He is the founder of PEFA Projects, running eco-activist workshops across London and the South-East, including Systems for Sharing and aster, bedstraw, colt’s-foot at Cell Project Space, London in 2017. Parker is co-director at Clinic Publishing, a independent poetry press, lead artist on Camden Arts Centre’s Get The Message programme for SEN schools and he manages Brixton Pound Café, London’s only radical pay-what-you-can community café.