The Impossible Garden
Aimée Ralfini chats with photographer Emma Bass about her latest exhibition up at Alberton House as part of The Auckland Festival of Photography.
Recorded live for Art Ache – 14.06.20
It’s always a delight to see the love affair between an artist and their medium, and it’s a thrill to catch it in infancy and watch it grow. Looking at Emma Bass’s latest series, in comparison to her previous, it’s impossible to ignore the sharp right turn the artist has taken from her visual arc.
Emma Bass is an established photographer with a global audience. Her 2016 work ‘Hydrangeas 8.50 am’ presented at the Royal Academy Summer Show is typical of her photographic style; decorative and seductive floral compositions in collectible vases. Anyone familiar with her work ought to brace themselves, as this new series sees her re-contemplating her approach on all levels.
The Impossible Garden blurs the boundaries between painting, photography and collage. Bouquets have been created by layering rather than arranging, making the works surface aware with an acutely tactile finish.
Gone is the central itemised vase sitting atop its ledge. In fact, at first glance, this latest series seems to completely dismiss her usual style, however upon closer inspection the same elements the artist has always worked with emerge.
Bass is passionate about the language of flowers, their beauty and ability to heal, in this series she presents vibrant and complex floral portraits entrenched with flora and symbology. The artist has revived the work of 17th century Dutch and Flemish artists such as Bosschaert, Van Aelst and Breughel, by using reproductions of their Still Life paintings as the canvas upon which she lays her pollen.
Bass extends the opulence of the original artworks like a magpie, by adding insects and objects of intrigue – ranging from jewellery to plastic children’s toys – which add a touch of humour.
These items are placed upon the printed art, photographed, then further invigorated with appropriated Matisse shapes painted in 24 carat gilded gold leaf, which pop and dance resplendent against the nostalgic fuzz of the printed paintings in a uniquely curious way.
“The gilded gold shapes are replicas of Matisse’s cut-outs – in respect to his artistic endurance – he made them whilst incapacitated. Knowing they were created from his sick-bed reiterates for me the healing power of beauty.
Adding them to the Dutch still life allows me to create a new synergy whilst also paying homage to both artists…
“With this series I am honouring the artists whose work has strongly resonated with me and played an informative role in my creative development.” – Emma Bass
The juxtaposition of the historic artworks with exotic garden life and shimmering gold creates a new work, brimming with life, yet conversely, as with all Still Life the visual energy has been created with a collection of dead (still) things. It is here where Bass’s homage is most potent, as she has bought these masters back to life, creating new pleasures, with buzz.