I took an afternoon out to see the brilliant exhibition Life in Death at the Shirley Sherwood Gallery at Kew Gardens a few weeks ago. This installation was conceived and constructed by artist Rebecca Louise Law and includes plants and flowers dried and preserved over a six year period. She said that Kew’s Herbarium specimens, including Egyptian garlands made with dried flowers dating back to 700BC inspired her to make the work. This is Ms Law’s most most intricate large-scale artwork; its purpose is to look at our relationship with flowers and how they’re used, especially through rituals. The installation hangs in a space that I believe is almost a cube shape and there’s a very narrow winding path through the hundred of garlands form one corner of the room to its opposite. As ever, with me, I had as much of a desire to touch the dried blossoms as to photograph them. It’s a fantastic feeling to wander through the art, and wonder at the time an energy it took to create it. There’s beauty and a sort of melancholy as, obviously, all the flowers are dead. But in contrast to what my girls have often told me with regard to my floral photography, I never find flowers boring. In some settings, in some arrangements, certain species can be a tad trite. But for me that’s the rarity. And I take comfort in knowing that the flowers in the Life in Death installation won’t fade anytime soon. And the photos, of course, live on forever.
I carried on from the gallery to check out — what I could see — of the progress on the Temperate House from behind the hoarding that’s been in place for the past five years. From what I’ve heard, it’s going to be incredible, opening early May. This is probably my favourite structure in all of London, being the largest Victorian glass greenhouse in the world. Needless to say, I’ve become quite close to the sculptures adorning the facade of this magnificent greenhouse.
It’s a short walk from the Temperate House to the Japanese Gate, a Kew Gardens landmark I always visit when I’m in the south part of the Gardens. And you know what I found in the deep mid-winter? I found life in death.