Imagine rows of blooming flowers and central London is unlikely to be the first place that springs to mind, but floral artist Rebecca Louise Law had other ideas for the city last week. Rebecca brought a five-day spectacle from 16-21 March to St Christopher’s Place, suspending 1,200 fresh flowers above the popular shopping and dining spot, located just off Oxford Street.
Flowers are known to represent life passing, love blossoming, and more aptly in this case, spring starting. An artist renowned for using nature as the medium of her works, Rebecca has been working with flowers for over 15 years, after experimenting with flowers during her BA Hons Fine Art studies at Newcastle University, where she graduated from in 2004. Having grown up in the Cambridgeshire countryside, and spending numerous family holidays in the remote British countryside, experiencing nature was a fundamental part of Rebecca’s childhood. Furthermore, her father’s vocation as Head Gardener of a National Trust property played a role in inspiring her work; nature was almost destined to become her sole inspiration. Rebecca’s work tries to recreate the immersion in nature experienced in the countryside, using it as a buffer from the daily city grind.
The ephemeral quality of flowers provide challenges for Rebecca that 2D oil painting couldn’t, and the transition from vibrant, fresh smelling blooms to skeletal twigs is something Rebecca hopes to capture. She embraces the process of change, and is keen to preserve nature - it is important to her that the flowers used in her works are not wasted.
I spoke to Rebecca ahead of her next show ‘The City Garden’, a site-specific installation of fresh flowers inspired by gardens within the City of London.
You live in East London and work on the renowned Columbia Road, but you spent your childhood in Cambridgeshire…is it important to you to get out of the city every once in a while to feel re-inspired by nature?
I love being in the countryside, sometimes the city can be oppressive. I'm probably in the Cambridge countryside once a month. I'm lucky enough to travel a lot so recently I've had huge inspiration just looking out of aeroplane windows. It's amazing looking down at the contours of earth.
There’s something quite intriguing about seeing flowers hang from above rather than shoot up from the ground…how much is your work about changing peoples perspective, and even encouraging people to ‘look up’ and see the all too often unseen?
I think the intention is always to surround the viewer with nature and challenge the way we look at nature. I like changing perspectives, but often with installation art the ceiling is your canvas. I work with what I am given - I always try to make the most out of the space.
Do you continue to search for new arrangements and compositions or would you say your style is quite set?
Every installation is new. Either in technique or material. Flowers are so expensive I try to experiment with every piece. I recently created a permanent installation in Australia with over 150,000 flowers. It's one of the first times I have felt pure freedom in painting with flowers. The more patrons understand the preservation of flowers as a permanent material the more I have been able to push the boundaries with what I can achieve, I am really excited to see what the future will bring.
Each flower is individually sewn with copper wire, how many assistants tend to work with you on each install?
The team can vary between 5-50 and from 1 day to 1 month.
Do you find that the collaborative approach adds something to the work?
Yes, I love learning about people and new cultures. It's boring to dictate! My best work often comes from thinking about who the work is for.
You have worked in Switzerland, NYC, Japan, Greece, Newcastle and numerous venues across London, including of course The RHS Chelsea Flower Show, creating everything from window displays to open air installations. Which work(s) have you enjoyed the most, and why?
All have been amazing in their own way. Each place trusted me to try something new. New York was fast, I still can't believe how much we achieved over a weekend and Greece was special, it was such a joy getting to know the cultures. I find that each culture is so generous in letting you into their world, being patient with you and educating you to their ways. I've just finished my Australian debut, my largest piece yet and loved every second of it. You walk away from each artwork leaving a piece of you behind, and taking with you friends for life.
The history is so sacred and rich where I live and its an honour to be given an opportunity to celebrate the green spaces within our metropolis
This piece is close to my heart. It’s a reflection of all the small gardens within the City of London. The exhibition runs alongside a map and walks. The history is so sacred and rich where I live and its an honour to be given an opportunity to celebrate the green spaces within our metropolis. I hope that the art piece will inspire tourists and Londoners to explore the many beautiful gardens within the city.
How do you see your work progressing over the next few years?
Hopefully many more long term pieces. My longest term public piece is 7 years old. I want to see my work out-live me!
The City Garden - The City Centre, 80 Basinghall Street, London EC2V 5AR
26th April - 25th September 2016
‘The City Garden’ not just an exhibition in a gallery, a map of the gardens that inspired Rebecca’s installation is available in an app that leads visitors through the City’s open spaces detailing the history, horticulture and design of the gardens waiting to be discovered.