Lana Lopesi – 26 June, 2014
A flower may seem like a banal object, especially for those of us who don't desire to master a floral craft or prime a beautiful garden. However there is an undeniable human relationship to flowers that merits consideration. Through weddings, funerals, celebratory bouquets and giving or receiving, we all understand flowers on our own terms. Once in Fresh, culture, personal history and aesthetic sensibilities mediate our unique relationship with the floral occupants.
The Suburban Floral Association with Janet Lilo
The Floral Show Local Exotic
Curated by Ariane Craig-Smith
6 June - 16 July 2014
The cyclic nature of flora mirrors the energetic temperament of The Floral Show Local Exotic at Fresh Gallery. The flower arrangements and moving image work of The Suburban Floral Association with the videos of Janet Lilo combine to explore the inner city floral experience. With community collaboration and extensive public programming this is a generous project that boasts ambitious community engagement.
The privilege of collaboration is a fluid framework, with the relationships within taking many forms to meet different ends. The audience plays the central role in this relational project with their participation resembling labour, so the success of the artwork belongs to the surrounding community. The masterly morphing of artist, curator, and community as equal collaborators has culminated in a thoughtful and curious sharing of floral knowledge.
A flower may seem like a banal object, especially for those of us who don’t desire to master a floral craft or prime a beautiful garden. However there is an undeniable human relationship to flowers that merits consideration. Through weddings, funerals, celebratory bouquets and giving or receiving, we all understand flowers on our own terms. Once in Fresh, culture, personal history and aesthetic sensibilities mediate our unique relationship with the floral occupants.
Forced to re-assess my relationship to the culture of floral arrangement, I realised I was better off than most. For 6 years I reigned at Glen Eden Primary Schools’ ‘Flower Day’. Every year my lei won 1st prize. If I didn’t win, my sister would. In retrospect, these events seem like a slightly unusual fixture in our curriculum, occurring every spring with a routine rhythm. While personally I was not a floristry expert, my Grandma was. She loved any opportunity to show her Kiwi grandchildren the craftsmanship of ula lei (1). I would inform her of the upcoming competition and the night before she would pick the flora and fauna and get to work. On the way to school we would pick it up from her fridge, knowing we had a winner.
Walking through Fresh‘s glass doors, you are welcomed by a towering installation of orchids sourced from Shipherd Nurseries in Pukekohe. Tidily positioned (but clearly used) mattresses are found throughout the gallery space forming coincidental sculptural forms. These objects provide welcome interludes to the surrounding botanical scenes, coming in standard and half sizes. On the desk, visitors are offered a selection of risograph posters, free to a good home - with a table off to the side with floral related colouring for kids.
Tucked around the corner is ‘Buchanan’, an exuberant florist from Country Floral in Papakura, who is introduced to us in a video by Janet Lilo. The work (on a plasma screen) is a testament to Lilo’s ability to enter communities with genuine interest and portray them in a very open and honest way - a rarity. Through it, we learn a lot about Buchanan’s craft. At times he is very serious, other times excitable, but most evidently he has a passion for what he does. His enthusiasm resonates at its core.
The show as a whole builds upon this sense of enthusiasm conveying genuine desire to celebrate discourse around various floral crafts. Seeking more than token engagement, The Floral Show possesses an affinity with its community. Otara based group The Cook Island 15 Stars are truly commanding. The Mamas’ weekly display of tivaevae quilts and cushion covers as well as fresh flower garlands offers new vitality to a space already bustling with energy. Continuing to make their art, they take real charge of their invitation to participate.
The width of the public programming stretches to flower arranging, family portraits, discussions and botanical drawing. The plethora of exchanges offered to visitors at Fresh resembles the ever-changing nature of a suburban garden. The Suburban Floral Association, Janet Lilo and Ariane Craig-Smith have repositioned and extended this garden within Otara Town Centre.
By providing the means to increase their floral related knowledge, the histories and context visitors carry into the space are nurtured and valued. Through various extended invitations, a sense of enthusiasm prevails, resulting in a compelling display. This latest project exemplifies that with an open mind, generous inclusivity, and thoughtful hands, a community can be engaged and flourish within the context of a gallery.
(1) Fresh flower lei in Samoan
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