Exploring a key material in my practice – Artificial Flowers

by Chantal

Siren, 2010. Chantal Powell

I have used artificial flowers in three key pieces to date and they form the significant part of the sculpture I am currently working on.

I thought I would take this point in time to share some of my thoughts on why I am drawn to the use of this material and give an insight into something of the personal connections I am conveying when I incorporate them in a work.

When using these flowers I feel they inhabit a place that is somewhere between wonder and disappointment, and this creates an interesting point of tension.

They are almost magnificent, almost beautiful, but they are also a lie. It taps into the part of me that wants to believe in the magic but cant help but glimpse the wizard behind the curtain. Its the feeling of Disneyland or the fake snow lining Santa’s grotto in a shopping mall.

My Beautiful, Childish Dreams, 2011. Chantal Powell

I’m particularly taken back to a feeling of when I was very young visiting Blackpool illuminations. I remember the sense of magic, wonder and excitement as I was carried through on my dad’s shoulders in the dark, cold night.  However that feeling is also tinged with a sickly sweet memory of guilt at making him angry with my childish tears over candy floss. Reality entered what should have been an “untouchable magic”.

Another recalled association is a trip to Lourdes when I was a little older. Stalls selling plastic statues, mini grottos that would light up and play music and decorated bottles of holy water. I thought  it was beautifully odd and was captivated by the strange mixture of religion, magic, faith and commercialism.

I think perhaps this feeling evoked by the flowers for me represents in part that particular time in life when innocence is passing. A desperate longing for a continuation of magic and romance is conflicted as the child enters a time of knowledge. Perhaps in the same way that Adam and Eve eating from the tree of knowledge and suddenly realising they were naked.

I wonder whether these pieces I make with unreal flowers are celebrations of a child like joy or monuments to something dead. They could be read as festivals covered in flowers – a float passing through the village with people in costume, or as funeral wreaths. Maybe they are both.

Relic #21 After Piers Wardle, 2011. Chantal Powell