ART IN BLOOM
If Chelsea tells us anything, it is that our love of floral artistry has, to coin a horticultural term, remained perennially popular. The vibrancy and versatility of the botanical world has inspired generation after generation, a fact most keenly recognised in the art world. Think of the Old Masters and there are very few that failed to capture the perfection of a petal with a keenly-turned brush stroke. Fast forward to the present day and flowers continue to influence artists. Alexander James is a case in point. A Londoner born and bred, James has held a long-standing fascination with the idea of vanitas, a theme in still-life painting that explores the transient nature of human life. In Intersection, his solo exhibition being held at The Studio Building in Notting Hill from April 25 to May 23, James is showing a series of photographs depicting the ephemeral sculptural installations he constructs at his studio. Using black tanks filled with highly purified water, James creates still-life scenes of flowers and butterflies and photographs them underwater. The resulting images, which form the basis of this latest exhibition, are free from post-production and digital editing, making them something of a modern-day marvel. At the Garden Museum, a fascinating exhibition telling the story of the cut flower trade also chooses to examine the beauty and mortality of cut flowers and the role they play in the rites of passage in life and death. Examples used include the 1961 marriage of the Duke and Duchess of Kent and royal florist Shane Connolly’s creations for the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in 2011, both of which demonstrate changing tastes and the symbolism with which flowers are imbued. Floriculture: Flowers, Love and Money runs until April 28.
Florals in fashion might seem an obvious choice at this time of year, but for spring/ summer 2013 designers took the motif and ran with it. There were literal interpretations that took a more romantic, ethereal approach to the subject matter – Thakoon Panichgul’s gorgeous strapless cocktail dress printed with birds and butterflies fluttering through branches heavy with pink blossom behind the bars of a golden cage, just one of the more whimsical creations. And then there were the more abstract approaches, with Erdem channelling visitors from another realm and wondering how they would fit in on planet Earth. His floral explosions embroidered onto lace and chiffon, at times psychedelic in their colour combinations, gave the collection a clever, otherworldly feel. Other posy prints packing a sartorial punch were at Chanel, where Karl Lagerfeld broke away from the classic signatures of the house – the buttons and chains – to explore a freed-up aesthetic. Silhouettes were often voluminous but were also airy, and the white dresses appliquéd with flowers that were sent down the runway towards the end of the show really did feel like a breath of fresh air.
With florals dominating Chanel’s couture and ready-to-wear collections, perhaps it comes as little surprise to hear that the floral motif is being celebrated by Chanel’s Fine Jewellery and Watches arm this year too. But this isn’t just any old motif. The camellia has become emblematic of the house, its form and shape so tightly woven into Chanel’s iconic designs that one gets the sense that the brand just wouldn’t be the same without it. Favoured by Mademoiselle Chanel for its simplicity and the almost geometric evenness of the flower’s petals, legend has it that this was the first flower given to her by the love of her life, Arthur ‘Boy’ Capel. Its seductive power has not been lost on Chanel’s master jewellers, who have taken the iconic bloom and reinterpreted it in the latest collection of high jewellery. Jardin de Camélias moves through combinations of classic black and white to a more colourful patchwork of yellows, pinks and blues, taking in diamonds, sapphires, garnets, Ethiopian opals, spinels, onyx and pearls along the way. The Broderie de Camélia earrings, set in 18-carat white gold with 138 brilliant-cut diamonds,144 fancy-cut multicoloured sapphires and 58 fancy-cut black spinels, is a beautiful example of the craftsmanship.
Wempe meanwhile has captured the power of petals and used this motif across a number of pieces in its latest collection. Six natural coloured diamonds set in platinum, with an accompanying fringe of 220 white diamonds, form a gorgeous flower ring that is made all the more beautiful by allowing the natural colours to shine through. For something completely different, Wempe has also crafted a thread of 120 brilliant-cut diamonds, 108 brown brilliant-cut diamonds and 204 black diamonds into a stunning daisy-like floral cuff. Prices for both pieces are available on application.
At Van Cleef & Arpels, a house with a long history of drawing inspiration from the natural world, its Palais de la Chance collection plays on the symbolism of flowers and their associations with luck. From the gorgeous interpretation of a four-leaf clover in the Trèfles clip to the fortuitous emerald-green sprig of lily- of-the-valley in the elegant Muguet clip, physiolatry never looked so good.
In beauty too, there is a freshness and modernity to the SS13 make-up palettes that can only have been inspired by Mother Nature. From soft, powdery pastels to bold bursts of super-charged pigment, the hues form a bouquet of colour. Truly nailing it is the peerless Bobbi Brown, whose new Lilac Rose Collection is perfect for women looking for a flattering take on pretty pastels. Combining an eight-shade eye palette, a Shimmer Brick, three choices of lip gloss, a new Sparkle Eye Shadow, a pop of pink blush and pale heather pink nail polish, this collection has been designed to make dusky pinks, heather greys and lily shades accessible to all skin tones. Playing with the idea of fulfilling hopes and dreams that start as buds before they blossom, shu uemura has also unveiled a floral-themed collection for spring 2013. Entitled Blossom Dream, this super- feminine wash of whimsy comprisesa five-colour Unmask Palette in two colourways – pastel greens and dreamy blues – Drawing Pencils and Rouge Unlimited supreme matte lipsticks and Gloss Unlimited Lip Gloss in a selection of complementary shades. As with most shu uemura collections, the Blossom Dream look can be enhanced further with two sets of rainbow-coloured false eyelashes. Blooming beautiful!