Constance Spry (1886-1960) did more than anyone else to popularise and democratize flower arranging in post war Britain. Spry taught that for little expense, even the humblest rooms could be transformed by arranging wild and garden flowers inspired by her own gracious and often eccentric designs. Published in 1952, How to do the flowers was Sprys sixth book and encouraged the reader to abandon any rules of Floral Design and instead experiment with a branchlet of fruit, a red seed head, a brightly coloured kale leaf, some hawthorn berries or grasses.
The artists in this exhibition are similarly unhindered by the restrictive associations previously levelled at the genre of flower painting. Finding instead that the representation of cut flowers can potently address not simply beauty and decay, but also memory and loss, nature and synthesis, rhythm and form, et cetera. In Jacqui Hallums observational drawing The Flowers, positive and negative are woven into a continuous mesh, although an abstract painter, drawing from flowers is a constant and foundational preoccupation. Conversely, the organic contours that form Sawako Andos wisteria flower heads in Rokugatsu no Fuji (Wisteria in June) are generated through the application of pressure on the liquid ink in the print process. Annabelle Dalbys Memorials series scrutinizes plastic flowers plucked from tribute bouquets, exposing their bathetic challenge to the passage of time. In contrast, Becky Beasleys Peonies Bloom in May is a modest ritual in praise of Springtime, extending this volatile season by buying and photographing, each year, the very last available blooms.