Neri Oxman, an unconventional architect
In-between surrealism and freakebana, here is what happened to the flower bouquet
We are in the midst of a floral revolution based on unexpected ingredients such as watermelons, cannabis leaves and freak reinterpretations of the Ikebana technique
A shot from the series "Seeking Arrangement" by Anja Charbonneau and Amy Merrick for Broccoli Magazine. Photo © Anja Charbonneau
The creation of a flower bouquet consists, essentially, in the quest of the perfect harmony between the natural element - plants and flowers - and the artificial one - the act of cutting, together with the sense of aesthetic of its author.
Throughout history and depending on the geographical and cultural context of reference, however, this relationship has undergone many transformations, both technical and formal, which have gradually redefined the standards of beauty of bouquets.
Lately, the world of flower arrangements is in particular turmoil. Thanks to the growing creative contamination, facilitated above all by the diffusion through the internet, in the past years we are witnessing a real aesthetic revolution.
Through the rediscovery of ancient practices and the exploration of the wildest side of nature, many botanical designers are rewriting the canons of the classic bouquet.
Among surrealist arrangements that do not dislike unexpected ingredients such as watermelons, the arrival on the floral scene of cannabis leaves and freak reinterpretations of the Ikebana technique, here is a small overview that helps us better understand the current trends in terms of flower bouquets.
A project, in-between collage and flower composition, by Sophie Parker. Photo courtesy WIFE
The conception of sculptural flower compositions defined by the strong visual impact - with a predilection for fictitious plants and shapes - seems to be at the centre of the research of many flower designers from overseas, especially in the New York sphere.
The creations of pleated palm leaves and anthurium glossy flowers by Marisa Competello, Brittany Asch and Sophie Parker undoubtedly represent the best-known face of this trend.
The need to explore "unexpected realms, blurring the boundaries between organic and synthetic", for example, is what drives Parker to experiment with unexpected cuts and surprising splashes of paint. A way to hack her artistic medium - the plants - in search of a new dimension, hovering between natural and artificial.
Two projects by Sophie Parker. Left: Ethereal Greens; Right: “Hello, may I have your room number”. Photo courtesy WIFE
The Mexican Manu Torres (known as @uunnaamm on Instagram), who embraces this philosophy, albeit in a much less minimalist way, underlines: “when incorporating non-floral material, I’m only trying to enhance the beauty of the more natural elements, to imitate and exaggerate their beauty in a hyperreal way as a tribute to nature.”
By combining gaudy protea with ethereal elements like feathers and bright pon pons, Torres's exotic floral cocktails express the fullness of the Baroque style with a modern touch.
Flower bouquets by Manu Torres. Photos courtesy Manu Torres
If, on the one hand, the richness of the Baroque style seduces almost all flower designers, on the other hand, there are many professionals who try to apply the less is more approach to their work.
“I always loved the look of overgrown massive bouquets and arrangements, and still do”, confesses Californian Linnea Meyer, who, in her bouquet projects, is daily influenced by her background in marine science.
Looking at floral art from an almost geological perspective, Meyer explains to see bouquets “as storied sculpture, as pieces that have lives and shapes related to more than their immediate surroundings”.
In search of a general simplification of her compositions, Meyer is trying “either to use fewer varieties of flowers or actually pairing down the volume. I think this shift has been out of a growing feeling that every day is so complex and busy, it just relieves anxiety to have clean, minimal design. It does for me”.
Flower compositions by Linnaea Meyer. Photo courtesy Loihi
Perhaps this desire for simplicity and calmness - as an antidote to the stressful everyday life - also explains the recent rediscovery of the Japanese technique of Ikebana and its aesthetics based on asymmetry and on the strength of clear lines and shapes.
Modern and sometimes minimalist, in recent years, thanks to the work of artists such as Yuki Tsuji and the study of masters such as Sōfu Teshigahara - founder of the Sogetsu School - the technique has regained extraordinary interest.
Inspired by the approach of Teshigahara, American floral designer Amy Merrick and photographer Anja Charbonneau have developed the series "Seeking Arrangement" for the much awaited first issue of Broccoli Magazine - the magazine dedicated to the culture of cannabis and women launched at the end of 2017.
With harmonious combinations of zinnias, daisies and “organic hemp leaves, coming from a legal cannabis farm in Oregon", the series aims at“reframing the pot leaf, highlighting its elegance and beauty in silent juxtaposition to the stereotypical depictions of the plant as a stoner or hippie emblem”, explains Charbonneau.
With its desire to build a “a new visual language that defines modern cannabis culture”, the project can be seen as a synthesis of the fascination of contemporary flower designers for a provocative and sophisticated elegance.
Seeking Arrangement, the floral and photographic project by Amy Merrick and Anja Charbonneau for Broccoli Magazine. Photo courtesy Anja Charbonneau
A defiant approach also adopted by the Freakebana movement - a sort of futurist son of the Ikebana - that proposes the celebration of the artificiality and falsity of floral compositions. Born within the world of flowers, Freakebana is now also contaminating the fields of fashion and design with its imagination, playfulness and, at times, its unrefined appearance.
Activist, provocateur, dreamer and deeply rooted both in the virtual and the real worlds - thanks in particular to the Slow Flower movement - the modern bouquet is plural and heterogeneous, the expression of a new, imperfect and memorable beauty.
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