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Piet Oudolf, dead flowers and metaphors

Updated: Mar 20

I gather inspiration in the work of garden designer Piet Oudolf. His expertise is in crafting gardens that defy convention and he perceives plants as powerful metaphors, viewing them as tools for self-expression and his gardens as living canvases. His approach involves creating lush textures as though he were a painter.

Oudolf seeks to create beauty in the unexpected, and the results are not just gardens which are alive, they also embrace aspects of death, decay, and even ugliness. He deliberately plans for both the life and eventual death of plants, recognising the hidden beauty within the latter.

Oudolf acknowledges the challenge of appreciating dead plants - a sentiment I share. I'm drawn to the inspiration they offer as metaphors, and I explore this in my sketches and enjoy playing with the abstraction of decaying floral and landscape elements.

This approach also extends to my joy in photographing flowers as they transition through their drying stages. The evolving tones, textures, and colours become more nuanced, providing an enhanced visual experience. While I acknowledge the difficulty of avoiding clichés in flower photography, I'm always seeking alternative values to appreciate, such as the crumbling dusty textures resulting from the eventual decay of flowers—transforming into dust returning to the earth.

In the words of Piet Oudolf, "It's the journey of your life to find out what real beauty is, and also to discover beauty in things that are not at first sight beautiful." This philosophy resonates with my artistic exploration, encouraging a quest for genuine beauty and pushing me to uncover it in seemingly unconventional places.

Image: Dried flowers 2020


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