Above Sarracenia, from Green on White (©Fleur Olby/Courtesy of the photographer).
‘What strikes human eyes determines not only the knowledge of the relations between various objects, but also a given decisive and inexplicable state of mind. Thus the sight of a flower reveals, it is true, the presence of this well-defined part of a plant, but it is impossible to stop at this superficial observation; in fact the sight of this flower provokes in the mind much more significant reactions, because the flower expresses an obscure vegetal resolution.’ Georges Bataille: The Language of Flowers
The transformation of architect Sir Giles Gilbert Scott’s Bankside Power Station on the banks of London’s River Thames, into one of the worlds great modern art galleries in the form of Tate Modern appears as an almost natural evolution. However the same can not be said of another of Scott’s designs; possibly his most iconic creation and certainly one of his smallest designs; the scarlet red K6 telephone box, that has become a symbol of the United Kingdom, so familiar the world over.
However the Gallery on the Green in Settle, North Yorkshire is precisely that, a vibrant red beacon of art, that is described as the ‘smallest public art gallery in the world,’ and open 24/7 and ‘filled to capacity at least twice a day!’ Where once the illuminated panel in the telephone box that sits below the Royal crest drew those who needed to contact friends and family or call for help in a world before the advent of the mobile telephone, it is now the word ‘gallery,’ that is illuminated and attracts visitors to the art displayed inside.
It is within the confines of this unanticipated space that photographer Fleur Olby presents Green on White, an installation that combines the vibrancy of her elegant photographic forms with the very essence of the flowers that she portrays in her exquisite and jewel like photographs. ‘I wanted to make a small installation which is a way I am interested in working,’ says Olby.
As the title suggests, Olby isolates her chosen subjects on a white background, heightening their sculptural and abstract qualities in her compositions. In one of these photographs, Fritillaria imperialis, six vibrant yellow petals form a cauldron of life, from the very heart of which a lemon yellow stamen rises, from pools of rich greens hues that radiate outwards, each cradling a pearl like form of innocence; in contrast, we see Olby reveal the complex architectural like structure and beauty of a leaf in Fern II, its feather like form arching across the plane of virgin white like a feather caught in the breeze; and in Barred horsetail, the prehistoric plant reveals itself like strands of DNA.
The beauty of these natural forms, that Olby captures so eloquently in her work, is heightened within the unique gallery space, as she plays with the very essence of their being. On the floor of the gallery — this one metre square — Olby has planted white hyacinths in a cushion of moss; the heavenly fragrance of which fills the senses as you open the door, capturing the visitor and transporting them into their own personal wonderland.
Green on White is at Gallery on the Green, Settle, North Yorkshire, until 18 May 2013.