I’ve been interested in how representational forms are encoded with information. Symbolism is built from structured meta meanings that are deployed through representation. Historically, we have coded math, religion, love, joy, half-truths, and even truths into objects as part of our semantic legacy.
I became interested in the symbolism in 16th century Dutch flower painting because even though it seems like such ordinary subject matter it is loaded with wonderful depth. Looking at these images, one can unpack the emerging bourgeois merchant culture, the speculative markets of tulipmania, the sale of the exotic, the exacting craftsmanship in the pursuit of realism (with the help of optics), and the morose Protestantism underlying it all. These paintings construct a vision that allows us to see the roots of our modernity — early capitalism teaches us the lessons that reverberate in late capitalism.
Looking closely at the techniques of the Dutch flower painters, there are both the pragmatics of constructing beautiful images: color palette, shape, layouts, paining techniques, and also the symbolism of the time and its desires.
Built into each painting is the lost — from our remove, the referent is adrift yet still held in the emotional & figurative calculus of compositional choices. These commissions were oftentimes representative of their patron’s positions and wealth, their emotional relationship to their objects, their time, the paintings became documents and profiles. These portraits represent wealth & holdings in perpetual verisimilitude through bleak months when the flowers of the field had withered and lay dormant. The rarest tulip forever in bloom. Yet these important things to important people have lost their secret knowledge to time and record and that meaning is dulled and worn into scratches of history in a glacial plate movement of millennia.
Using Paul Taylor’s excellent book, “Dutch Flower Painting, 1600-1720” and various other classic symbology texts that unpacked these symbols and their structures, I repurposed them into a method for assembling in still lives with data. In this work our technology fortresses (Apple, Cisco, Intel, etc.) are represented as tulip bouquets. The monthly performance and seasonality arranged as tulips with key highlights as butterflies and bugs. Other flowers, the lily and iris, frame these bunches to describe relative measures. Colors are sequenced and sorted based on 16th century instructions for pleasing compositions.
The old and the new as the median.
“For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away:” — 1 Peter 1:24
To thing through things, that is the still life painter’s work—and the poet’s. Both sorts of artists require a tangible vocabulary, a worldly lexicon. A language of ideas is, in itself, a phantom language, lacking in the substance of world things, those containers of feeling and experience, memory and time. We are instructed by the objects that come to speak with us, those material presences. Why should we have been born knowing how to love the world? We require, again and again, these demonstrations. — Mark Doty, “Still Life with Oysters and Lemons”
Arrangements are constructed using the monthly growth of stock prices, colors from white, apple blossom, pink, red, purple & purple matrix matching years from 2009-2014.
These arrangements are for the 72 week period of growth.