British installation artist Rebecca Louise Law uses dried and fresh plant material to create site-specific installations that dazzle the senses. In Rebecca Louise Law: The Womb, new work by the artist will be presented in an immersive installation in the Balk Gallery. Law’s use of natural materials, mainly floral, encourage the viewer to experience the relationship between humanity and nature. Our Curator of Sculpture and Sculpture Exhibitions Jochen Wierich spoke with Rebecca about her process:
Jochen Wierich: In art school, at the University of Newcastle, you studied painting, but then you switched from painting on canvas to using flowers as a sculptural material. I am curious about your impulse to make the transition from one medium to another. What motivated you?
Rebecca Louise Law: During my time at University, I had the opportunity explore new mediums. My tutors were painters, sculptors and installation artists. I was settled in painting and printmaking but felt challenged by the possibilities of pushing the boundaries of my own practice. Our weekly ‘crits’ asked the question ‘why?’ and I began to research my own motivation for creating art. Nature and colour played center stage and experiences of the natural world from my childhood began to reveal themselves, with art and gardens influencing much of my life from a young age. When I was painting a flower it was never large enough. I wanted my viewer to be drawn into the flower and completely enveloped. I studied colour field painters and loved the way they could draw the viewer in. I began to go large scale with my paintings. It was never large enough, I spent a couple of years trying to break free from the canvas. I wanted to paint in the air, I used food, fabric, plastic and natural materials. I entwined flowers into the work, with mad collective installations and started to see the incredible possibilities of using flowers alone. The preserved flower became my material, I swapped my paints for flowers in 2003.
Jochen: Working with natural material, you are constantly enlarging your collection of flowers and continue to gather from different locations. What have you learned from coming to Grand Rapids and working with the staff and volunteers at Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park?
Rebecca: The horticulture and sculpture departments have come together to create an incredible supportive team. Together they have brought many volunteers and staff members to help wire flowers into my installation. The natural produce from the grounds is abundant and everyone is passionate about including it in my ongoing collection of flora.
Jochen: In this exhibition, you have begun to explore the subject of the womb in other media such as painting, glass, and clay. How did this work come about, and how does it grow out of the dried flower installations?
Rebecca: Every installation explores the relationship we have with nature. Behind the large scale works are smaller studies. This installation, The Womb, looks specifically at the sensation of being cocooned in nature. I looked at the womb as a vessel and studied its science and form through paintings and sculptures.
Jochen: You are encouraging visitors that enter the installation to refrain from using their mobile devices. Would you share with me your motivation for this request?
Rebecca: When considering this artwork, it was important to consider the best viewer experience. I have allowed a space for using the phone and taking photographs. But once you enter the artwork, the focus needs to be on a personal experience with nature without distraction. It is important that this artwork has tranquility and peacefulness. I want the viewer to feel cocooned.
Jochen: Your work aligns perfectly with our mission to promote the enjoyment of art and horticulture. What does it mean for you personally to be exhibiting your work in this environment?
Rebecca: It has been inspiring to be surrounded by art and horticulture. Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park has a beautiful collection entwined within abundant gardens. I’m extremely happy that this exhibition has been made possible here and I’m extremely thankful for the freedom to explore the wonder and beauty of The Womb.
For more information about Rebecca Louise Law: The Womb, visit our website.