The Arrival of Spring: Rebecca Louise Law’s ‘Seasons’ at Compton Verney
By Amy Orrock, Senior Curator
On the last day of the installation of Seasons, Rebecca Louise Law admitted to me that tears are a common reaction to her work. The powerful emotional charge of an art installation made entirely of flowers is unexpected. Yet the connections we forge with flowers are often highly personal. Flowers accompany significant moments of celebration and loss in our lives. Our human connection with flowers is universal – the symbolism and use of flowers is deeply embedded in rituals and cultures across the globe. Like many other aspects of the natural world, flowers can evoke sensory as well as visual childhood memories. On entering Law’s installations you are confronted not just with an image of a flower, but with the flower itself. Often several years old, preserved but still rich in its original scent and colour, these encounters can spark intense and at times unexpected memories and associations.
Three weeks ago Rebecca arrived at Compton Verney with her collection of 250,000 dried flowers, meticulously ordered in sweet-smelling rectangular cardboard boxes. Unloading them into the gallery, she has been busy with her small team since then, wiring delicate flower heads onto fine copper wire and suspending them from the ceiling in drifts and swathes that evoke the colours and forms of the changing seasons. Dwarfed by the cavernous gallery space, each flower forms a tiny dot, like a spot of paint on a canvas, which when you stand back slowly materialises as a harmonious whole. Shadows thrown onto the walls of the gallery highlight the organic shapes, both familiar and strange, and the smell of lavender hits you as you enter the stairwell.
Last week as I walked up the drive to the office I was handed a trug piled with 200 daffodil heads that had been harvested by the Head of Grounds, Fiona, that morning. ‘Just leave these on my desk, we’ll wire them later’, she said. We have all been bitten by the flower bug, and daffodils form the Compton Verney element of the installation, picked and wired with the help of ten of our grounds volunteers. The nodding yellow daffodil heads will not be missed from the landscape, where more open every day in the spring sunshine, but those that have been picked by the team will remain preserved in Rebecca’s installation for visitors to enjoy into August. Rebecca is returning to Compton Verney in May to work with school and community groups, wiring more fresh material from the grounds into the installation. When the work comes down, these elements will enter Rebecca’s organic collection; a little bit of Compton Verney, to be woven into future installations. No chemicals are used in the process, the flowers are simply hung upside down from the ceiling to air dry. Nothing is wasted: stems are composted and even the piles of petals and leaves dropped on the floor during each installation are carefully swept up and archived between glass plates, a record of a specific time and place.
In the other rooms of the exhibition hang Rebecca’s weaves. Approximately the size of Mark Rothko paintings, but woven from flowers, moss, leaves and the soft heads of grasses, these works are rich in colour and texture.
Accompanying the installation and the weaves are Rebecca’s nature diaries, and nature diaries that have been kept by children from local secondary schools, as well as films made from submissions to Instagram. As a body of work these chart a remarkable year, in which we have all been bruised and battered by events, but have found solace and hope in the resilience of the natural world, and in the arrival of spring.