L A Noble Photography

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Kate Owens

Kate Owens work explores textual and visual language and autobiography. It attempts to escape the confines of traditional linear narratives by using more chaotic and cyclical patterns to describe experience in a more realistic way.

About The Artist

Kate Owens work explores textual and visual language and autobiography. It attempts to escape the confines of traditional linear narratives by using more chaotic and cyclical patterns to describe experience in a more realistic way.

In her series 28 Day Flower Diary she subverts the Victorian idea of flower arranging as a ‘safe’ occupation to tame (women’s) idle hands and minds’, by creating bouquets of flowers which are not just pretty and perfect but which reveal something uncontrollable. She makes visible the physical and sexual notions of womanhood and displays the emotional impact of the menstrual cycle.

She creates an alternative language to express her ideas through the flora – literally ‘saying it with flowers’. Taking the bouquet of flowers (a formal arrangement bringing order to the wildness and sexuality of flowers) as symbolic of the effect of linear narrative structures on the psyche, she virtually ‘picks’ her bouquets to reveal a complex and chaotic nature.

The project began with extracts edited from a diary Owens had written over a 28 day period. Although personal – it is not an honest document – thus revealing an essential true self. Owens used to lie to her diary all the time, censoring her inner thoughts. The extracts show a person constantly shifting and changing, making decisions and unmaking them, being inconstant, flighty and at times serious. The fact that there are 28 reflects the menstrual cycle and the moon – the life and death of an egg, sexuality and fertilization – by bouquet 28 you start again at the beginning.

She then choses the flowers, which would make up the bouquets based on their symbolic meanings. The meanings sometimes reinforce the diary extracts and sometimes contradict them. Victorian floral arrangements were used to send coded messages, allowing individuals to express unspoken feelings. Owens choice of flowers do the same – expressing feelings and character traits not always visible in the diary texts.

Through the ‘arrangement’ of each bouquet she adds another subtext – sometimes contradicting and sometimes illustrating the diary texts. The bouquets look deliberately sexual, harsh, silly and weird as well as beautiful.

The work speaks against over civilisation, excessive nurture, Christianity and separation from nature. It rejects perfection and a higher order.

In the 19th century artistic creativity was seen as fundamentally male, with the artist being the sole origin and meaning of his work.  Women weren’t allowed to create their own images of femaleness and had to conform to patriarchal standards imposed on them.  The image of ‘woman’ was either the witch/monster or the eternal feminine who was angelic, beautiful, passive, docile and selfless.

Previous to this project Owens knew nothing about horticulture. Her attic was used to germinate seeds as she didn’t have a garden. She sourced flowers and plants on the internet, at garden centres, in florists, at flower shows and growing wild here and across Europe. Owens spent over a year – in order to encompass all four seasons – finding, growing and photographing the individual flowers which she would later arrange into bouquets. Only the black and white dahlias were not photographed by Owens. They were sourced from glass plate negatives taken by her stepmother’s great grandfather.

Owens used adigital SLR, medium and large format cameras to photograph the flowers and vases. Some pictures of individual flowers were made up of 5 or 6 frames stitched together in Photoshop. Most flowers were photographed at least a hundred times. As a result of this work she amassed a huge library of flowers from which Owens could arrange her bouquets in Photoshop.

The use and style of the text references botanical prints. They are presented in box like frames which show the edges of the prints to look like museum exhibits – as if an anthropologist has collected them from another world. The woman represented in the diary (like the flowers) comes from an uncivilized world and is only safe behind glass.

*Printed at Genesis Imaging www.genesisimaging.co.uk

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