Embellish: A Photographic Series by Emma Bass

Words by
Lucy Munro
| October 4, 2017

Since ancient times, humans have been captivated by the alluring language of flowers. Veiled within their blooms are cryptic messages, declarations of love and secret confessions. Embellish, by Auckland photographer Emma Bass, is an achingly beautiful floral series loaded with hidden meaning. Glorious arrangements of blooms spill from the necks of magnificent vessels, questioning the nature of beauty and its relationship with authenticity. Shrouded within are plastic animals, artificial flowers, dead insects, and gold painted soldiers; metaphors that speak of truth and illusion, life and death.

'The Neighbour' - Image by Emma Bass
'The Neighbour' - Image by Emma Bass
'The Loss' - Image by Emma Bass
'The Loss' - Image by Emma Bass

Building upon the themes of death and impermanence explored in her previous series, Imperfect, Emma’s new work discusses the concept of illusion, its connection to beauty and the integral role this idea plays within society. “I wished to explore how we build facades in our life – how we create them to enhance our beauty or conceal our realities; and whether this in turn compromises our authenticity.”

Through the imagery of Embellish, we discover the flower, who’s birth, growth, bloom, death and rebirth so closely reflects the rhythmical cycle of human life, lends itself to the discussion of such existential ponderings.”

As Emma carefully composes her arrangements, embellishing with gold dipped tulips, artificial flowers, small plastic animals and complimentary lighting, she imposes her own illusions of splendour upon the work. The undeniable loveliness of her creations forces the viewer to question – can beauty exist only in truth and authenticity? Or is there an honourable place in our lives for handsome delusions as well?

An ode to the moody colours and seasonally impossible still life bouquets of the Dutch Master painters, Embellish seduces the viewer with dark shadows, luminous lighting and spectacular flowers.

Carefully arranged on the stairwell of Emma’s home, the process of construction becomes an intimate extension of the self and her family, with the addition or reduction of embellishments reflecting the trivialities and chaos of daily life.”

“Building the works is interwoven with my personal environment – they are created in a busy thoroughfare with everyday life whirling around them,” Emma explains. Gorgeous collaborations with her children emerge unexpectedly when she discovers their toys and objects sometimes materialising within the work, such as the genius half-eaten apple of her son in ‘The Gathering’.

The series, named in collaboration with prominent NZ garden designer, Xanthe White, features an assortment of ornate vases that add to the dramatic aesthetic of Embellish.

Emma’s intuitive and exacting eye in hunting down the perfect vessel for each arrangement is discerned by the complex personality of the spray and the seamless blending of every element within the image.”

The sensational anatomical heart of ‘The Alchemist’ for example, is a show stopping treasure Emma found on eBay. Its deep red colour pulses from the centre of the image, radiating upwards to a riot of colourful tulips that erupt from the veined valves above. This unified connection between vessel and florals is instinctual, Emma explains: “Sometimes the flowers choose the vase, and sometimes the vase chooses the flowers. When it feels right, it feels right.”

Exquisite and thoughtful, Emma Bass challenges our understanding of beauty and the facets and facades that surround it through her spectacular floral arrangements.

Embellish will be shown at Smyth Galleries in Auckland from 9-30th of November 2017.

To find out more about Embellish or see more of Emma’s gorgeous works, visit her website, Instagram and Facebook.

'The Alchemist' - Image by Emma Bass
'The Alchemist' - Image by Emma Bass
'The Cuckoo' - Image by Emma Bass
'The Cuckoo' - Image by Emma Bass
'The Geisha' - Image by Emma Bass
'The Geisha' - Image by Emma Bass
'The Hope' - Image by Emma Bass
'The Hope' - Image by Emma Bass
'The Memory' - Image by Emma Bass
'The Memory' - Image by Emma Bass
'The Moment' - Image by Emma Bass
'The Moment' - Image by Emma Bass
'The Visitor' by Emma Bass
'The Visitor' by Emma Bass

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