Last July, Rebecca Louise Law created an unforgettable floral installation for Sotheby’s New Bond Street. Inspired by Old Master still-life paintings, Law hung thousands of flowers by their stems from the ceiling of our main lobby, transforming the space into a suspended garden of hydrangeas, peonies, roses, delphinium and larkspur. So dazzling was Law's inverted landscape that we invited her back to celebrate this year’s Old Masters Evening and Day sales with a new piece inspired by 17th-century compositions. We spoke with the London-based artist upon her return from Australia, where she completed a vast blooming canopy for the atrium of an upscale Melbourne shopping centre (below) using 150,000 flowers. She shared details about her working methods, the allure of the Old Masters and more. #ImagineTheConversation
REBECCA LOUISE LAW INSTALLING THE CANOPY, 2016, IN MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA.
What can people expect when they come in to see your installation?
Visitors will be immersed in the smell, colour and texture of 5,000 preserved flowers entwined with copper wire, ascending the staircase at Sotheby’s.
How long does it take to put together something like this?
This piece will take approximately six hours to install, but before I arrive onsite, days of preparation have already gone into it, preparing wires of preserved species from my own collection. Each layer echoes the layers of the paintings on show. I see space as a canvas and once I’m working I feel as though I am painting.
PETER BINOIT, STILL LIFE OF FLOWERS IN AN EARTHENWARE VASE ON A LEDGE. ESTIMATE £250,000–350,000
How much of an influence have Old Master paintings had on your work?
I remember when I was first shown still-life paintings. My father worked for the National Trust and suggested I go and have a look at the collection at Anglesey Abbey, which features many amazing Dutch still lifes. I was struck by the intense detail of each relatively small artwork – the more you look, the more you see. I stood there for hours thinking about how I could capture the viewer with nature in the same way. I experimented with colour and mixed materials for a long time and eventually settled on flowers as my medium.
JAN BRUEGHEL THE ELDER, STILL LIFE OF FLOWERS IN A STONEWARE VASE. ESTIMATE 3,000,000–5,000,000.
What is it in particular about these paintings?
The beauty of this era of painting is that it opens your eyes – there is much more to each piece than a composition of inanimate objects and flowers. Each carries great symbolism. Often these paintings are religious, intended to remind people of their own mortality. We're all the same, we all go back to the earth. We should enjoy and appreciate what we have now and what nature gives us.
ISAAK SOREAU, STILL LIFE WITH A BASKET OF FLOWERS AND FRUIT. ESTIMATE £150,000– 200,000.
You recreated several Old Master compositions for a recent project. Can you tell us about that?
I produced a series of sculptures based upon specific paintings by Balthasar van der Ast, Ambrosius Bosschaert the Elder and Jan Davidsz. de Heem [below] which were captured by photographer Tom Hartford at different stages of deterioration. I wanted to get as close as possible to replicating the original artworks, then imagined standing within the paintings themselves and placed tiny figurines within each composition.
REBECCA LOUISE LAW, JAN DAVIDSZ, HEEM, 2014. PHOTOGRAPHER TOM HARTFORD
And is that about getting inside the work?
Yes, I just love the feeling of being surrounded by nature and that’s what I am always trying to create with my large-scale installations, a sense of being completely enveloped by them. I want the viewer to have the same experience I once had – I want them to see more than they would originally think was there. I want them to reassess their idea of flowers.
What other projects do you have coming up?
I’m making a large-scale pieces for Art Basel in Miami Beach in December. I have solo exhibitions at Chandran Gallery in San Francisco and Broadway Gallery in Letchworth Garden City this summer, and then a show in Denmark in February 2017.
Rebecca Louise Law’s installation will be on view 30 June–14 July at Sotheby’s New Bond Street.
The Old Masters Evening Sale is 6 July and the Old Masters Day sale is 7 July.