T he founder and designer of contemporary fine jewelry brand L’Dezen, Payal Shah, is well known for her one-of-a-kind floral and geometric designs. Her creations have attracted luminaries and style icons including Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Jennifer Lopez and even former U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama. Joining with Sotheby’s Specialist Rishika Assomull ahead of the La Mystique L’Indochine online auction, Shah shares her impressions on the floral imagery in the Vietnamese still life paintings, and where she draws inspiration in the shared spaces between art and jewelry.
Thank you for joining us, Payal. I would love to get your perspective on some of the floral paintings on exhibit, given that you draw on floral imagery in many of your most iconic pieces — my favorite being the Floridata earrings that Mary J. Blige wore at the Met Gala in 2018. As an artist in your own right, what do flowers mean to you?
Thank you for having me, Rishika. It is such a pleasure being here considering I have become such a huge fan of attending your flagship exhibition events at the convention center in Hong Kong. You have shown me some beautiful Southeast Asian art and given me the history and the reasoning behind the colors and the femininity. I am thrilled about learning more and excited for this new exhibition this week.
Flower and flower motifs have been such an integral part of inspiration for jewelers and designers for centuries. We really seek emotional and virtual inspiration from the entire design process, from gemstones to bringing our jewelry to life, just like flowers are. And some of the biggest jewelry houses in the world, as well as talented young designers treat flowers with extraordinary reverence.
Flowers are so simple and earthly, yet sublime. They inspire designers, artists, and lovers of beauty across the ages. One of the highlights from this sale is a large scale Le Pho painting, which features a young woman ensconced within a plethora of blooms and botanicals, painted in iridescent shades of citrus yellows, refreshing lime greens and exuberant oranges.
Ooh I remember that painting; it is so beautiful. I love how sensual and feminine it is and the way it transports me to the garden itself, with the blooming colors and the oranges! The many different flowers appear as if they are all lifelike. I would probably have a painting like that in a communal area such as a dining room or a living room where my guests can feel very joyful and relaxed. I also think it suggests a form of fragrance to it; it really brings me to a sweet, very comforting sense of smell.
Memory, scent and emotion are all so intertwined. That speaks to a sense of nostalgia in this work. Le Pho spent the latter part of his life in France, so art served as this bridge to his homeland in Vietnam.
"Flowers are a metaphor for humans... we can blossom and bloom in any climate, any surrounding."
How does the physicality of the floral form play into your work?
Flowers and diamonds have such similar characteristics. Diamonds are so unique and there are so many shapes and sizes and colors, just like flowers! I love that there is so much variety to work with, you can really go for something long, thin or something more wide-range depending on what your design execution is. Flowers are a metaphor for humans. Just like flowers, if we take care of ourselves, we can blossom and bloom in any climate, any surrounding. I love seeking these two forms of inspiration when I look at these flowers.
Your favorite painting from our sale, a work by Nguyen Tri Minh, shows that very idea. The artist was inspired by French Impressionism — you can see that from the bold brushwork, the thick strokes…
And the contrast in colors. One of my favorite things about this painting is the use of color. I love the orange background, but there is a lot of blue, which is such a likeable color. I see that in my designs too when I use blue diamonds. Blue has a royal and regal personality to it and that is why people relate to it so quickly.
Within the array of Le Pho still-life paintings we are offering, once can notice an element of design because he captures premeditated arrangements of flowers in vases.
What interests me is: I see it as an art within an art. You have this beautiful flower arrangement, which is an art form in itself, and then an artist is able to capture and make it so life-like in his form of art. That is what really brings the paintings into a lifelike form. When I was in art school, what I found really interesting was that we would all have the same still-life subject — and as we saw art, we manifested the still life so different and distinctively. It was so interesting at the end to see how everyone’s work would come together and how they captured the still life in their own personal way.
From jewelry to paintings, artists are constantly re-imaging the floral form to suit the prevailing trends of the day. It is almost as if they are trying to bring a sense of permanence to the brevity of beauty.
For artists, I feel that [floral motifs] remains such an evergreen subject, because flowers will never go out of fashion!