A blooming lovely show at Waddesdon as Nick Knight captures roses from his garden
by Theresa Thompson, Timeless Travels Art Correspondent
Nick Knight, Saturday 20th May, 2017 Image: © Nick Knight, Courtesy of the Artist and Albion Barn
It starts with a single rose picked from his garden. Just the one to begin with, which he takes back into his kitchen, puts in a glass vase on his kitchen table and takes a picture on his IPhone. So far so straightforward.
But it’s not that simple. Nor is it always the freshest rose that British fashion photographer Nick Knight chooses. Fading roses, petals about to fall, leaves browning at the edges and beginning to curl are equally attractive to his eyes.
He studies the rose, moves it around, looking closely at its shape and contours, and adds a few more. He immerses himself in the arrangement, taking hours over this part of his photographic process. Knight saysit is almost meditative, balancing shape against shape, shade against shade, seeking “visual harmonies” or the opposite until the composition, lit only by daylight, satisfies him.
Then, some digital magic: the images are enlarged and filtered through software that uses AI to infill the space between pixels - which calls to attention the painterly qualities of the blossoms themselves.
The exhibition is held in the Coach House Gallery at Waddesdon
This is where having the exhibition at Waddesdon is a master stroke. The exhibition, Nick Knight: Roses from my Garden, which is held in Coach House gallery at the Stables - the Manor itself has not yet reopened to the public - complements its beautiful surroundings nicely. Not only do Knight’s images of roses respond to Waddesdon’s Victorian garden created by four generations of Rothschilds who shared a passion for horticulture - in particular roses - but also link to the bounty within the Manor where the collections include examples of flower painting on 18th-century Sèvres porcelain and 17th-century Dutch genre scenes.
Knight’s Roses from my Garden series was inspired by the work of 16th and 17th century still life painters such as Jan Brueghel the Elder and Jan van Huysum - but then again, these commanding super-sized works could not be more contemporary.
Pippa Shirley, Waddesdon’s Head of Collections & Gardens, says “This series of photographs by Nick Knight, which not only capture the intense, dream-like, evanescent beauty of a flower which is found in countless gardens, but also challenge our assumptions of familiarity. These are so much more than photographs of roses. They are made using digital technology at the cutting edge, made painterly through the way Knight uniquely manipulates the physical media.”
Nick Knight, Friday 8th June, 2018 Image: © Nick Knight, Courtesy of the Artist and Albion Barn
Roses tumble upon one another in these pictures. The gleaming glass vases barely confine the unbridled blooms. Dramatic colours, colossal sizes and an overriding hyperreal quality challenge the classic delicacy of rose blooms. Like bridal bouquets, like the fabulous fabrics of couture dresses and designer wallpapers - he works with leading fashion designers such as Yohji Yamamoto, John Galliano, and Alexander McQueen, and has made award-winning music videos with Björk, Lady Gaga, and Kanye West - these works demand to be noticed.
But as they are also not what they appear to be, they demand us to look closely, and think about what we are looking at says Pippa Shirley.
Nick Knight (born 1958) is a British fashion photographer and founder and director of SHOWstudio.com. He was awarded the OBE in 2010 for his services to the arts.
Nick Knight: Roses from my Garden
Showing until: 25 October 2020
Coach House Gallery
For more information: www.waddesdon.org.uk/roses
Open 11am-5pm, Wednesday-Sunday.
Exhibition admission is included free with all Waddesdon Grounds tickets
All visitors must pre-book tickets online
Admission free for National Trust, Art Fund and RHS members and under-5s
Notes on visiting post-lockdown
Caps on daily visitor numbers, timed entry slots and other social distancing measures are in place in order to protect the health of visitors, staff and volunteers.
For details of revised walking routes to/from the car park, location of toilets, take away food outlets and the shop. CLICK HERE