|Gerhard Richter’s 2009 painting ‘Bouquet’ |
Photo: © 2011 Gerhard Richter, All rights reserved.
Photo by Stephen Kent Johnson for WSJ,
Flower styling by Lindsey Taylor,
Prop Styling by Carla Gonzalez-Hart.
WSJ, April 17, 2015
April is often a time of foggy, gray days and premonitions of rain, as the land—at least here on the East Coast—stirs to life. I happen to love this time of year for what I call its “carwash” effect: The misty landscape, dotted with impressionistic dapples of color, reminds me of the view through wet, soapy glass that you get while driving through a carwash, when everything seems to be just a bit out of focus.
The paintings of German-born artist Gerhard Richter have a similar effect, especially the abstract works he makes using a squeegee. In his 2009 canvas “Bouquet”—one of my favorites and the inspiration for this month’s arrangement—he has painted a small cluster of flowers with a brush, then deliberately obscured it by raking red and green paint across the image, until it resembled a streaked windshield. As I attempted to capture the canvas’s essence and color palette with blooms, I would at times clearly see the flowers he depicted as if it were a straight representation; at others, I would see only the surface abstraction. Like a ghost, the image seemed tangible one moment, gone the next.
For the arrangement, I selected three vertical ceramic vessels that were heavy with glaze and had the texture and tones of a gessoed canvas. I like to cluster vessels together before filling them with flowers, nudging them here and there to create a still-life of their own—it’s a refreshing alternative to the no-brainer lone vase.
I also took inspiration from Mr. Richter’s squeegee technique and left a certain amount to chance. I couldn’t tell what kind of flowers were hidden in the painting, so I focused on matching its colors using tulips in salmon pink, orange and cherry red. The nearly white, soft pink-colored lilacs offered a foil to the stronger colors while the eucalyptus foliage hinted at the semi-visible stems and approximated the painting’s gray-green tones.
For me, the horizontal rhythm of the trio of vases and the repeating flowers brings to mind the ephemeral, sometimes blurry nature of this rainy season, when the windows of your car are streaked, somehow comfortingly, with April showers.