Flowering in Photography: Margriet Smulders
“I want to lure you in my secret garden to ask you to lose yourself and forget everything. To choose for Eros as the life force that overcomes all degradation and despair. My work visually enacts the wish to create newness in beauty, thus continuing life in the face of the unexpected and sorrowful “ —Margriet Smulders
We close Flowering week with work by Dutch photographer Margriet Smulders. Her meltingly beautiful compositions intoxicate with wild color and disorienting space. Shimmering surfaces dip and dive and suspend us in the worlds she creates. We fall into them, get lost in them.
Smulders’ painterly photographs reference and reinvigorate the precision of the Dutch Golden Age, the sensuousness of the Baroque and the energies of Abstract Expressionism. Through mythical and poetic titles, she draws us into the dramatic flux of perception. Her work opens paths to re-awakening our senses.
Inspired by the Dutch Golden Age painters of the 17th and 18th centuries, I began staging a mythical floral still life, Adrian Giacomelli calls it a ‘floral wildlife’. I create compositions of sensual flowers, supple fabrics, twisted glass, water, ink and milk. The flowers in my work are fully blossomed and about to wither. They are actors in theatrical settings that refer to Greek myths, our society and my personal life. I am a trained psychologist and a feminist. I like to honour vulnerability and show the force of fertility — tender forces. I try to explain and mirror life using flowers. Let these lush and strangely erotic tableaus entice you into another dimension.
As Baudelaire says “Get drunk: on wine, poetry or virtue”. Imagine lingering and languishing in these fresh, sultry and lucid landscapes. I love this sensual state — to lose myself in a love affair as if reality doesn’t matter. When I am creating these photographs, I lose myself in the floral still life feeling that it is possible for beauty to save the world.
“Great Heaven! The prince says that beauty saves the world!” Dostojevsky wrote in ‘The Idiot’. Did the prince say this because he was in love? Do you believe that beauty can save the world? As an artist, I’d like to explore Dostojevsky’s notion of beauty saving the world by creating works of art so beautiful that you feel salvation within them.
In my lush photographic scenes flowers take centre stage. I construct my floral still lives on a big mirror, using hand blown glass objects I designed myself, carefully arranged on rich draperies of silk from my travels to India.
I want to encourage my audience to be transfixed by what I see as the flow of life. I long for them to enjoy beauty in all its facets. I am like the first gardener in Eden, arranging roses in full bloom and brightly coloured flawed tulips in my very own visual dramas, using a Rembrandtesque play of light and darkness alongside sumptuous, fine details and distorted reflections to seduce the viewer.
After my journey to Indonesia a few years ago my sensual two-dimensional dioramas are beginning to tell another story; one alluding to slavery and injustice. No longer can we say ‘The Golden Age’ without thinking of the suffering of those who worked to make Dutch merchants so wealthy and self-satisfied. Oblivious to the mistreatment of others, these histories of exploitation and cruelty are deeply embedded in my work. Despite their vivid colours and lush arrangements, these are scenes of derelict dreams, and sullied memories. —Margriet Smulders
Margriet Smulders is a Dutch photographer based in Nijmegen, Netherlands. Smulders received a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Academy of Visual Arts, Arnhem and a Master’s in Psychology from the University of Nijmegen. Smulders has had multiple international solo exhibitions. Her work belongs to many international public and private collections including, The National Library of France in Paris, Van Gogh Huis in Zundert, Netherlands, Valkhof Museum in Nijmegen, Netherlands, and multiple international Dutch Embassies, as well as many others. She has had five monographs of work published and was recently commissioned to create a large three panel ceiling installation that spans 85 by 197 feet for the shopping center, Emsgalerie, in Rheine, Germany.
“With thanks to Siobhan Wall, senior lecturer, writer, curator, and artist, for her contributions to the text. Her writing on photography has appeared in Eyemazing magazine and https://siobhanwall.com/?
Margriet Smulders has a solo show opening May 22, 2022, Make love not war, The Power of the Flower, at Contour Gallery, Rotterdam.
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