New Zealand photographer Emma Bass creates bright and modern yet painterly images of flowers in exquisite arrangements. That elusive artistic talent…flawless composition ….returns us over and over to her delightful imagery. Emma’s work has been widely exhibited in New Zealand and may be found in international private and corporate collections and she was the only New Zealander invited to exhibit at the Royal Academy’s 2016 Summer Exhibition, London.
It was such a pleasure to interview the talented artist for the blog, and we hope you enjoy learning more about Emma Bass’s work as much as we did.
Tell us a bit about your background?
I have always seen the world in a compositional way and through a lens. It all started while I was working as a nurse in London during the late 1980s. I did a photography course in Leicester Square and was completely hooked. I came back to New Zealand where I properly trained for two years and started a career within editorial and commercial photography over a span of 23 years.
I’ve always loved flowers – they are my constant yet ever-changing muse. As an art photographer who also worked in the milieu of glossy magazines, I became obsessed with finding the ‘perfect’ vessel to team with the ‘perfect’ arrangement. Then one day, a truth dawned. I uncoupled myself from this endless, fruitless search and began to capture reality. This is when my first body of work Imperfect was formed.
I see flowers as one of the most universal forms of beauty. Every culture celebrates them in some way – from the East where they are meditative offerings, to the West, where in the time of the Dutch Masters, they were symbols of wealth and status. They are also tokens of love and a natural expression of the environment. During difficult times, they are a reprieve. Some, like peonies, are impossibly beautiful. But because they bloom and fade so quickly, they are also metaphors of life and death.
Your process for making your artwork?
In the body of work Imperfect, I found the freedom to no longer peddle perfection. I embraced emerging decay: the maligned, blemished and slightly broken. I paired flowers gathered roadside – including dandelions and cowslip grass – with blooms from friends’ gardens, and displayed them in preloved vases found on eBay. The images were shot not in a studio, but on a stairwell ledge within my home amidst the comforting chaos of family life. I noted the time each image was captured. The decline in the blooms is not obvious or pitiful, but subtle and seductive. I found the beauty in the imperfect.
Most inspiring photographer or artist?
I have a house filled with botanical art, which I’ve collected from New Zealand and further ashore. I like to be surrounded by all flower forms and am interested in how other artists perceive the floral genre.
I love the work of English artist Ann Carrington who makes incredible sculptures of flower arrangements out of English silver cutlery. Karl Blossfeldt did beautiful botanical studies in the early 1900s, and I love the Dutch Masters, which I’ve found inspirational for my second body of work Embellish.
In 2016, I had a work accepted into the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition in London and while there I visited a Dutch flower still life exhibition at the National Gallery. To see these exquisite masterpieces up close in the flesh was quite a pivotal moment.
Favorite historic house or contemporary design?
I love the era of the 50s, the modernist era. I live in a 1950s house and love the clean lines, the open spaces, and large windows that fill the house with luminous light. I would love to own a Frank Lloyd Wright house in my dreams.