Still Life [?]: a vase of flowers

Throughout the history of art, flowers have been one of the most popular subjects for painters. Their visually striking blossoms have, historically and presently, provide(d) artists with inspiration, with some dedicating their careers to produce still-life paintings of these botanical forms. Indeed, few things are as beautiful as flowers, but beyond this they provide rich opportunities to play with colour and form, and the results of these explorations can be found, at any one time, in art museums around the world, from 17th-century Dutch still-life paintings to works by John Constable, Gustav Klimt, Claude Monet, Henri Matisse, Vincent van Gogh, Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein and Jonas Wood. Whether painting sunflowers, roses, irises, water lilies, blooms in a vase, or painting flowers directly from Nature, each artist brings their own unique style to the finished artwork. The many notable flower paintings, and artistic interpretations of these inflorescences, are important reminders of the diversity that both Nature and consciousness generate, each painting encapsulating a moment in time, both in the history of art, and also in the life of the artist who painted it.

The subject of the work here is also flowers, in fact a vase containing them, in a living room, in a home. Here though the flowers are dying, a process which is initiating the subsequent process of their decay. However, as the beautiful blooms dwindle and deteriorate, and their biological tissue begins to breakdown, they begin to release nutrients into the water in the vase that once sustained them, and this in turn, fuels a less visible, but vastly more diverse, and arguably more important community of microbiological life. A “Vase of Flowers” thus becomes unstill, an intimate and unintended household microbial ecology that mirrors the natural world beyond, and its planetary scale and perpetual biological cycles of death and re-growth.  This thriving and dynamic, yet domestic microcosm, reminds us that our own existence, is entangled intimately with Nature, and we cannot ever, therefore, be simply excised from it and hope to live independently of it. 

There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.


― Charles Darwin, The Origin of Species

Samples of “vase-water” were taken and imaged with DIC microscopy at 100-times magnification.  In real-time the microbes appear as small illuminated motile (moving with apparent purpose) cells against a dark background. When imaged with algorithmic photography, the movement of these is converted into tracks that can be seen in the still images or in motion in the videos, in which they appear as dualities, that is simultaneously combined particles and waves. The tracks that are straight lines, are made by motes of microscopic and lifeless detritus as it moves in a constant microscopic current. Only cells imbued with life can deny this physical current. 

The source of nutrition for the domestic microbial ecology
The unpromising cloudy water in the vase conceals a dynamic and thriving household microbial ecology

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