The gift is the beautiful: unsolicited, purely sprouting, and fortuitous with respect to all necessities. Flowers are presents that remind us of the vanishing quality of the present. They celebrate the time of thriving, flourishing, and mellowness. They are a gift of time precisely because they evoke an awareness of their own transience. Consequently, the flower especially becomes a fortunate lyrical figure because it ties together beauty, the gift, temporality, and hints of mortality.
The other side to the fleeting character of flowers is that they must be cut, picked, or uprooted. Their giving is marked by a break; they can be present only in their enforced transience. As a natural gift, flowers are already given and so are exceptionally givable. Considering, flowers adulate us without deceiving.
The AGA LAB in Amsterdam is a creative laboratory for artists, designers and photographers and is characterized by a wide range of facilities such as lithography, risograph printing, etching and screen printing. Australian artist Alina Tang recently completed a three-month residency program at the AGA LAB.
Tang works across printmaking, floriography (the language of flowers) and design. Her work exemplifies both liberated and communally engaged shared approaches through variable disciplines including installation, drawing, painting and wall-works. Her practice is motivated by an enduring inquisitiveness and rendezvous with floral performance that is immersive, multi-sensory and empathetic. She studied Fine Art and Design at Curtin University from 2011-2013 and managed creative business and printmaking studio Beau Est Mien Prints and Designs in Northbridge from 2011-2018.
Frequently bright, colourful and full of joy, her delicate and detailed works embrace notions of abundance, beauty, gift-giving and rituals of floral cultures. Tang spent three months at the AGA LAB, (between July- September 2018) where by the end of each month she showcased her work at the De Bouwput Gallery in the building. In July she presented Alles groeit en bloeit weer prachtig (everything grows and flourishes again) an arrangement of screen printed floral shapes arranged directly onto the wall. In August she displayed Dream Gardens a collection of proposed floral performances and painted imagined plants and flora.
laten we de bloemetjes buiten zetten (let’s put the flowers outside) is a Dutch expression which refers to throwing a party or having a celebration. At the end of the three-month residency program, Tang’s project invited artists, residents and studio members from the WOW and BOUW buildings to meet and greet one another. The WOW is a commercial enterprise, and the BOUW is an artist drawn organisation and consists of small artist initiatives under one building. At some point in time both the WOW and the BOUW were a single building consisting of a school but in later years after the building stopped being a school, a division was created hence forming the WOW and the BOUW.
According to Tang, this project was an extension of a previous work, ‘if sunshine had a smell this would be it’, the composition of which references Jan van Huysum, a Dutch 18th century still-life painter whose ambitious compositions demonstrated his ability to combine a huge variety of species into beautiful, coherent still life paintings. Van Huysum’s ‘impossible bouquets’ are made up of flowers that could never bloom naturally in the same season is her constant foundation of stimulus.
In addition to building on the use of hand-painted floral arrangements into an installation of a bouquet, this project reinterprets the idea of Tang’s ‘impossible bouquet’ as her challenge to bring together the groups from the BOUW and WOW buildings. She views the residents of both buildings as flowers that blossom but without harmony with each other, and so never have the chance to meet and come together symphonically. laten we de bloemetjes buiten zetten is Tang’s ‘impossible bouquet’.
The core of her practice is a yearning to present gifts to others, to commemorate a copiousness of splendor, colour, and importance, to animate a philosophy of being bountiful. In order to achieve this, Tang investigates this through print and performative floriography, using the sacraments of floristry to introduce dialogues and exchanges about progression, instinctive bionetworks, and dispersal of society and people. Flowers have the conceivable notion to launch banters, forming casual coalitions amid groups, and arenas for contemplation and conversation.
Tang exhibited her project in a courtyard, one could call it a secret garden which turned out to be the perfect spot. She had anticipated the work to be inaugurated in a space that had both a feeling of enclosed contentment and outdoor wilderness.
According to Tang, ‘the location was a significant part of the project, as it incorporated a site-responsive wall work. It also referred to the title putting the flowers outside’.
It embraced an installation that incited a collaborative, undeviating routine of making a communally built mesmerizing piece of work. The installation was a wall-work consisting of fresh flowers, artificial flowers, and flower-shaped screen-printed stickers stuck directly onto large glass windows. Partakers were welcomed to add to the work by using the screen-printed and hand-painted flowers made by the artist.
The project was a modest, unassuming, unpretentious and a soft gesture that was a way to bring an assorted array of people together and create a catalyst to begin tête-à-têtes across art spaces and practices.
The aim of the event was to facilitate the building of new friendships and fruitful work relationships within the expansive network of artists, designers and creatives utilizing spaces in very close vicinity. According to Tang, all three works (between July, August and September) although were visually different they maintained interconnecting ideas that stemmed from one body of research.