Night Flower, (Sydney III), 2010
From Gareth McConnell’s Night Flower series.
Edition of 15 + 3 AP
Fuji Crystal Archive paper
with a semi-matt finish
30.5 × 25.4 cm (12 × 10 in)
Signed, numbered and dated by the artist
Certificate of authenticity
Flowers are, of course, deeply symbolic of renewal. Their beauty is bound up in the knowledge that it is momentary. Beauty pierces your heart because it is painful. It is about loss, transience, and wonder at its very existence.
Gareth McConnell’s photographs of his bed and flowers have to be understood with his other work in mind. The motivation and poignance behind the images in Meditations (2004–08), Night Flowers (2002–10), make little sense if you don’t know McConnell’s shocking and affective images in the series Anti-Social Behaviour Parts I & II (1995) — victims of paramilitary punishment beatings in his homeland of Northern Ireland, or IV drug users who were his friends and sometime community. This is true of beautiful things, isn’t it? Beauty is cloying and saccharine when it’s too easily granted.
McConnell shoots Night Flowers in ambient light and with a long exposure. He takes the pictures during nocturnal walks, another temporal experience out of the workaday. Similar to the beds, the flowers become still, central objects, isolated from their context (they are not hothouse but urban flowers, growing alongside commercial strips and housing estates). In some, a spray is classically composed against a background, blossoms burgeoning; in others the image is blurred, or the light intensely artificial, acidic. They are the dusty, forlorn cultivars grown on the streets of any city, but they are prize winners, too. McConnell asks with these pictures, can you find hope when and where it’s least expected?
Alison Green (originally written for Vitamin Ph: New Perspectives in Photography)