Plant still lifes were also perhaps the first works of pure photo-typology in Karl Blossfeldt’s “Urformen der Kunst” (English ed: “Art Forms in Nature”, 1929). Blossfeldt attempted a scientific analysis of aesthetic form and created an iconic work of modernism.
Blossfeldt studied parts of a range of plants in black and white to try to illustrate the basis of architectural forms.
Blossfeldt developed a camera which enabled him to take magnified (ie macro) photographs more effectively than had been achieved before. Overall, he is said to have taken 6,000 plant photographs (curiously similar to the 5,000 snow crystals taken by Bentley – see week 1). Walter Benjamin acknowledged that Blossfeldt ‘has played his part in that great examination of the inventory of perception, which will have an unforeseeable effect on our conception of the world’.
Blossfeldt himself claimed that “The plant never lapses into mere arid functionalism; it fashions and shapes according to logic and suitability, and with its primeval force compels everything to attain the highest artistic form.” This might be somewhat overblown and inconsistent (what is logic in a plant if not functionalism) but it illustrates the drive of the artist to find significance in his subject, which is something which anyone who creates an image can sympathise with.
I am influenced in part by Blossfeldt’s study of form and use of macro photography. However, I am concentrating purely on leaves of a few species, taking the whole leaf in colour – I also hope to bring about consideration of a larger subject matter by close attention to detail: the role of beauty and symbolism in the post-conceptual age.
Matthew Greenburgh is an artist who focuses on still life work with strong aesthetic and symbolic components.