A Bouquet of Semiotics
Many meanings and hidden symbols are lost to us today. In Victorian times, objects as simple as flowers could mean a whole range of emotions, such as dread, happiness, and bouquets could hold secret messages of unrequited love, or an elaborate (and honestly, gorgeous looking) insult.
Artist Lisa Oppenheim takes this old tradition of coded messages in flowers, and makes her photograms using only the stem and leaves, while shining coloured light, mimicking the petals. The outlines of the stems and leaves can be seen faintly, but what is important here, is the use of colour. Though the actual flower is not present in the image, the colours help mirror the intention; in Regret (Hyacinth) II (2011), the purple helps solve the mystery of what the meaning is. Hyacinth can mean anything from ‘the quality of being faithful’ to ‘beauty’, but it is the purple Hyacinth that specifically means ‘please forgive me’, and thus, the reason also why the image is entitled ‘regret’. Then there is her diptych Perfect Lovers (Tulips) III (2011). The colours give the image a sense of passion, and rightly so, as tulips are a symbol for the declaration of love, and in this case, the two ‘lovers’ are represented, interacting as a diptych.
It is a fun way of playing with these long forgotten signals, and bringing them forth as a new aesthetic. Modern tools, such as flashing lights and cameras, recreate the feelings people would feel from receiving a flower. It seems that with time, the more abstract in image is, the easier it is to understand it.