Anthologia is a collaborative project presented by Alina Tang and SJ Finch. Over a thousand flowers will be brought into the gallery, transforming it into an array of floral arrangements and sculptural installations. The exhibition is an exploration of Western cultural engagement with cut flowers that runs from October 10th – 25th.

Finch, a Perth-based writer and PhD candidate, has created a floriographic dictionary: a tactile and feminist language of flower meanings. The dictionary is divided by genus and each flower given several meanings. The practice of floriography was popular in 19th century Victorian England, when “talking bouquets” were exchanged and messages secretly communicated through flowers.

Ten talented female poets have been invited to read the dictionary and write poems in response to the floriographic dictionary. Anthologia presents beautiful poems from Judith Beveridge, Nandi Chinna, Eileen Chong, Karla Hart, Siobhan Hodge, Amanda Joy, Rosalind Mcfarlane, Claire Potter, Julie Watts, and Annamaria Weldon.

Tang has created artistic responses to the poems: fresh floral arrangements and sculptural installations. The installations are interactive; Tang invites the viewer to engage: to eat edible flowers, to kneel, or look up. The smaller ornamental and decorative works are inspired by the flowery, cute, feminine aesthetic of Dutch artist Lily Van Der Stokker, whose artistic lifework has been to bring the beautiful strength of loveliness to the forefront: “Female cuteness and beautification…is not valued on an intellectual level, but we could not live without it.”

Tang’s family of clay vases with pressed petals are small and delicate, an expression of feminine ornamentation. Tang says ‘pretty’ and the love of beauty are central aesthetics in her practise: “Pretty is legitimate. It’s not meant to be ironic or mean or making fun of. It’s genuine.”

Anthologia explores ideas of beauty and how flowers are used to shape domestic spaces. Place and cultural context is of particular relevance as Finch elucidates: “Arranged flowers only really become significant in the context of city life. They are ways of incorporating the spirit of nature into the everyday. They are representative of who and where we are.”

As flowers are considered a generosity of nature, Anthologia engenders a generosity of creative spirit. On Sunday the 18th of October Tang and Finch will host ‘Drug Aware Open Flower Day’ where Alina Tang and Lisa Hannaford will run free flower crown workshops for creative youth. There will also be an artist talk from Tang and Finch, as well as poetry readings from Annamaria Weldon, Amanda Joy, Julie Watts, and Siobhan Hodge. Drug Aware Open Flower day is proudly sponsored by Healthway, promoting the Drug Aware message and Propel Youth Arts WA.

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