Flowers in Jesse Darling’s exhibition

Two steel poles and two canvas bags containing brightly coloured flowers. Next to them are a scattering of tinfoil aeroplanes.
Jesse Darling, No Medals No Ribbons, installation view at Modern Art Oxford 2022. Photo by Ben Westoby

Have you spotted the flowers sprouting in our Upper Gallery? The buckling feet of Jesse Darling’s steel construction Gravity Road, carefully bandaged in places, are weighed down by sandbags planted with flowers. First installed in Kunstverein Freiburg, Germany, in 2020, Darling explains how the flowers – “graveyard flowers, that don’t need bright sun to grow” – came to be added to the sculpture:

“At first, having installed [the steel structure], the lights were on really bright in the space and I was like, “Okay, woolly mammoth with animal legs”—which does seem appropriate, on a museological scale and in that space. But then I walked away from it feeling really shit, thinking, “Is this what we made?” I didn’t feel what I wanted to feel. So I took a day off, I walked an hour and a half along the river to the city limit to the big box garden center and bought some flowers for the sandbags placed around the “legs” of installation—old banking sandbags with “Deutsches Bundesbank” still printed on the canvas. The bags were filled with earth and sand and then there were these flowers. Graveyard flowers that don’t need bright sun to grow. Chrysanthemums, daisies.”

Flowers also feature in Darling’s Still Life in our Café. Originally given to Darling to celebrate their exhibition opening on 4 March, the once blooming and colourful flowers were rearranged by the artist into gallery vitrines and left to slowly decay over the course of their exhibition. They symbolise the impermanence of life and certainty of death, marking the passing of time by slowly decaying in their cases. Darling repurposes flowers to highlight their symbolic meaning and ritual function – often present at weddings and funerals, or in hospital rooms, flowers are gifted as expressions of joy, loss, care and empathy. Swipe to see how they are evolving.

Click here to find out more about Jesse Darling: No Medals No Ribbons, at Modern Art Oxford until 1 May 2022.