Work Case Studies 100 Flowers

Detail Aere Perennius

The new NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde’s (NHSGGC) New South Glasgow Hospitals (NSGH) were built with a fully integrated art strategy. This modern hospital complex is a sight to behold. It’s enormous. Ginkgo managed several projects for the site that aimed to enhance the environment for patients and relatives. I contributed to two of these projects: 100 Flowers and Dignified Spaces.

Due to infection control measures it is often no longer possible for relatives to bring their loved-ones flowers in hospital. The ‘100 Flowers’ project was developed in part as a response to this. The project also aimed to ‘bring the outside in’, a key part of the art strategy for NSGH, by deploying works inspired by Scotland’s flora. There was an Open Call to select 30 works to be purchased for the 100 Flowers Collection and artists were required to respond to one of several flower related themes specified in the brief.

Selected work from the 100 Flowers Collection exhibited in the foyer of NSGH in 2015

I chose to create work on the theme of wildflowers surrounding the footprint of the hospital. This was a Glaswegian offshoot of a series I began in 2013 combining imagery of neo-classical architecture and urban weed species. The piece, Aere Perennius, was inspired by the work of Alexander ‘The Greek’ Thomson, a Victorian architect responsible for many buildings in Glasgow’s industrial heyday.

Referencing repeating motifs characteristic of a Greek Revival style local urban plant species are substituted where you might expect lotus flowers and acanthus leaves. Many Victorians were preoccupied with ideas of eternity in an era when life was particularly precarious. Arguably their architecture reflected a desire for a sense of permanence and timelessness.

Ironically many of Glasgow’s buildings from this time have since been demolished or are in a state of disrepair. Once flawless cornices that graced shipping offices are reduced to chunks of plaster on the floor. Aere Perennius suggests a fragment of cornice albeit with a twist. The plants represented are all species adept at colonizing disturbed ground. Rosebay Willowherb, Nettle, Dock, Buttercup, Ground-Elder, Dandelion and Butterfly-Bush are all excellent urban colonizers that promise to outlive human civilization. The lasercut paper is intricate yet robust. This juxtaposition of delicacy and strength mirrors both the wildflowers depicted and the extraordinary qualities of the human body, at once vulnerable yet incredibly tough. 

In early 2015 I had the pleasure of meeting filmmaker Ruth Carslaw when she came to my allotment to shoot some interview footage, a slither of which is included in her film commissioned to contextualise the 100 Flowers Collection:


100 Flowers from Chris Freemantle