Thomas Zika, ‘Somnambule 16’, 2015, Rademakers Gallery

somnambule flowers 2014/15

My new project “somnambule flowers” investigates different significations of flowers and mushrooms in relation to content and form. The open ended working method of the specific artistic process inspired the poetic term somnambule.

When I grew up in the sixties doodling and drawing in big wallpaper pattern books, most of the patterns were, of course like nowadays, botanic motives, springtime leaves, colorful blossoms, nature fakes intended to paper the walls of our sweet homes. Obviously these infantile pictorial impressions shaped my mind; I reflect upon these influences in the series “somnambule flowers”, using decorative wallpapers depicting plants and natural forms as well as my own landscape photographs as starting base for my assemblages.

I try to create a regressive Garden of Eden with my own patterns ofpressed blossoms, leaves, plant

roots, lamella circles made by mushroom spores. These overall thikkets are even sometimes populated by jungle queens with magic-caps made out of dried and transparent blossoms, re-animated jaybirds, snakeskins, mushrooms and gold pheasants.

Transforming these regressivevisual exuberances into artisticpictures, I take photographs of these assemblages with a large-format camera, using the space behind the assemblages as well asthe space of the large formtcamera’s bellows. For the stagingof the final photographic shot thesetwo-dimensional picture constellations have been expandedspacially and temporally. Spaciallybackwards: on the collages’ rear side floating leaves, tendrils, plant roots were adhered and backlit with light from the back of the assemblages into the pictureprocedure. Spacially forwards: into the bellows of the large format camera I’ve adhered blossoms andflowers, where they blacken the film negative nearly chaotically and in terms of composition

photogram-like outline and shape the motif.

Temporally: Before taking any photographs I’ve been pretreating half of my analog 4×5 inch film material with mushrooms, which pollute out their spores latently on the film sheets, creating beautiful, but chaotic lamella circles. For this process sometimes several months have passed and the development of the artefacts on the film sheets also is accidentally and chaotic. In the end I photograph the assemblages by accepting my own embedded obstructions resulting in a trompe l’oeuil-effect of the large formated and colorful prints.

The observer is faced with an exuberant nature literally oozing out the picture creating oscillationfigures regarding content andform. Flowers are mostlyassociated with their decorativefunctions as trivial motives, but for instance they reveal their symbolicfunctions at weddings and funerals where they represent fertility anddeath. Mushrooms are primary

linked with hallucinogenic or toxic alchemism: their nature is half organic and half anorganic.

Photography very often is about perfection, the glossy representation of surfaces giving us shiny illusions of reality. In my actual project it is very important for me to let happen fortunate coincidences during the composition process. Not to refuse the author’s responsibility for the quality of his work, but to rebalance and reflect upon the paradoxically power and frailty of the artistic process. Using orphaned herbaria to print cyanotypes and integrating them into my collages feels like a kind of hommage to photography’s pioneers as Henry Fox Talbot and Anna Atkins.

My work “somnambule flowers” explores diverse symbolicmeanings of flowers andmushrooms in both cultural history as well as personal biography reflecting upon the ambivalence of our existence. As in my formerseries “butterflies – I saved anAdmiral’s life” the encounter

of formative influences of beauty and death, the equilibrium of Eros and Thanatos, is important for my work.

About Thomas Zika