Rebecca Louise Law: The beauty of decay

The disorientation is profound: a viewer walks through a wide, brightly sunlit gallery, as long streamers of flowers hung on copper wire graze against her skin, gently parting and bobbing around a visitor’s body as she makes her way through.

Is it a meadow, strung from the ceiling? Or have we entered a room where flowers are hung to be dried, their beauty preserved for all time?

The answer is: neither, and both. This is British artist Rebecca Louise Law’s 2016 exhibition “The Beauty of Decay.”

Law, the creator of this falling field of flowers, which was part of a solo show in San Francisco’s Chandran Gallery, works in flora, creating dimensional pieces in many formats—photos, encased, drying—all with the goal of engaging the viewer deep in nature.

As an artist, and the daughter of a florist, Law began as a painter, but found herself frustrated by not being able to capture the true vitality and dimension of the flowers she was aiming to capture in still life. She moved toward using the live materials—or flowers she carefully dried herself—and has never looked back.

Death, decay, and the natural cycle of life are central themes in her work, as the flowers she uses are perpetually changing, moving from fresh, to overripe, to decay and then dried throughout the course of an installation. In March 2018, she issued a book titled “Life in Death,” a photographic record of many of her works, which was published at the same time an exhibition of the same name was staged at the Shirley Gallery of the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew.

Her last pieces in the book, which were presented at the gallery, pay “homage to the expertise in preservation” on display in the Kew Gallery collections. This is fitting, since Law herself is an expert in preservation, not only drying flowers for use in her work, but also in saving and reusing every blossom from her large-scale installations. “I’m quite strict [about it] now,” she said in an interview with “Nothing is thrown away.”

And in this way, death begets new life. Just as in nature, which Law honors with all of her work.

FOR MORE on Rebecca Louise Law’s latest project, in partnership with Found Films, click here.