In February, the Gore Garden Club hosted the 2019 South Island National Dahlia Show at the Gore Town & Country Club. The event showcased over 600 vases of the very best dahlia blooms in the country. In a series of photographs taken at the Show, photographer Murray Eskdale continues his interest in floral reproductions, having previously made works at chrysanthemum shows over the past few years.
Flower shows are a strangely fragile environment – blooms must be carefully tended for weeks and months beforehand, protected and nurtured, then transported safely to the venue, and finally set up for display – all without incurring any damage. Eskdale’s treatment of his subject removes this fragility via simple composition and high-resolution imaging to create an ultra-real presentation. The blooms are removed from all the bustling and fussing of the flower show context, jumping with luminous brilliance from their dark backgrounds with an almost stage-lit presentation.
Eskdale’s previous works focused strongly on the theme of human structuring of the natural world via infrastructure and architecture. These urban works featured strong colour blocks, symmetry, repetition and bold geometry. In his floral series, Eskdale has sought those attributes again, but this time in the natural world. Both chrysanthemums and dahlias are tightly constructed, with strong forms and colours – ‘nature’s architecture’ if you will. Human influence is not far from his mind though, with the subject matter found in the decidedly unnatural ‘Flower Show’ context. Flower shows are the supreme human attempt to take control of nature, as growers attempt to create their ‘perfect’ bloom, utilising various techniques and tricks. Old varieties are breed and traded between growers and new varieties are created, all in pursuit of the champion bloom. Not merely for personal enjoyment, growers then present their efforts for display and judgement and, ultimately, in pursuit of reward for their efforts. At the conclusion of the show, the flowers will be discarded. In photographing a show bloom, both the pleasure the grower draws from the long cultivation process is preserved, along with the direct beauty of their subject.