‘the sweet Spring in wintertime’
Photographic Floral Still Lifes by Bas Meeuws
Bas Meeuws is a young and passionate photographer. Since 2010, he has dedicated himself to rejuvenating the traditional and very Dutch genre of flower still life painting through the modern medium of digital photography. With his works, Meeuws intends to add real and timeless beauty to everyday life. Delight and bliss, these are the things which he is after. And indeed, the splendid beauty of his works is immediately striking, making it difficult for any viewer to remain untouched by it.
Flowers are ideal objects for achieving his first goal, according to Meeuws. They are marvellously coloured, scented, and equipped with gorgeous shapes. Nature intended them to seduce bees and other insects with these assets, but from the earliest history of human kind onwards, they worked for human beings as well. In addition to the bee-attracting traits of flowers, man tended to be fascinated by the fragility and transience of flowers, which only enhanced their value in human eyes. Meeuws says: “I hope to instil admiration for nature’s richness with my floral works.” Thus, he adds an aspect of contemplation to their sheer beauty.
The photographer increased the depth of the experience of beauty in yet another, powerful way. Because his works explicitly draw on seventeenth century still life painting, they entertain strong ties with the history and tradition of art. In all their smooth digital beauty, the photos evoke echoes of the Dutch Golden Age, with its busy mercantilism, its appreciation of tulip bulbs and independence, its exciting art scene. Meeuws confidently plays one time reference against the other. He obviously enjoys to handle the extra layers of meaning his photos receive by their quotes. Thus, he manifests himself as a partaker in the only recently established genre of history photography.
Meeuws is fascinated by the functioning of floral works in the seventeenth century. “In my mind, I try to revive the feelings of awe with which seventeenth century viewers must have seen an affluent flower still life. All these ridiculously expensive and exotic flowers crammed together in one painting!” Furthermore, he highly values the sensitivity of early modern artists for transience. Their works not only functioned as signs to enjoy life and seize the day—carpe diem—but they also offered consolation for the inevitable passing of time with their frozen beauty. “The bouquets actually were impossible constructions, with flowers from different seasons, all in full bloom. I like to emulate this aspect of the works, and to transcend time. The consolation of photography, that is how I see these timeless works,” says Meeuws.
Text: Karine van ’t Land, Cultuurhistoricus