In a career marked by longstanding relationships with Alexander McQueen and John Galliano, and having directed videos for Tom Ford, Lady Gaga and Kanye West, Nick Knight’s constant desire to experiment, push boundaries and challenge his audience has led him to take up a new subject, the classic rose – but expressed in an entirely new way. The resulting series, Roses from my Garden, has seldom been exhibited or published.
This body of work is inspired by Knight’s fascination with nature in general, and more specifically with the rose as an enduring symbol of beauty. The series has roots in the work of 16th and 17th century still life painters like Jan Brueghel the Elder and Jan van Huysum, but these large-scale works could not be more contemporary, dramatising the timelessness of nature.
Nick Knight cuts selected roses straight from his garden and arranges them specifically, using only daylight to illuminate his subject. Photographed on an iPhone, the digital images are then enlarged and filtered through software that uses AI to infill the space between pixels, calling to attention the painterly qualities of the blossoms themselves. What appears at first glance to be a historical approach to flower photography is, upon closer inspection, at the very cutting edge of imaging technology. The resulting images are no longer photographs, but rather, digital representations of photographs.
The works respond beautifully to their surroundings at Waddesdon and its important Victorian garden, created by four generations of Rothschilds who themselves were passionate about horticulture, and in particular, the rose.
They also create links to the collections, which include flower painting on 18th-century Sèvres porcelain and in 17th-century Dutch genre scenes. Flowers are laden with symbolism, none more so than roses, for their associations with love, faith, and truth. There is something both intensely real and allegorical about these images, in their capturing of a moment in the brief life of a rose, in some cases as they start to decay.
Knight says, ‘I am delighted that Lord Rothschild has invited me to exhibit at Waddesdon. It is not only one of the country’s finest and most beautiful estates, but with its commitment to canonical and contemporary art it seems the perfect place to show my series ‘Roses from my Garden’ which references the rich history of classical painting whilst also looking towards the exciting world of new technologies such as Artificial Intelligence.’
Pippa Shirley, Waddesdon’s Head of Collections & Gardens says, ‘We are immensely excited to be exhibiting this series of photographs by Nick Knight, which not only capture the intense, dream-like, evanescent beauty of a flower which is found in countless gardens, but also challenge our assumptions of familiarity. These are so much more than photographs of roses. They are made using digital technology at the cutting edge, made painterly through the way Knight uniquely manipulates the physical media. Their scale is overwhelming. They are not what they appear to be, and so they demand us to look closely, and think about what we are looking at.’
Roses from my Garden can be seen at the Coach House Gallery, the Stables, Waddesdon, Buckinghamshire, HP18 0JH. Open 11am-5pm, Wednesday-Sunday, 4 July-25 October 2020. Exhibition admission is included free with all Waddesdon Grounds tickets. All visitors must pre-book tickets online at waddesdon.seetickets.com/timeslots/waddesdon-grounds
Admission free for National Trust, Art Fund and RHS members and under-5s.
What’s Open at Waddesdon?
The Woodland Playground is now open again along with:
- Power House film shows
- Manor Shop
- Treaterie at the Stables and Manor Courtyard Coffee Bar for take way home made snacks and drinks
From Wednesday 22 July:
- Shuttle buses restart (pre-purchased tickets only)
- Woodland Café reopens
All visits, and shuttle bus tickets must be pre-booked online in order to stagger entry times to avoid overcrowding.
The House, Cellars and indoor restaurants remain closed while Waddesdon consider how to open them safely.