There was Emma Bass, in my back garden, raiding the Magnolias. Which ones, she asked, were perfectly flawed?
She has been quite preoccupied for months. I’d see her driving very slowly, eyeing up local hydrangeas. Over tea, she would speculate on the virtues of dandelions, kowhai, and twigs. And rush off. (With my vase.)
Her house was full of flower arrangements in various stages of liveliness. Bunches of weeds. Vases on every flat surface, waiting. Drifts of petals on the mantel. Downstairs, a huge bouquet was blooming, fading and drooping in timelapse. It was the fading that she wanted to catch: the extraordinary moments of beauty in transit. Past-perfect but also humble, overlooked blooms, all gathered from friends’ gardens and the roadside.
In the spirit of the Japanese aesthetic of Wabi Sabi, Emma’s flower portraits honour the beauty of the imperfect and the homely. IMPERFECT is her gentle contemplation upon the ‘greatness’ that exists in the inconspicuous.
Things Wabi Sabi eschew the conventional. They have their own quiet authority, “approaching a state of grace with sober, modest, heartfelt intelligence”*. Emma’s work is the respectful witness to this. Her images, in a formal progression of fragile back-garden blooms, weathered foliage and nostalgic vessels, have an atmosphere of wistful dignity.
IMPERFECT spans seasons but also traces the more intimate arc of lifespan, honing in on quietly exquisite, artless evidence of demise. Caught in each pristine rendering a bruised petal, curling leaf or withering edges suggest that prime has passed, and yet, “I wanted to challenge our concept of what is beautiful,” Emma explains. “For me, this project is about framing reality. The flaws themselves are beautiful, because they are true to life. The Wabi Sabi ethos to find beauty in reality can be applied to our wider life - our bodies and the ageing process, even the ever-changing world around us.” - Emma Worrall
Once a nurse, twice a mother, longtime photographer Emma’s last solo exhibition was in 2001, titled Bloom - exploring the paradoxes of pregnancy and motherhood.
*Quote from Wabi Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets and Philosophers by Leonard Koren.