About the artist
Bas Meeuws is a young photographer who is breathing new life into the traditional, Dutch genre of the flower still life. Meeuws composes his pictures as the old masters did: flower by flower, one and all luxury and splendor. The result is layered work that transcends time.
Bas Meeuws wants to bring real, timeless beauty into everyday life. Pleasure, delight, that is what it is all about. And indeed, the splendor of his sumptuous works splashes off. In nature, flowers entice bees and other insects with those qualities, but they also work for people, from the earliest history of mankind.
Meeuws is intrigued by the functioning of floral still lifes in the seventeenth century. 'I try to evoke in myself the feelings of the viewers of the time. The awe they must have felt when looking at all those expensive and exotic flowers together.'
Furthermore, he greatly appreciates the sensitivity of early modern masters to impermanence. Their works not only served to urge the viewer to enjoy, and to seize the day - carpe diem - but they also offered solace for the passage of time with their frozen beauty. 'The bouquets in the paintings were impossible constructions with flowers from different seasons. I like to continue with this element of the genre. It gives you a chance to work your way above time, to stop it. The solace of photography, that's how I like to see my still lifes," explains Meeuws.
One gracefully undulating tulip can be composed of five different flower photographs
Meeuws' process bears similarities to that of the seventeenth-century flower painters. The basis for Meeuws' monumental works are digital photographs of individual flowers, all photographed with the same lighting. Meeuws photographs each individual flower several times, in varying positions, and with varying intensity of lighting. In this way, he assembles an extensive digital flower library. Meeuws' flower library appears to be a modern version of the seventeenth-century tulip books, as well as other botanical works of the time. In the seventeenth century, painters could not afford a vase full of flowers, so they composed the bouquets on their floral still lifes from individual flowers. Sometimes they used real specimens, but they also consulted tulip books for reference because of their sophisticated depictions of flowers.
To get closer to nature, and to reduce the atmosphere of a cabinet of curiosities, Meeuws chooses his flowers in a different way than the seventeenth-century masters. 'Of course I use the flowers they used, because they are beautiful. But I also like to show daisies and cornflowers, for example. And I use celery as a green. In my works you see how beautiful native, small plants are, whereas for the ideal, exotic bouquets of the Golden Age they were often too common.'
Beauty and nature, technology and history, layering and art. Meeuws weaves all these aspects together into radiant works, beautifully composed, lovingly crafted. He retains the richness and splendor of the past. But with digital photography, he sits his flowers so closely that they come very close, and touch immediately.
Henceforth, it is always spring.
Text: Karine van 't Land, Cultural Historian