In Bloom: A Conversation With Ant Hamlyn
Despite ever-changing climes, spring has certainly sprung in Shoreditch, and it’s all thanks to one man - Ant Hamlyn. The Northampton-born sculptor and installation artist is renowned for his experimental and meaningful works that make audiences reflect on contemporary life. His vibrant F L O W E R S T A T I O N installation, currently residing in The Entrance of Browns East, is no exception. We caught up with him to hear how the replica spring bouquets were created, the concept behind them and much more…
F L O W E R S T A T I O N in situ at Browns East.
Hello Ant! Please tell us a bit about yourself?
I currently live and work in West London, and I keep trying to set a world record for the world's smallest hand-stitched bouncy castle.
What inspired F L O W E R S T A T I O N? What is the meaning behind the installation?
I've worked with inflatables and soft sculpture for a number of years, and I've always been interested in the qualities of the material in relation to humans. Flowers have always fascinated me in this way also, in that we live beside them all the time. They are living just as we are, with many of them opening their heads in the morning and closing them in the evening.
F L O W E R S T A T I O N is an extension of my ongoing ‘FLOWERPRESS’ wall sculptures series. The idea behind it is to deconstruct the pastime of flower pressing and represent it as three dimensional sculptural objects. The works are at once a celebration and a critique, [reflecting] the idea of wanting to preserve beauty, whilst simultaneously damaging it. When we press flowers, we are trying to preserve their fleeting beauty forever.
How did you craft the flowers?
Each flower is hand made. I start by laying out the fabric then I hand draw the patterns, cut them out and machine stitch the initial elements. Then when I have the individual elements, I stuff them and hand stitch them all together. It was really important that all visible sides have their own composition, almost like five different works in each box.
The fundamental concern was to imagine what a bouquet of spring flowers would be like inflated and stuffed tightly inside a clear box. Some of the flowers would become slightly abstract, some would overlap and some would press right up against the sides. I want the pieces to look natural in their composition, although each crease is meticulously planned.
Why does this installation feel relevant now?
I wanted to create a work that offers intimacy and distance simultaneously, catching a moment in time and freezing it. This idea of desperately trying to preserve and celebrate a moment in time is really interesting in the current climate. Personally, I’ve never been so aware of mortality, and with this artwork, one could either look at life with a sense of impending negativity, or as a fleeting moment to savour.
What do you want people to experience when looking at your work?
The work is both hard and soft, intimate and distant, happy and sad - all at the same time. For me it’s about creating this cocktail of contradicting experiences, because that’s how we experience life.
When do you feel you fully bloomed as an artist?
I was (and still am) quite hyperactive and impulsive in both my work and life. In the past few years I’ve trained myself to be more disciplined and this is when things started to really move.
Who inspires you the most?
Musician Nick Cave, because of the way he can continuously produce the most mysterious, tragic, bitterly honest and beautiful work for almost 50 years with no sign of slowing down.
How do you get past a creative block?
Although it sounds painfully banal, a really long train journey looking out the window with headphones always does it for me.
If you were a flower, which one would you be and why?
I’m fascinated by the daisy, it has such strong connotations with life and death. The daisy symbolises new beginnings both in the sense of new life, birth and purity, as well as the passing of life.
Is there anyone you want to gift flowers to right now? Who and why?
My mum. I don’t see her as much as I’d like to.
What’s your favourite thing about spring?
Jackets and coats, but sunny.
Ant’s work will be on display in Browns East
from 29th March 2022 - 6th May 2022.
Interview by Sophy Davis Russell
Photography by Ally Rosenberg
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