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The cut roses in both of these sculptures are made of glazed, hand-built porcelain that is then attached to individually sculpted sepals, stems and leaves made of other materials. In A Picture of Perfect Health (1997/98), the installation comprises 23 porcelain, wood and wax roses that densely cover the floor of an entire gallery. In The Ideal Person or an Equal Mixture of the Four: Blood, Phlegm, Choler, and Melancholy (1997/98), 23 glazed porcelain and bronze cut roses are scattered in a loose pattern on the floor to allow the viewer room to easily walk around the sculptures. In each installation, the presentation of so many sculptural flowers in a tangle on the floor of the gallery suggests a garden environment, or perhaps that a celebration or even a funeral rite (ceramic roses are commonly left on graves in Europe) has just taken place. The presence of porcelain at ground level hints at vulnerability and may lead viewers to take careful stock of their progress through the installation. Like the hands on a clock, here viewers move with precision and delicacy.
The porcelain roses are glazed red, green, yellow or black; the colours are a decorative gesture while making a humourous reference to the four ancient humours or moods each represented by a bodily fluid. In ancient physiology whose doctrines remained current into 18th-century Europe the cardinal humours were: blood (red) = happiness or robustness; phlegm (green) = sluggishness or coldness; choler or yellow bile (yellow) = anger; and melancholy or black bile (black) = depression. Medical practitioners believed that a healthy and balanced person had an equal mixture of the four. In the installations, a reference to each of the four humours is signpainted on the wall in the roses’ four colours.
porcelain and bronze, or porcelain, wood and wax
Read poems by Jill Battson from the Sanguine exhibition catalogue
|↑ An Ideal Person...
Cold City Gallery, 1998