Reviewed by: Mandy Moe Pwint Tu
I first heard about Anthologia through the Perth Poetry Club newsletter, where they wrote about an exhibition that celebrated the language of flowers and of poetry, which intrigued me. I considered attending it, but was a tad flippant on details, until the Rotunda editors approached me with it, saying it was “right up my alley”. They were right.
I took the train into Northbridge, getting there about half an hour early, since I only had a vague notion of where Paper Mountain was, having never been there before. I went along Aberdeen Street, figured out pretty early on that this couldn’t be the right way, and then I saw the sign. I stopped before it, while three young women bearing flowers approached, and without so much as a second glance at whether or not they had arrived to the right place, they marched up the stairs. I felt my offering of a tiny white rose, which I’d picked from my neighbour’s garden, inadequate compared to their vibrant carnations and sunflowers.
They headed up the stairs; I followed close behind. I entered into the whitewashed space, the fragrance of the several flowers stealing into my senses and settling under my skin. The first exhibit to catch my eye was the Star Jasmine, with blossoms of jasminum officianle scattered in delightful disorder, in beautiful chaos, so as to emulate the night sky, stuck across the wall and spilling onto the floor. It was accompanied and inspired by a poem by Judith Beveridge; and her lines, along with the flowers themselves, inspired, and through the course of the evening, I found myself gravitating back to this simple piece, especially when the space quickly filled up with eager art/poetry enthusiasts, who all, to my slight annoyance, seemed to know one another.
Anthologia, a project presented by SJ Finch and Alina Tang, is a beautiful combination of flowers and poetry; of flowers representing poetry, of poetry representing flowers. Through fresh floral arrangements,and sculptural installations, Alina Tang explores the shaping of domestic spaces, how flowers define femininity, and out of this, creates a language which responds to the histories of flower cultivation.
I crossed over to Creeping by Siobhan Hodge, an introductory poem which then gave way to a trail of what I’m going to call poetic pottery, little instances of petals and leaves encapsulated in folded paper clay. This piece, or rather, pieces, ran along the length of the left wall; and in contrast to it, on the other side of the wall, apart from the Star Jasmine that I described before, were Bouquet, a bouquet of various flowers, above which on the wall was stuck the handwritten poem by Siobhan Hodge; beside it, the adorable adornments of Orchidaceae: Vanda ‘Miss Joaquim’ for Ashkhan Hovakimian, by Eileen Chong, a spectacular display of orchids on facial tissues, stuck on the wall.
Other exhibits included Maps Are Not Accurate by Rosalind McFarlane, Daffadowndilly/The Peace that Comes from Loss, by Judith Beveridge, which I thought was especially inspired; Untitled by Amanda Joy, Severn Sea by Julie Watts, Haemodoraceae, rustic and delightful, by Nandi Chinna, On the Anniversary of Our Meeting at Mnajdra by Annamaria Wheldon–and finally, at the very end of the room, Night Harvest by Claire Potter, which was basically a great pile of flowers, donated by the general public and by the artists. It was here that I placed my lonely white rose in the midst, again, an inadequate tribute to a brilliant exhibition.
Anthologia runs at Paper Mountain until October 25th. Go see it!