In The Hothouse
with Lewis Dalton Gilbert
As the art world descends on London for Frieze art fair, we’re joined In The Hothouse this month by Lewis Dalton Gilbert, Associate Curator of New Art Centre, to discuss what flowers mean to him and how nature plays a part in his life and work.
From his favourite blooms and tips for sending bouquets to recommendations for must-see art exhibitions and the inside track on this year’s edition of Frieze, read on for Lewis’s take on all things floral art.
Photography from the New Art Centre and Paul Thomas.
Do you have a favourite flower and why?
An impossible question – my favourites change all the time. Once you associate a flower with someone or something, it takes on a whole new meaning.
What do flowers mean to you?
Flowers represent memories to me. Most of the flowers I like are because they remind me of people I love. My sister took sunflowers on the first date with her now wife, so every time I see one, I think of them and smile.
“Most of the flowers I like are because they remind me of people I love.”
Lewis Dalton Gilbert
In your role as Associate Curator at the New Art Centre, how important is the natural landscape at Roche Court when bringing together artworks to exhibit?
Often where we place the artworks is dependent on how it works with nature around it. Sometimes the sculptures act as frames for the scenery it surrounds. Nature is just as important to us as the artworks and some of the plants in the park have as much sculptural presence as the artworks.
Is there a connection between flowers/nature and your work?
Even when nature is not obviously featured in an artwork or exhibition, one of the most difficult challenges is to make something feel natural. I fear I use the word organic far too often at studio visits but it’s always at the forefront of my mind.
With the art world converging on London for Frieze this month, what are your top tips for exhibitions to look out for?
Also, do check out artist Veronica Ryan OBE’s new permanent public artworks in Hackney, London, which commemorate the Windrush Generation. I’m slightly biased as I worked on the project, but the giant custard apple, breadfruit and soursop fruit sculptures are the perfect example of how art and nature are intrinsically linked.
“Nature is just as important to us as the artworks and some of the plants in the park have as much sculptural presence as the artworks.”
Lewis Dalton Gilbert
Artworks from the current Edward Allington and Nika Neelova exhibition at the New Art Centre interact with their natural surroundings.
At Paul Thomas we love to use seasonal, British flowers. What British artists are you excited about at the moment?
I am currently obsessed with everything Joy Labinjo does. Plants and floral motifs actually feature heavily in Joy’s practice.
How do you like to display flowers around your home?
I prefer to have small arrangements or single stems dotted around, as opposed to a large bouquet.
What kind of flowers do you like to send as a gift? Do you have a signature bouquet?
It really depends on the person. I don’t have a signature bouquet as I think the flowers you give should represent the person receiving them. So, if you do know someone’s favourite stems, it’s always nice to go for that as I find people very rarely buy flowers for themselves.
“I don’t have a signature bouquet as I think the flowers you give should represent the person receiving them.”
Lewis Dalton Gilbert
What kind of flowers do you like to receive?
I love receiving flowers I’ve never seen before or in colours that you never thought possible. Failing that, peonies are always welcome.
Quick fire questions:
Neutral or colourful flowers?
Neat or wild arrangements?
Petty, dainty flowers or big, showy blooms?
Big showy blooms on their own, pretty dainty flowers in a bouquet.
Favourite piece in the sculpture park at New Art Centre?
My current favourites are Edmund de Waal’s tacet series carved from Hornton Stone.
Favourite design from the Paul Thomas Autumn Collection or British Flowers range?