A Dialogue of Form and Place
Julia Armstrong is the dynamic force behind Anfisa - a Perth-based contemporary floral design studio that specialises in bespoke arrangements, installations and creative events. Anfisa is a tribute to Julia’s grandmother. The name is of Slavic origin, adopted from the Ancient Greek Anthousa, which means “a flower in bloom.” The dynamism inherent in the name is apparent in Julia’s approach.
While captivating floral arrangements are the result of Julia’s creative process, flowers are rarely the starting point. Julia is interested in the ecology of elements within the space, and how those elements converse with each other.
“The curation of a floral composition is a process of thoughtful observation. Each element is guided by the environment, intending to connect with a feeling that the space evokes,” says Julia. Each installation begins with observing the space within which the arrangement will take place - the scale, light and atmosphere. The arch of a wall, the texture of the flooring and the personality of the furniture all combine to form a setting for the narrative to unfold.
Anfisa lives by an ethos of sustainable floral practices and is led by seasonal cycles. The choice of florals is dictated by seasonal offerings and what is accessible for foraging in the immediate environment.
The vessel which holds the arrangement is the conduit between the florals and the space. Julia believes that every vessel is charged with a unique energy and has an idiomatic language. Some pieces evoke tactile associations, others speak through their shape and colour, while some offer flexibility to mould to whichever setting they are placed within.
The elliptical profile of Marloe Marloe’s vessel holds the full forms of Pincushion flowers and nitid, burgundy Congo leaves in a composition named Buttoned. The glossy pools of glaze on the vessel’s surface echo the beaded tips of the flowers.
Heartfelt sits in a corner flanked by deep recessed windows and a limestone wall warmed by the sun. Sunflower hearts appear to grow from the quiet interior space of Emma Lindegaard’s mid-century inspired sculptural form - emerging to discover the world beyond. The hearts watch as the glow of the northern sun moves closer to the nubby sofa and forest green velvet cushion. This comfortable scene in Jardan’s Perth showroom transports one to a place where the purpose is simply to bask in the passing of time.
Simone Karras’ vessels have a familiar roundedness. The manner of curve associated with fertility goddesses. In other ways, they resemble chalices or goblets which might contain the holy grail. A statuesque base holds up a voluptuous gold-studded bowl filled with a medley of large, glossy, heart-shaped forms of Anthuriums, crumpled paper-thin edges of Poppies and nodding buds on solitary stalks. In the background, Open-cut by Jane Tangney radiates colour from the ancient geological formations of the Karajini region. The two-dimensional flatness of the heavy impasto brushstrokes contrasts with the voluminous arrangement in the foreground.
The honest, organic form of Emma Flaherty’s vessel holds an armful of wild flowers and grasses as if freshly picked from a wild summer field. The creamy texture of Henryk Lobaczewski’s abstract appears like a whipped cream backdrop to Meadows installed at Showroom-X in Claremont.
Cymbidium, Kniphofia and a stone suspended by a wired palm leaf combine to create a prehistoric assemblage aptly entitled Counter Balance. The Dinosaur Design vessel is reminiscent of petrified wood and provides a fitting home for Cymbidium - epiphytes known to cling to tree trunks rather than soil. Two canvases from Anya Brock’s Float series hangs above the arrangement depicting monolithic forms, tubular shapes and root-like tendrils in a suspended world. The scene is anchored by the curved monocoque shell of Brodie Neill’s Cowrie Chair.
Take me to Church unifies Emma Lindegaard’s Transportuese vessel and dome-like Leucadendron nuts. The combination elicits cupola prevalent in Renaissance architecture. Polished terrazzo contrasts with the raw nature of the vessel’s ecru crackle surface which echos the sandy textures of Whadjuk Noongar coastal plains. Shards and speckles meshed in the floor of Jardan’s showroom resonate with the cadmium and umber tones of Smokebush and Callistemon tree seeds.
Walking into a space with one of Julia’s installations is to enter into a dialogue of contrasts and harmonies - to become part of the ecosystem of elements which evoke emotion, illicit a reaction and draw one into a conversation grounded in space and time.
Words by Leigh-Ann Gemson, Ambient Creative.