Photographer and visual artist Luzia Simons has been focusing on plant life as a theme for many years now. Her flower still-lifes, which she prints out in large format, are the result of a scanning technique that she has developed and continues to fine-tune in order to reach ever further into the very matter of flowers, seeking to touch their innermost flesh.
Transposing one of Luzia Simons’ images into a tapestry made perfect sense. The reference to “Mille fleurs” tapestries is clear enough: a subject so popular in France and the Netherlands in the 15th and 16th centuries that it just had to be explored. But abandoning the perfection and sharpness of a photographic print and turning to expression through a textile, with results that might well be worthy enough but were also highly uncertain, was not without risk.
The decision to employ the so-called Jacquard technique prevailed, as did the choice of Flanders Tapestries, a highly reputed workshop that works with numerous contemporary artists, on a quest to return the art of tapestry-making to its full former prestige. The experiment began with a lengthy phase in which colours were finalised and stitches and threads balanced, as there was no question here of wanting to equal the quality of a professional print at whatever cost; on the contrary, the aim was to reinvent the work by coaxing it into the textile’s living folds. In this sense, Mil Flores is a new step in the artist’s body of work, a revolution rather than simply a pleasing evolution. As she says herself, the tapestry’s texture provides the image with another life, freeing it from its measure of immobility, the disconcertingly “frozen” effect that photography sometimes produces, to tumble into a relationship that is nothing less than carnal, a sensuality that emanates from the medium and enables us to penetrate to the very heart of the subject. It is upon this wasting vegetable matter, these beautiful flowers that fade before our eyes, that the Mil Flores tapestry feeds, letting its delicate interweaving of threads and colours reveal the secrets of the living nature that Luzia Simons never tires of exploring.
This is how we refer to tapestries created using a “Jacquard” mechanical loom, named after the French engineer who patented it in 1801. They are tapestries with continuous wefts. The 19th century saw the introduction of mechanisation: the ongoing vogue for tapestries led to research, and technical improvements and manufacturers gradually replaced a costly human workforce with machinery. The invention of the Jacquard mechanical loom enabled various factories to produce fabrics very similar to classical tapestry. In his 1801 patent, Jacquard asserted that “the way of setting the machine in motion by means of steps is a great advantage, as it results in greater swiftness of execution”.
Tapestries created by Jacquard’s mechanical procedure are recognisable by the fact that the warp threads on the front run below every other weft thread, making the latter visible. There are no “relays” as there are in Gobelins and Beauvais tapestries, which have discontinuous weft threads. The fabric is formed from a single piece by weft threads running from one edge to the other, held up by alternating series of warp threads. The technique also enables high levels of precision in creation of motifs and provides a very wide range of colour shades, which has contributed to the revival in its popularity among contemporary artists over the past few years.
Flanders Tapestries is a high-quality weaving workshop located in Flanders, a region that has been famed for its tapestries since the Middle Ages. In medieval days, tapestries, signs of wealth and power created to cover cold castle walls, became a major art form alongside painting and sculpture. Closer to our times, Flanders Tapestries designed its first tapestry a quarter of a century ago. The factory keeps the entire production process in Belgium, enabling it to create a style of its own and a collection providing a wide variety of styles and sizes. Each product is a masterpiece. As was the case several centuries ago, the demand for exclusive made-to-measure tapestries has been on the rise again for several years. These days, the workshop collaborates with contemporary artists from all over the world, providing outstanding artworks and protecting a unique heritage.
Luzia Simons was born in Quixada in northeast Brazil in 1953, and studied history and visual arts at the Sorbonne in Paris. She settled in Germany in 1986 and currently lives and works in Berlin.
Here most recent solo exhibitions in 2018 are Lustgarten at the Tristan Lorenz Gallery, Frankfurt (Germany) and Between Exploration and Revelation (with Luo Fahui) at the Sanya Museum of Contemporary Art, Sanya (China). In June 2016, the National Archives’ Paris site hosted her exhibition STOCKAGE, a contemporary installation in situ designed for the Hôtel de Soubise’s main courtyard and comprising a dual series of scanograms. The same year, she exhibited a series of hyper-realistic photographic works on Brazilian flora, with the Domain of Chaumont-sur-Loire as the venue. Other major exhibitions have been devoted to her, including at São Paulo’s Pinacothèque in 2013, Chaumont-sur-Loire’s Arts and Nature Centre in 2009, the Künstlerhaus Bethanien, Berlin, in 2006, the French Institute in Istanbul, alongside the Biennale in 2005, and the Württembergischer Kunstverein, Stuttgart, in 2002.
She was also responsible for a 1999 performance, Memory Error, in collaboration with Iris Meinhardt and Michael Knoedgen. This experiment, a combination of photography, dance and electronic music, was repeated on several occasions, in 1999, 2000 and 2004. In 2001, she designed a similar performance with Julia Nachtmann, Save as Julia. She has also been making videos since 2002 (Face Migration, Blow-up, Amazonas Path, etc.).In 2017, she screened her series Blacklist 1, 2, 3 and 4 at the International Garden Festival, whose theme that year was Flower Power.