Monday, October 10, 2022

Delicate Delights

Photography | Brian Rope

Delicate Delights | Yasmin Idriss

Strathnairn Homestead Gallery | 22 September - 16 October

Yasmin Idriss describes herself as an emerging artist and photographer. In 2017, this Canberra resident graduated Bachelor of Visual Arts (Photomedia - Honours) from the Australian National University (ANU). Idriss has been making peoples’ portraits for more than thirty years and says she sees the photogenic potential in everyone she meets.

Idriss enjoys working with both digital and traditional film processes. She also loves to experiment with liquid light, printmaking, painting and creating sculptures from steel or found objects. Her art is influenced by a love of flora and the natural environment.

This exhibition, Delicate Delights, is a culmination of several years of quiet contemplation and photography in isolation – you know why. Many artists turned inwards for creative ideas. To stave off mental health issues, Idriss turned to her pets and nature, and found quiet inspiration in her cats as well as the inquisitive birds, colourful flowers and gardens around her home.

As COVID restrictions eased, Idriss continued to explore the diverse flora and fauna in gardens. This exhibition displays just some resultant artworks featuring flowers.

Flowers are commonly part of the most important occasions of life and have a language of their own. Particular flowers are considered appropriate to specific occasions like birthdays, funerals and weddings.

Most of us know that red roses symbolise love, but not so many of us have the same knowledge of the symbolism of other flowers. During the Victorian era, special meanings were assigned to various flowers, allowing people to express feelings which could not be spoken. This practice, floriography, still thrives today. 

An 1875 book, The language and poetry of flowers, includes these words: There is a language, little known, Lovers claim it as their own, Its symbols smile upon the land, Wrought by nature’s wondrous hand;…. the language of the flowers.

So it is not surprising that, throughout human history, flowers have been a central focus of many artists. There are many famous paintings of flowers – such as van Gogh’s sunflowers, Monet’s water lilies, and Georgia O’Keeffe’s Black Iris.

Famous photographs of flowers are not so easy to find. One famous photographer working in the genre of flower photography was Imogen Cunningham. She began her career creating pictorialism photographs - a technique emphasising artificial, often romanticised, pictorial qualities, mimicking academic painting. She used a soft focus to make her photos blurry. She created some delightful black and white images of lilies in the 1920s. One hundred years later, Canberra artist Lyndall Gerlach is doing the same.

But these works by Idriss are colour shots of brightly coloured flowers. They show us what the vast majority see rather than the monochromatic versions seen by those few affected by monochromacy (complete colour blindness). She is not alone in creating imagery of flowers. Social media reveals it is a popular genre amongst both professional and amateur photographers.

It is also common to see flower images made by members of photography clubs – both monochromatic and coloured works. In my view, the best works are those that go beyond documentation. They use shallow focus, intentional camera movement, carefully thought-out viewpoints to create different compositions, and other techniques - to create interesting and beautiful artworks.

The best examples here include Breeze, a study in pinks in which the flower is definitely stirred by a breeze.


Love letters in Response and Pop of Red make excellent use of shallow focus.

Yasmin_Idriss-Love letters in Response

Yasmin_Idriss-Pop of red

My delicate delight and Frilly delight are perfectly titled.

Yasmin_Idriss-Delicate Delight

Yasmin_Idriss-Frilly Delight

If you love the colourful flowers of Spring, then these are images you should very much enjoy, along with coffee and cake during a Springtime visit to Strathnairn.

This review was first published online by The Canberra Times on 27/9/22 here, then in print on page 19 of the paper of 10/10/22. It is also available on the author's blog here.