A Moment With | Doctor Lisa Cooper
For Doctor Lisa Cooper, flowers are her medium when producing the most wonderful three dimensional forms of art. Her work celebrates the symmetry of flowers - their form and beauty is a constant inspiration. As an artist, Lisa believes you need to be equal parts vulnerable and brave - an ethos she applies to her work everyday, where she pushes boundaries of traditional floristry to bring us her sculptural arrangements. Here, we talk to Lisa about why flowers are her greatest love and why she feels so lucky to be calling what she does 'work'.
Hi Lisa, tell us a little about the journey to where you are today - when did you first get into floristry? My work with flowers started with my use of them as a medium in the production of artwork. The flowers formed both a pictorial and conceptual element in a number of works where they made up one aspect of a larger, more complex composition. Through my use of them as a medium I came to understand them as powerful signifiers and potent imagers.
During the years of my postgraduate study I worked at a flower shop where I picked up the trade of Floristry. I have a deep affection and respect for the trades and their system of training whereby practical and theoretical knowledge is passed from master to apprentice who becomes journeyman before becoming the master themselves. In the end it was a total movement of the soul. I was utterly drawn and intoxicated by the flowers. I have known toil, great love, heartbreak, monumental loss and incredible joy in order to do the work I do now.
What do you love most about what you do? The primary concern of both my art and flower practices is the attempt to make ineffable human experience observable – to make abstract human emotion visible. Perhaps the most compelling and elusive of these emotions is love and the flowers are for me the pinnacle material for such an ambition. The flowers are transient, metaphorical and evocative; they are at once of heaven and earth in the sense that while they're literally born of the soil they're entirely inexplicable and enigmatic. And I work with them daily. If you can believe it.
If you had to pick a favourite flower, what would it be? I love the most fleeting of the flowers – but The Lily of The Valley is possibly the most fragrant and poetic of all.
How would you best describe your style? My aesthetic has been described as both ‘protestant’ and ‘catholic’, I would agree that there is contradiction in the logic of my work. My work is at once; austere, plain, clarified, utilitarian, scrubbed, entirely non-decorative and purpose driven and at other times or simultaneously decadent, elaborate, gilded, polished, unrestrained and grandiose.
You hold a Doctorate of Philosophy in Fine Art - how do you think this influences or directs your work today? I bring my whole history to my work… I have a doctorate because of an academic bent and an inherited (paternal) impulse to articulate the philosophical thoughts that underpin my practice. The soul that endured the horror of a PhD is still within me and accompanies me everyday to the studio.
As an artist, what’s been the biggest lesson learnt? That you must be vulnerable and brave at once.
Where do you gather inspiration? I am very persuaded by art, I think that my work is influenced by every artwork I have ever seen, accidently or on purpose. It is one of the reasons I don’t ‘follow’ (on the gram) and I don’t consume art (go to every show/opening). I can’t take it, I can’t take it ‘lightly’, and I eat it all too quickly. I'm also influenced by composition in nature… I think I ‘store’ them and play upon their memory. Anish Kapoor – I burst into tears at an exhibition of his work in Mexico at the end of last year and before that a few years ago in London… I think it’s the manner in which he monumentalizes material that moves me the most.
My perfect day would involve: Making good work.
I am inspired by: Passion.
Best advice I’ve ever received: Work from love.
I couldn’t live without: My breath.
My favourite daily ritual: The drive to the flower market - while the world sleeps.
I recently discovered: Glitter eyeliner.
On my wish-list: New York in Winter.
I’m currently reading: Simone Weil (again!).
And listening to: Eminem.
My guilty pleasure: Justin Bieber.
My mantra is: I am love.