Green on White (in red)

Fleur Olby’s recent photography show at the Gallery on the Green in Settle, North Yorkshire, proves that occupying a smaller space – in this case an old telephone box – is no barrier to staging a meaningful and immersive exhibition

Fleur Olby’s recent photography show at the Gallery on the Green in Settle, North Yorkshire, proves that occupying a smaller space – in this case an old telephone box – is no barrier to staging a meaningful and immersive exhibition…

The transformation of architect Sir Giles Gilbert Scott’s Bankside Power Station on the banks of London’s river Thames, into one of the world’s great modern art galleries in the form of Tate Modern appears as an almost natural evolution.

However, the same cannot be said of another of Scott’s designs; possibly his most iconic creation and certainly one of his smallest; the scarlet red K6 telephone box that has become a symbol of the UK, so familiar the world over.

But the Gallery on the Green in Settle, North Yorkshire is precisely that, a vibrant red beacon of art described as the “smallest public art gallery in the world”, open 24/7 and “filled to capacity at least twice a day!”

Where once the illuminated panel in the telephone box drew those who needed to contact friends and family or call for help in a world before the advent of the mobile telephone, it is now the word ‘Gallery’ that is illuminated and attracts visitors to the art displayed inside.

It’s within the confines of this unanticipated space that photographer Fleur Olby presented Green on White, an installation that combines the vibrancy of her elegant photographic forms with the very essence of the flowers she portrays in her exquisite and jewel-like photographs. “I wanted to make a small installation, which is a way I’m interested in working,” she says. The series is a selection taken from her book, Fleur: Plant Portraits.

As the title suggests, Olby isolates her chosen subjects on a white background, heightening their sculptural and abstract qualities in her compositions.

In one of these photographs, Fritillaria imperialis, six vibrant yellow petals form a cauldron of life from the very heart of which a lemon yellow stamen rises, out of pools of rich greens hues that radiate outwards, each cradling a pearl-like form of innocence.

In contrast Olby also reveals the complex architectural like structure and beauty of a leaf in Fern II, its feather like form arching across the plane of virgin white like a feather caught in the breeze. In Barred horsetail, the prehistoric plant reveals itself like strands of DNA.

The beauty of these natural forms, that Olby captures so eloquently in her work, is heightened within this unique gallery space, as she plays with the very essence of their being.

On the floor of the gallery – one metre square – Olby planted white hyacinths in a cushion of moss (above); the heavenly fragrance of which fills the senses as you open the door, capturing the visitor and transporting them into their own personal wonderland.

Green on White was at Gallery on the Green, Settle, North Yorkshire, BD24 9HG last month. Its current exhibition is Yorkshire Food, Yorkshire People, a photographic installation by Joan Ransley. More details at galleryonthegreen.org.uk. Olby’s website is fleurolby.com. This article was originally posted on Wayne Ford’s blog, wayneford.tumblr.com, and is republished with permission.

Pink Floyd fans may recognise the cover of our June issue. It’s the original marked-up artwork for Dark Side of the Moon: one of a number of treasures from the archive of design studio Hipgnosis featured in the issue, along with an interview with Aubrey Powell, co-founder of Hipgnosis with the late, great Storm Thorgerson. Elsewhere in the issue we take a first look at The Purple Book: Symbolism and Sensuality in Contemporary Illustration, hear from the curators of a fascinating new V&A show conceived as a ‘walk-in book’ plus we have all the regular debate and analysis on the world of visual communications.

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