Seen By Everyone @ The Royal Standard, Liverpool
By the time you’re reading this, I can guarantee that the current exhibition ‘Seen by Everyone’ at The Royal Standard will look entirely different to what it was three weeks ago when it first opened. This is why, whether you’ve seen it before, or are still deciding whether it’s worth venturing all the way down to the Baltic Triangle, let me tell you – yes, it is.
A collaboration between florist Leanne Cook and artist/writer Zarina Muhammad, ‘Seen by Everyone’ is a one-piece display consisting of an upside-down meadow of freshly cut flowers suspended from the ceiling. It’s accompanied by a publication with images which partly inspired the show and conversations between the collaborators. In fact, the title of the show subtly refers to the joint participation over WhatsApp’s group chat function and its accompanying two blue ticks when a message is ‘seen by everyone’.
An encounter with nature indoors is usually a welcome experience; plants in art are a nod to the very basic structures which underlie our lives and appeal to our basic instincts. By weaving a traditional subject into an unexpected form and placing it on the ceiling it maintains the comfort and familiarity of the raw matter and adds a pinch of playfulness. You will not find ostentatiousness there, rather it is imbued with delicacy and subtlety both in the treatment of the organic material and the decision to focus on a singular exhibit.
Putting anything in a gallery space automatically gives the object a new dimension, at the very least it demands our attention. As the flowers dry and shrivel up, they fall to the ground creating something of a crunchy, scented rug. While it may not be surprising to see plants indoors at all, a large-scale flower arrangement being the focal point of the show causes the viewer to spend that little bit longer on examining each fallen piece and figuring out where it belongs. This process, alongside the natural aroma makes the gallery space, quite simply, a lovely place to be.
Described as an ‘exploration of tenderness’, it’s very clear that the senses are essential in experiencing the room fully and this is a satisfying addition to the traditional notion of the art exhibit. Just as body language plays a crucial part of communication, all senses alongside vision enhance our impression of the art object, even if on a purely physical level. We don’t always need to understand it if it smells good. We don’t have to analyse the use of materials until we can feel it crumbling in our hands. Indeed, I was lucky enough to visit the show in the rain so had the added feature of a sound resembling a nearby fountain. (Hint hint: perfect activity for a rainy day!)
All this to say that ‘Seen by Everyone’ is a temporary oasis of calm in the middle of an industrial estate and we couldn’t ask for more. I’m in the unusual position of inviting not only new visitors but also those who have already seen the show with a clear conscience, because the it is genuinely still changing and evolving. The Royal Standard’s most recent collaborators have made the most of the unexpected qualities of the raw fabric of nature and it’s your last chance to see it before it disappears. Come along, breathe in deep and enjoy.