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Annet Van Der Voort is a Dutch photographer now living in Germany, whose work often focuses on the transience of nature and and the themes of life and death. Her vanitas series harks back to the genre of the same name that was particularly popular in the Netherlands in the 16th and 17th centuries. As many painters during this period of Dutch painting, she includes insects, butterflies, and other small animals in these floral compositions as essential elements.
To Everything There is a Season. There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven – A time to give birth and a time to die; a time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted...
‚Vanitas,‘ loosely translated as vanity, corresponded to the transient nature of earthly life and its trappings. Compositions often included skulls and rotten fruit as symbols of death and decay, and fruit and flowers, symbolising the brevity of life.
In van der Voort’s atelier, which she calls a floral laboratory, she observes the transformation of flowers as they go through various states of expiration. Her technique for producing images is complex, modern and completely without camera. She tells us that she „scans the wilting splendor and in doing so creates a special visual space that best corresponds to her understanding of vanitas, the philosophical idea of the transience of everything mundane.“
Van Der Voort also has a variety of other nature-inspired series including Flow, in which the same scene depicting a river and trees were captured repeatedly over the course of three years, and brightly coloured Tulips. She writes:
„Tulips became objects of desire in the seventeenth century. Their bulbs were auctioned at the highest prices. Splendid paintings of the flora were commissioned - at certain times the paintings were less expensive than the bulbs... A true cult emerged around the floral status symbol, and thus the tulip made its way into the halls of art history. Today the flower paintings and contemporary still lifes rank among the zenith of Dutch painting.
„The tulip growers outdid themselves with new color variations, but the highest goal was to create a black version. An absurd idea, it may seem – but perhaps logical when one considers the tulip’s ephemerality: blossoming beauty destined to deterioration.“
Sitting as they do against a black background, Annet van Voort’s works convey in an atmospheric way the fragility of life and the fact that life and death, planting and uprooting are all part of a larger cycle – it’s like a visual representation of the message of Ecclesiastes 3:1.