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The Dream Life of Flowers

British artist Carolyn Quartermaine blends botanical imagery with historic techniques in her ethereal photographs


British artist Carolyn Quartermaine sees things through her camera lens that no one else does. But once her works are displayed, everyone gets to see her vision. No matter in what medium she is working—be it painting, collage, film, fabrics, or interior installations— Quartermaine’s creations exude spontaneity, whimsy, and an unerring eye for detail. Her most recent foray into photography is no exception. With the same distinctive style that has characterized her work for more than three decades, Quartermaine trains her camera lens on quivering blossoms, sun-dappled garden paths, and other fleeting imagery. “I’m always trying to capture that instant that’s part dream and part memory,” she reveals. “A Through the Looking Glass moment.”

Quartermaine had already begun devoting more and more studio time to photography when a 2016 visit to the Château de Gudanes, her friend Karina Waters’ storied eighteenth-century country home in western France, sparked the idea for a new project. “I was photographing the ruined magical interiors and grounds of the Château, and I imagined filling grand rooms with pin-boards of images,” she recalls. “I took the photographs to Agnès Webster, CEO of Fragonard Parfumeur, in Grasse, and told her I’d love to do a massive collage throughout the museum. She loved the idea!”

Once she had gotten the go-ahead from the museum, Quartermaine spent more than a year working intently, photographing blossoms, trees, and architectural elements in France, England, and Italy. Many pictures were taken on return visits to the Château de Gudanes, while others resulted from “early mornings in freezing gardens or following specific trees for weeks, waiting to capture just the right moment of bloom,” she says.

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This story appeared in the Spring 2018 issue of MILIEU.