From the white wall leather hands offer to the observer a bouquet of flowers, a beautiful composition, a tribute to the extremely romantic still life of the Dutch artist Rachel Ruysch, whose organic component is however distorted. Sottobosco (2021) is the sculpture by Rose Nestler in which the flowers seem to be covered by a layer of leather which, in addition to making them monochromatic, keeps them in a limbo between organic and sculptural, ephemeral and immortal. By simulating a real bouquet of flowers, Nestler creates a mirror effect: a tulip seems ready to wither, a poppy unfolds, a couple of roses seem to invite the visitor’s sense of smell to recreate their delicate scent.

The American artist who has made the modeling of fabrics the characterization that best defines her, with Sottobosco carries out her research around the representation of femininity and the power that icons can exercise. The bouquet of flowers is the emblem of the romantic representation of the gestures of love of contemporary society which however hide capitalist dynamics: disposable floral arrangements which serve as proof of a relationship, a status and a conformity of one’s daily life.

At the same time, however, Nestler’s sculpture is part of the memento mori tradition: not without an ironic and pop hint – the sculpture seems to have come out of a 1970s comic strip, the bouquet of flowers fossilized in synthetic leather seems to translate the fierce need for contemporary women to stop time, to protect their beauty from the erosion of the years. The disruptive obsession with immortality is expressed in the need to show everything in its perfection: the bouquet of flowers will never wither, it will always remain in tension towards the perfect woman, ready to welcome it in her hands.

Sottobosco fascinates with the sensuality that distinguishes flowers and their symbolism, but suggests the cracks that hide under the patina of perfection that capitalism tries to build every day. The melancholy given by the black and white of the materials is perhaps the way to discover these cracks and to rediscover the organicity that belongs to us even in the beauty of its decay.

Rose Nestler
Sottobosco (bouquet after Rachel Ruysch), 2021
Leather, wire, wood, polyester filling, 101 x 58 x 43 cm
Courtesy of the artist and Public Gallery, London