Exhibition review: Rearranged: Art of the Flower, Museum of Brisbane

An exhibition that opens up a world of natural beauty in our own backyard.
Rearranged: Art of the Flower. Image is a woman in a red headscarf looking at a large colourful painting of flowers on a gallery wall.

Tucked away in the Museum of Brisbane is a secret garden waiting to be uncovered.

Bringing the outside world in, Rearranged: Art of the Flower features 20 established and emerging local artists expressing their love for flowers through paintings, textiles, sculptures, ceramics and new media.

Presented in a Queenslander type “house” with traditional wooden awnings built-in, the exhibition invites visitors to walk through the rooms adorned with still life paintings then out to the garden in full bloom. 

The first room displays a classic salon of works for young and old to appreciate. Whether an art lover or a nature enthusiast, these works welcome you into a home full of floral arrangements so vibrant you can almost smell their perfume.

Bronwyn Searle’s Jacaranda Ink is a gentle nod to spring in Brisbane, while Michael Zavros’ Crystal/Thistle makes an Australian weed look appealing in a crystal glass.

Walking further into the home, Karen Stone’s six towering paper-arabesques burst with vivid imagery and memories. Working with recycled garments, she draws on the traditional floral patterns of homely couches, curtains and carpets, which tell a beautiful story about the artist hiding behind her grandmother’s floral-patterned couch and imagining the flowers coming to life. 

Out to the backyards of Brisbane, the exhibition displays works from a diverse range of multicultural and First Nations creatives, highlighting the significance of flowers across different cultures.

From a colourful crocheted flower plot by Milomirka Radovic (of Serbian roots) to Jaishree Srinivasan’s installation of 800 ceramic petals, incorporating South Indian ritual practices, the works showcase the beauty of an Aussie backyard from different cultural backgrounds, where our love for nature is shared over the fence and across the world. 

The continuing connection to Country is deeply felt on the verandah of the Queenslander home, where Quandamooka artist Elisa Jane Carmichael honours her ancestors by using their practices such as weaving and wildflower collecting to embrace the potential of plants and respecting and caring for native flora.

Boneta-Marie Mabo, a proud Meriam, Munbarra and Nywaigi artist, uses floral seed packets of plants brought over by the First Fleet to confront the history of the Australian prison system and to emphasise how words such as “detention centre” have softened the brutal reality of these institutions.

Like any still life painting, there’s deeper meaning there if you take the time to soak it all in. 

Flowers are often associated with the feminine, as the commentary around artist Georgia O’Keefe’s 200 works of flowers suggests. However, Rearranged: Art of the Flower asks us to reframe how we see these works and open up to the vastness of nature that flowers represent.

Read: Theatre review: Shakespeare in the Garden – A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Wollongong Botanic Garden

Flowers take time to grow, and Rearranged: Art of the Flower invites us all to take time to honour the beautiful world around us.

Rearranged: Art of the Flower
Museum of Brisbane

Rearranged will be exhibited until 11 August 2024.

Lisette Drew is a writer, theatre maker and youth literature advocate, who has worked nationally and overseas on over 50 theatrical productions. Her play, Breakwater, was shortlisted for two playwriting awards and her novel The Cloud Factory was longlisted for The Hawkeye Prize. In 2022 she received a Kill Your Darlings Mentorship and was a City of Melbourne Writer-in-Residence. Lisette shares her love for stories and storytelling running writing and theatre workshops for children.