Ignacio Canales Aracil is a Spanish sculptor who makes extraordinary delicate structures from real pressed flowers and plants. The flowers are held together without the use of any glue but once dried, sprayed with a matt varnish to protect them from moisture.
His works demonstrate a contemporary interpretation of the ancient tradition of preserving flowers, which dates back to the brightly coloured flowers found in excavated Egyptian tombs. His sculptures can in theory, stay intact for hundreds of years. As well as working with real flowers Ignacio has also worked with porcelain and more recently, wood. We spoke to him about his unique craft and inspiration.
Describe your creative background
I started painting at an early age and wanted to make it my profession ever since I can remember. I studied art at school and then made it into the Fine Arts College at Madrid (Universidad Complutense). I received a couple of scholarships that made it possible to specialise in sculpture at Wimbledon College of Art and to later pursue an MA in Fine Art at Chelsea College of Art in London. More recently, I have completed an MA in Landscape Design at Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, which has helped me to gain a better understanding of nature.
When and why did you start working with flowers?
Flowers, trees and nature in general has been an endless source of inspiration since the beginning of my career. But when I was studying in London I became aware of the British tradition of gardening which I started to enjoy. I then felt urged to respond to it through my sculptures.
What can you tell us about the processes you employ in your sculptures?
The technique is nothing new, flowers pressed between paper, that’s all I use. But to develop paper moulds with different sizes and shapes has been a constant challenge.
Where do you find inspiration for each piece?
The gardens that I visit, nature at its wildest, traditional pottery, ancient carvings, romantic ruins, instruments, even the marketing and publicity that surround us. There is no one theme that inspires my work and I can see all the things that interest me and move me, are present in each piece.
Can you give an example of the thought processes behind your work?
I made I call you from the deepest (first image) with the idea of a gong in my mind, one that plays a profound sound like a bell that calls to pray or to war. It was also the biggest piece I had ever made at that time and I wanted to exhibit it without barriers. The feeling of having such a big piece, so fragile and at the same time so strong, was empowering. A beautiful fear.
The piece See through (below) both broadens and veils the view. It takes inspiration from the rosette of a cathedral which selects and reflects the light in a way that enables us to have different experiences.
Are all of your sculptures designed to be permanent works of art? How do you preserve them?
For all my works that depends very much on the conservation. Regarding the flower pieces, some of my sculptures are in collections where they are still looking bright and others are in complete decay. For these works, this is a very important part of the life of the piece which defines how we see beauty and how we feel about time. The flowers are not lyophilized (freeze-dried), and are allowed to decay depending on the conservation that we are able to give them.
What is the most interesting commission you’ve worked on?
I very much enjoyed working with the Australian Open. They commissioned 14 pieces and every detail – from the studio work to transporting it, was a big challenge. They have a fantastic team and I learnt to have fun with all of it.
See more of Ignacio’s work here.