2018 #22

Sleeping Flowers

by Sean McFarland

Selected by
Casemore Kirkeby, California, USA

A Mountain In The Desert

Selected by Casemore Kirkeby, California, USA

Transfixed by the sun’s effect on nature and humankind, Sean hurls himself into the wild expanses of California, studying with rapt attention the subtle mutations of the region’s wildflowers, ecology and coastline.


When somebody visits my studio, I ask them to participate in a thought experiment. I ask them to close their eyes and then hand them a sheet of paper. The participants are told that they’re holding an image of a beautiful cascading waterfall, but as their eyes open, they find that it was just a blank page: their experience of the imaginary image differed greatly from the reality of the piece of paper.

We’ve all witnessed this gap between a real place and the experience of looking back at an image taken there. In my work, I explore how the photographic surface is, or fails to be, a surrogate for the physical experience of a place.


As I grow older, thoughts of mortality, love and relationships occupy my mind alongside contemplations about my home, California, and humankind’s relationship to the sun. It stimulates growth, brings beauty and radiates through the layers of our skin – ageing the body as well as sustaining it. Surfaces, skin and photographs alike become a record of the sun’s revolutions and our limited experiences of the cycle of life.

My most recent work, Sleeping Flowers, is concerned with cyclical processes; the rising and residing tide; waking and sleeping; life and death; night and day. I photographed San Francisco’s coastline with the Pacific Ocean, the city’s Golden Gate Park and the Eastern Sierra’s Mono Basin. These landscapes range from arid desert to an abundance of ocean life, whilst California Poppies – California’s state flower – blanket the countryside in between.


I’m acutely aware that I use a relatively still medium to depict the natural world – a subject that has proven to be dynamic in every possible way. It’s psychological, biological, political, and historical all in one. To convey its complexity, I look to the natural processes that I observe in my environment. The images are paired with materials and processes that represent their core elements. This has led to an experimental approach combining various materials and processes: broken glass transforms into a mountain, a small circle becomes the moon, and colour photographs emerge from monochromatic images. I see these images as representations of humanity and the mythological construction of wilderness and the West.

Read more (1 min read)

Pacific Ocean

Pacific Ocean

from the series Sleeping Flowers, Sean McFarland

Photo of Sleeping Flowers by Sean McFarland

Half Moon

Half Moon

from the series Sleeping Flowers, Sean McFarland

Sean McFarland

California, US

IMAGE BY Aaron Wojack aaronwojack

Sean McFarland

California, US

Born, raised and based in California, it comes as no surprise that Sean McFarland (b. 1976, USA) consistently photographs the diverse and testing landscape of the West Coast. From the salty seascapes of the Pacific Ocean to the hot and barren Californian deserts, McFarland’s images delve deep into humankind’s relationship with the natural world. Manipulating each work with analogue processes inspired by the core elements in his images, the visual artist’s methods investigate the space between reality and mythological constructions of wilderness.

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