The preciosity of the crocus flower is at the heart of the Crocus Sativus Fleur du bonheur project by young French artist Guillaume Barth, which combines poetry, botany and mysticism. Barth’s interest in the saffron crocus began in 2017 with a trip to Iran, and the reading of Sufi poems. The contemplation of flowers – and by extension of nature – is important in Sufi thought. This philosophy teaches the wisdom of the present moment, a metaphor for when the flower awakens. The artist then considered the possible link between this philosophy and the properties of saffron. He went onto explore the medicinal, magical and spiritual uses of this plant species. During a trip to Iran, he participated in the harvest of purple flowers and decided to express the preciousness of this flower, its symbols and its history. This plant has never been modified by humans, although it is widely exploited.
Returning to France after many trips and practices in the cultivation of saffron, he decided to create a saffron farm at the [N.A!] Foundation in Alsace. 2,500 bulbs were planted in a circle at the end of summer 2019 in the foundation’s garden.
The contemplation of the opening of the crocus sativus flowers works its magic. The visual and olfactory experience offers a moment of fullness, activating the therapeutic properties of the spice; a powerful natural anxiolytic. The artist completed this experience with saffron tea ceremonies in the garden of Frac Alsace for the first time in September 2019.
Credits: Harvesting saffron crocuses, with the kind invitation of the Hadi Mohamadian family, Torbat-e Heydarieh, Iran, 2018, ©Guillaume Barth / Safranière de Brunstatt, installation of 2,500 flowers in a circle, second flowering on October 15, 2020, Foundation [N.A!]
Along with these experiences, the artist continued his research in ethnobotany and archeology. He then discovered the first mention of the use of saffron on frescoes from the Minoan period, on the island of Santorini in Greece. For a year now, the artist has been designing “a talisman” in parallel with an installation, a piece of silk tinted with a residue of harvested saffron on which an alphabet of flowers is printed, produced in collaboration with the artist Juliette Vergne. He thus reconstructs the frescoes discovered, bearing witness to the religious use of saffron in ancient Greece.
Fascinated by the intense moment of the opening of the flower, which he‘s filmed on several occasions, the artist will present an immersive installation in the fall of 2021 at the National Studio of Contemporary Arts in Fresnoy, where he is currently resident. The installation will consist of a video and a musical composition by Mirtohid Radfar, who created specific music for the birth of the flower, inspiring respect and care. The work aims to create a space of resilience and positive energy.
The artist creates links between disciplines. He is strongly attached to the sensitive and lively dimension of his project, which he enriches through discussions with scientists and other creative partners. The transmission and growth of its plantations are at the heart of his project. His work invites us to reconnect with living things, and to think about our ways of consuming, cultivating plants and simply observing them while also respecting them.
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Credits: Saffron tea ceremony, Frac Alsace garden, 2019, ©Guillaume Barth