Flower Feelings, a new zine by Adelaide-based artist Lucy Thomas which combines the symbolic meaning of flowers with personal anecdotes, is being launched as part of the exhibition Magic Zine: YOU ARE ART at Murray Bridge Regional Gallery. The exhibition, which features Thomas’s past zines, prints and a public program, is the local component in a suite of exhibitions for bibliophiles which also includes: Self Made: Zines and Artist Books, a touring show from the State Library of Victoria, and Book Work, an exhibition that explores old and new self-publishing techniques.
Flower Feelings is inspired by the practice of floriography, a practice occurring across multiple cultures which was popular during the Victorian era when flowers were ascribed a particular meaning and could be used, in a sense, in lieu of language.
“The idea was that you could say something with flowers that you couldn’t say out loud,” explains Thomas of floriography during this period. “I guess it was sort of scandalous. If you were in love with someone’s wife you could give them a flower, which would express this.”
Thomas combines twelve pictures of flowers and their interpretations with personal anecdotes in Flower Feelings. “In zine talk this type of zine is called a ‘perzine’,” says Adele Sliuzus, curator of the exhibition. “It’s taking biographic elements and asking the reader to bring their own story to Lucy’s story. There’s an element of empathy and relation. They are broad ideas through a personal lens.” This relationship often plays out through positive affirmations and advice, which appear as direct lines of communication between maker and reader. For example, peony is the flower of anger and Thomas writes, “anger is a useful emotion if you channel it into making change.” Her words are also peppered with figures in popular culture, such as Bella Hadid. “There’s always a reference to some subcultural theme that I love,” says Thomas. “I’m the type of person who speaks in movie quotes and song lyrics. If I love something it becomes a part of me. Even telling stories about myself there’s always a reference in there.”
Thomas is self-taught and her zine making practice embodies what is typical of zines – a personal low-fi approach occurring outside traditional art institutions. In many ways this mode of art-making now occurs online; social media platforms provide spaces where anyone can share visual self-expression, and, through this, communities are created and fostered. However, Sliuzus says that the importance of zine making remains. “There is a value inherent in the quality of a physical object, even if it is non-conventional or ephemeral or amateur. As objects they create new modes of social networking, new channels of distribution and extend communities into new and interesting areas.”