⟨ Book ⟩

From plants to cats: The beauty of quirkiness

Cats & Plants by Stephen Eichhorn

Words / Jas Tse
Translation / Iris Heung

我曾聽過這樣一句話:「植物會感覺到養她的人的愛。」如果走神了,她會凋謝,而當你用心,她又會回來。Stephen Eichhorn就這樣說:「我覺得植物的特徵與貓其實相像,他們都可以是不可思議、難以應付、古怪且黏人的。」

Stephen是來自北卡羅來納州勒諾縣的藝術家,所創作的植物拼貼畫有種耐人尋味的奇異趣味。那是他拿著美工刀,把一株株、一顆顆構造迥異的植物,從他的植物藏書中「收割」出來的,時常就這樣花掉整天而樂此不疲。「我很享受切割圖像時需要一直重複的動作。」尤其纖細多葉、盤根錯節的蕨類就似是其心頭好般屢屢見於畫面之內。

植物畫逐漸拼貼出他的簽名式,而直到某天,畫作裡首次出現了貓的蹤影。「那是2008還是2009年吧,當時在為另一些拼貼畫找原材,就偶爾翻閱到有關貓的書。我才意識到拍攝貓以及拍攝植物的方式非常相似,兩者的靜物照構圖都能有種詭譎與幽默 —— 就好像他們都是家居用品。」

這種特質顯然同樣能見於他的畫作裡 —— 貓的靈動眼睛,會躲藏在貝殼之內;牠們時而頭頂仙人掌,時而兩眼「生花」。玩笑似的景象,如同巧合般匹配,或許是貓的神態自若才讓人感到,這些不合邏輯的狀況看來變得理所當然。

對於後來演變成長期進行的作品系列「Cats and Plants」,Stephen如是說:「那是出於我對貓照片的喜愛,以及我對動物影像的本能反應。」那麼,喜歡貓與喜歡貓照片,之間有什麼區別嗎?「是有不同的。我對貓照片的喜愛遠遠超越我對貓的喜愛。我很愛我的貓Kevin,但我更接近是一位愛狗之人呢(家裡養了兩隻玩具貴婦狗)。」

最近被創意工作室暨獨立出版社Zioxla將此系列,超過二百幅作品輯錄成書《Cats & Plants》。曾先後出版兩冊另類植物書籍《Strange Plants》的Zioxla,有種能力洞見日常之物身懷著的奇異美態,這次合作也就更讓人期待了。

I was once told that plants can feel the love of its carer. It can wither if you fail to be attentive, but giving enough care can bring its life back. Stephen Eichhorn explains, “I think plant personalities and cats are similar – they can be magical, quirky, difficult, or needy.”

Eichhorn was born in Lenoir County, North Carolina. Using plants with distinctive structures he ‘harvests’ from the books he collected, Eichhorn creates quirky yet playful collages of plants. The process of cutting out images can easily spend him eight hours a day, but to him, “it’s really relaxing and there’s a nice rhythm.” Among many members of the vegetable kingdom, fern with long, thin leaves, and plants with intertwined roots appear to be the most frequently featured ones in his works.

Botanical cut-outs has always been a signature of Eichhorn until one day furry felines started to have a presence in his work too. “Around 2008 or 2009, while searching for source material for other collages, I would occasionally come across cat books, and I noticed that the cats had been photographed in similar ways to the plants. There was a quirkiness and humor to the still life compositions of the houseplants that the cat photos shared, like the cat and plants were both domestic objects.”

Eichhorn’s works are no less humorous than what he finds in the cat and houseplants photos – a pair of sparkling eyes staring from behind a seashell, sometimes cactus grows from the head of a cat, or flowers bloom from its eyes. With the unique composure of cats, the whimsical images he creates are illogical but legitimate at the same time.

These collages are later developed into the “Cats and Plants” series. Eichhorn explains, “It was born out of my love for the cat imagery and visceral response to the portraits of these animals.” Are there any difference between the love for cats and images of cats? Eichhorn, who keeps two toy poodles says, “Yes, there is a difference. I am far more obsessed and interested in the cat imagery than cats in real life. I do love my cat – Kevin, but am more of a dog person.”

The creative agency Zioxla recently published over 200 pieces of work from the series in the photobook Cats & Plants. From the two unconventional encyclopedias of houseplant Strange Plants, Zioxla already revealed their appreciation for the queer aesthetics of ordinary objects. The launch of the new book is undoubtedly bringing more surprises to the readers.

Image courtesy of Zioxla