On a smooth matt blue cover, a blistering orange bloom curls into view. This is the inaugural issue of Future Fossil Flora, a modern botanical study focusing on a single flower in each edition. The culture of flowers is unrelentingly romantic and the intoxicating poppy, whose head droops as if weighed down by its own connotations, precedes its reputation.
Although seemingly conservative, creator Kaley Ross has curated something sublime in its simplicity. With its traditionally formatted text it reads like an academic journal, but the photography and illustration is what sews it together. Its minimalism reflects the unadorned, unpretentious poppy, wreathed with only a handful of fragile petals, already wrinkled in their prime.
Its three chapters sprout naturally, beginning with the benign plant itself, before being ensnared by its addictive qualities and ending with its symbolism of both grief and hope. As if the print itself is the tender stem, not robust or sizeable, its content unfurls with unexpected range and complexity.
The curation of Future Fossil Flora is flawless, engaging and thought-provoking. It’s not just beautiful pictures and consumable articles, it is creative stimuli. The contributors are global, stemming from America, Sweden, Canada, Japan, Mexico, Denmark, China and France. The variation of their insights is similarly astounding, from essays, short stories and poetry to opinion and anecdotes.
The dainty, fleeting poppy balancing on its tender stem is remarkably prevalent in cultural history. The writers traverse the nuances of its petals and stem with the closeness of a botanist fixated over a microscope. Joyce Dixon follows Dorothy into the heady poppy field in the Wizard of Oz, tracing the blood-red colour through art and film in an opium-filled haze. The decline of Evelyn Nesbit via deflowering and descent of Roya into addiction in Tara Aghdashloo’s short story reveal its delectable and disreputable lure. Whilst Chitralekha Basu chews on the papery remembrance poppy and her father’s love of the poetry of Wilfred Owen, Oscar Gaynor wanders through the streets of London as an insomniac. Weaving his way to find the blissful blackness only the delicate flower can induce, he uncovers the sleepy structure, its ‘stalks too thin for their flower and fruit, the poppy, weary, seeks to rest its head on the ground.’ It is an interesting correlation to a reverse story of Morpheus, who wakes from sleep to restore black and white reality.
Oddly, its final chapter on the poppy’s connotations with grief and remembrance seems somewhat stunted and ends abruptly, as if cut short. But there must be something in the quietness of this fading out. The photographic series by Daisuke Hamada portraying green meadows blotted with red, like embers, and the pictures of Kaley Ross seem like a quiet closing of lips. After everything is said and done, it is still the flower, wavering against a blue sky.