He is considered the greatest florist in the world, one who revolutionised the concept of this art and has given it new depth and direction. Christian Tortu has lived with flowers his entire life. As a child he loved the roses, tulips and carnations in his parents’ garden in Anjou.
What are the first flowers that you began playing with?
Meadow and forest flowers especially: broom, violets and wild herbs.
When you opened your first studio in Place de L’Odéon, in Paris, what did it feel like to be so far from that immense garden that is Anjou? The metropolis, the city life, how did they influence your imagination?
Arriving in Paris made me realise how much real nature was lacking here. The parks are very organised, planned. I wanted to offer a new look at the use of plants, a freer almost wild look.
Is there a limit to what can be used in an arrangement, or are all plants good for creating a bouquet?
I consider all vegetables, flowers, leaves, fruits to be of the same importance and I believe that they must be put on the same scale of worth. And respect them, because they are living beings.
Do ugly flowers exist?
Only at first glance. When you get to know them, you learn to love the life of plants.
Your arrangements, when photographed, truly look like paintings. How much pictorial art is in your work?
The bases of a bouquet are the shape and colour. And especially the different textures of the flowers and leaves – opaque, lustrous, satiny. They capture the light like a painting, in fact. The contrasts are important if you want to give the composition strength and dynamism.
Are there painters who inspire your work?
Definitely the Flemish masters for the play of the composition, even if it is only a game because it is not realism, they often put together flowers from different seasons. And then Botticelli for the quality of the painting. But especially painters from the South: Matisse, Cézanne, Derain, Picasso the visionary and Chagall for the imagination.
Do flowers today still have very precise meanings or does the aesthetic aspect prevail in the end?
Some flowers, especially depending on the colour, have a meaning, but the thing that matters most is the beauty of a bouquet, of a garden. It is through a combination of various elements that a message is transmitted.
Talk to us about your future projects, about Rouge tout rouge in particular.
For me it is an exercise in style, working with just one colour, playing with shapes and materials. This concept will evolve gently towards other colours, shades of red: pink, orange, dark brown, depending on the season.
A floral arrangement is, necessarily, made of things that are limited in time. In what way do you relate with the transience of your creations?
The ephemeral is tied to the emotion that you feel before a flower. Listening to music, a note will never be played in the same way. This is what causes dismay, sometimes confusion. And so you give a sense to something that is fragile, fleeting like life and therefore to be protected at any cost.
Isn’t it funny that it is precisely ephemeral flowers that are used to express enduring feelings like love, respect or pain?