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Book of the Week: A Pick by Jordan Sullivan

Book of the Week Book of the Week: A Pick by Jordan Sullivan Jordan Sullivan selects Tulip by Celine Marchbank as Book of the Week.

Tulip by Celine Marchbank. Dewi Lewis Publishing, 2016.
Jordan Sullivan selects Tulip by Celine Marchbank from Dewi Lewis Publishing as Book of the Week.

"Celine Marchbank’s new publication, Tulip, blooms with the same boldness and courage as it’s namesake. The cover, a tulip, falling or resting, is at beginning of the end of its lifecycle (one petal is about to fall away).

Marchbank, who works extensively as a documentary photographer throughout Britain, became a caretaker for her mother, in September 2009, after her mother became terminally ill with lung cancer and a brain tumor. Marchbank cites her mother’s love of flowers as a point of origin for her project. Flowers bring beauty into our homes and lives, and they also function as expressions of love and gratitude to the ones around us. Tulip’s uses of personal history and tragedy as a jumping off point to explore these domesticated and natural wonders turn them into beautiful and complex symbols of our own humanity.

On the surface, Tulip is a classically structured narrative. The setting is a house and its surrounding landscape. The characters are Marchbank and her dying mother. But time takes on a life of it’s own as the Tulip progresses. Time moves forwards and backwards (one could start this book in the beginning, middle or end, and arguably arrive at similar impressions). We are not allowed to understand the precise blueprint of the house either. The physical space of the home and it’s objects seem to become internalized. We get the feeling we are roaming through an intimate space that exists within Marchbank, giving the book a unique vulnerability and humanity.

Unfolding like a fragmented puzzle, photographs of Marchbank’s mother are interlaced with ethereal, day-to-day moments - golden light shines through the banisters of a staircase Marchbank is either climbing or descending, the tops of a treeline rise against a blank slate of gray sky, and hazy still-life’s of her mother’s flowers are everywhere, in various states of life, reminding us of our own ephemerality.

Tulip functions at once as photobook and heartbreaking love letter from a daughter to her mother. We get a sense of the rich life they shared, though we are not shown any specific memories from the past. All we have our fragments of their last days together, and those fragments reveal so much beauty and love. Tulip is also a homage to an era. Marchbank's mother is part of a generation quickly disappearing, the last ones to live completely through pre-Brexit Britain. Tulip reminds us of the things we have lost, the things we have to lose, and the importance of caring for the natural world and our loved ones. Throughout these pages, Marchbank's flowers, like her mother, stand as powerful and gorgeous creatures — testaments to the wonder and fragility of life itself." — Jordan Sullivan

Purchase Book

Tulip by Celine Marchbank. Dewi Lewis Publishing, 2016.

Tulip by Celine Marchbank. Dewi Lewis Publishing, 2016.

Jordan Sullivan is an artist living in Los Angeles, CA. His book of photographs and collages, An Island In The Moon, was selected as one of the Best Books of 2015. Sullivan's recent publications include After the Funeral and Remaining Light.