Flowers In Double Handled Vase (1986) is an etching on a hand-made cream wove paper by David Hockney. The print represents the artist’s contribution to A Tribute to Birgit Skiöld, a collection of works produced by 118 international artists to raise funds for the Birgit Skiöld Memorial Trust after the famous Swedish printmaker’s death in 1982. The print depicts two flowers in a peculiar vase that strikes with its atypical shape and lack of symmetry or a sense of proportion. It is not a state of blossom that interests Hockney here but rather the fragile, malleable dimension of the natural world reflected most vividly in the process of withering.
Covering the corollas with a layer of frenzied scribbles, Hockney puts emphasis on the expressive quality of the subject matter rather than the decorative function. The flowers are not so much a component within an interior. Rather, Hockney represents them as living creatures caught in the universal drama of ephemerality and transitoriness. The scribbles interrupt the image to hint at the temporal quality of the flowers’ condition. Although the flowers poke through the scribbles and can be seen to stand upwards, as if in the state of bloom, the implicit message of Hockney’s take on the subject matter is that still life is not still at all. As suggested by the couple of drooping leaves, the state of bloom in the print is, above all, fragile.