Frans Smit

Withering Flowers as a Metaphor in ‘Debitum Naturae’ by Frans Smit

Frans Smit Cut Crystal


‘Debitum Naturae’, (The Debt of Nature) is the documentation of organic matter, mostly flowers, as it deteriorates over time, and too a visually beautiful comment on our own mortality. The series was produced by Frans Smit, who is currently completing an artist’s residency in New York City while concluding this body of work.


A collaborator of Frans’s, multidisciplinary artist Chantel Woodman, was invited by Michelle Martinez of Shell’s Loft to work in residency at her space in New York after seeing her works at Bronze Age in Woodstock, Cape Town. After sharing Frans and Chantel’s plans to collaborate, he too was invited to work from the residency producing a show, “New Africa, South York”, which they did over 3 months. ‘Debitum Naturae’ will make up part of the show which will first be revealed at a viewing this Thursday and later officially at the opening on 6 June in New York City.


For ‘Debitum Naturae’, Frans patiently captured the unremarkable day-to-day changes of flowers as they decayed, and then overlayed the images revealing the gradual changes, once virtually imperceptible to the human eye, as significant. As with the human body, it’s only in retrospect that we notice the extent of our physical degeneration over time.


In order to achieve his desired effect, Frans photographed each still life every day at the same time, and in the same way. He digitally superimposed each version in different opacities which creates an X-ray-like image. The withered stems, leaves and petals are presented as one with the ghostly visions of their previous forms. By doing this, Frans says, “the single image is then rendered a symbol of both life and the inevitability of our own mortality.”


The photographic images are accompanied by oil paintings of the same floral arrangements.


Find more of Frans’s work at



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