‘Contemporary artists reinvigorate the Still-Life tradition’
This book was recommended to me by my tutor. I was delighted with it when it arrived; big glossy photos to pour over and I enjoyed Petry’s writing style very much.
The book is divided into 5 sections: Flora, Food, House & Home, Fauna and Death. And it is indeed very much as the title suggests, modern artists interpretation of the still life genre. The book starts with an introduction and history of the traditional still-life and the symbolism therein.
‘All the violence and death sensationalised on the news/media has prompted so many contemporary artists to turn to ‘nature morte’ and its more nuanced representations and allusions to death’. Although, some of them I would question if they did indeed qualify in this genre. Some in the Food section were a bit nauseating; Cindy Wright’s ‘Nature Morte’, oil on linen shows a bloody, gutted fish coiled up inside a glass bowl. Is is hyper photographically detailed. And ‘Baconsquare’ shows the uncooked flesh of a pig chopped into squares. As a vegan I suppose I should applaud anything that makes people think twice about eating the flesh of animals and fish… However, I do not feel I would be willing nor able to produce work on this subject.
Per Christian Brown’s photograph, in the Flora section, ‘You will still be here when I am gone’, is an example of something that I feel is not quite still life, but interesting anyway! Brown has written on a tree in the woods, and it is meant as a metaphor for man’s limited lifespan and our attempts to mark or mar the natural world. I thought this was rather clever and I always love happening upon art that has been created out in natural environments. I like the idea of art outside weathering and becoming one with the earth in the end, of being reclaimed by the natural world.
In House and Home, I was drawn to Derek Buckner’s ‘White series’, where the artist has closely observed billowing or crumpled folds of white textiles. I looked for more examples and found the series here: http://www.derekbuckner.com/#!/page/112815/white-series Simple yet so beautifully described, I take from this that just painting the effect of light on white has more than enough to interest the viewer, with the description of the darker tones and shadows and the way the material folds. I particularly like the one that appears to be a group of people covered in white sheets, only their hands and forearms are visible. It is rather unnerving. Who are these people and why are they covered?! I am pleased to have found this artist and will look at his work again, in particular his cityscapes.
In Fauna, there is a striking and disturbing piece by Javier Pérez entitled ‘Carroña’ (Carrion). Stuffed, black crows are eating a smashed, red glass chandelier. Somehow, the red glass is like blood and entrails that the crows are greedily feasting upon. Does it mean greed for luxury, beautiful things? And so easily broken and consumed….I do like this idea of replacing one thing, an animal corpse, for another to create such a striking image. it would have worked as a painting too, I think.
The last section, Death, was the most interesting for me and the section that I feel I will take most from to inform my own work, although a lot of work shown was sculpture or installation. I have always liked bones and skulls, and indeed wish I had access to more for my art work. I enjoyed in particular Paul McDervitt’s ‘Mountain Flowers A’, ink on paper. He has made the drawing using standard biro pens, almost in the Manga style. A skull hides beneath beautifully described blue and red flowers. The red is a little like blood at first glance. I also found the image here: http://www.stephenfriedman.com/artists/paul-mcdevitt/artwork
I agree with the author when he says that, ‘death is certain, life is short, and we should enjoy ourselves while we can’, and the’ vanitas’ style of still life reminds us of this.
Overall, ‘Nature Morte’ is a good book to have, to refer to and dip into for inspiration and reference. I have learned that still life can be interpreted in many adventurous and unusual ways.