2013 Still Alive: Contemporary still life painting
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Contemporary still life painting by members of the Federation of British Artists
Produced by The Federation of British Artists Limited to accompany the exhibitionStill Alive: Contemporary still life painting by members of the Federation of British Artists16 to 21 SeptemberMall Galleries, The Mall London SW1
The Federation of British Artists Ltd
All artwork copyright the artists. The organisers would like to thank the copyright holders for granting permission to reproduce the work illustrated in this catalogue.
The Federation of British Artists17 Carlton House Terrace, London SW1Y 5BD
firstname.lastname@example.org 7930 6844 www.mallgalleries.org.uk
Registered Charity No. 200048
The still life - a work of art depicting inanimate subject matter, from fruit and flowers, pots and bottles, and well beyond - has a long history, stretching from the present day as far back as Greek and Roman civilisations.
The still life was particularly popular throughout the Renaissance when it was used significantly in religious painting, and with seventeenth century Dutch painters where it often conveyed a persons wealth, mortality, or both simultaneously. At the end of the nineteenth century, with the advent of Modernism, it became a starting point for abstract experiments. The still life has never ceased to captivate the attention of artists and audiences alike.
Still Alive, an exhibition of contemporary still life paintings by members of the Federation of British Artists at the Mall Galleries, is proof aplenty that the genre is as alive and well in the twenty-first century as it ever has been.
Perhaps the enduring appeal of the genre owes to the fact that, to quote Professor Anthony Savile, Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at Kings College London: through [still life] pictureswe find in our everyday domestic surroundings a delicacy and tenderness that we would otherwise quite miss.
The Still Life
A short essay on the subject by Professor Anthony Savile, Kings College London
There are many reasons to admire or to want to own Still Life paintings. Setting aside motivations such as speculation, self-aggrandisement, envy or even the desire for simple sensory pleasure, one might suppose that the sheer technical mastery good Still Life displays is fully adequate ground. Yet for many centuries that answer has been open to question. Technical mastery of one kind or another is admirable only to the extent that it is exercised for an admirable end (think of safe-breaking or poaching or political rhetoric), and for many thinkers the painters desire to replicate in two dimensions what exists already in three is quite idle, an elephant crawling after a worm, as Hegel once sarcastically put it.
To answer the critic the right course must be to make out that the painters image does not reduplicate what we already possess. It does more. In addition the more that it does must be something that is itself a good, something from which we benefit and benefit in ways not often secured in our commerce with objects of the kind served up in life itself - flowers, fruit, everyday objects. Robust defence of Still Life in our own time will be strengthened if we can be sure that the goods that have insulated fine painting of the past from criticism are themselves liable to be renewed or enlarged by the best work of our own day.
One common thought is that while the world itself is rich in objects that engage the painter we rarely see those objects as the painter does. We view them as means to satisfy our various ends, while the artist sees them for themselves. In many cases that is true. But there is no reason why we cannot set aside practical concerns and give those objects our full attention for themselves. That is how we give our attention to their representations in still life painting. If we do it there, we must be able to do it in life itself. This answer cannot take us forward.
Still Alive: Contemporary still life painting
An alternative that has its appeal is that even when we forget our practical concerns we rarely have the penetration that the artist can achieve. So our world-directed attention risks superficiality where the painterly representation of the world potentially enjoys depth. The thought is sometimes expressed by saying that where we just see a pair of muddy boots on the kitchen floor, the artist displays those boots in their essence. He or she commands the Idea of boots where, left to our own devices, we see no more than muddy exemplars. Yet, one may wonder, if we too do not have access to the essence or the Idea, what good can its presence in the image be for us, its needy spectators?
Can this pretentious sounding talk of essences and Ideas be brought safely down to earth? A way to do so may be this; When we set aside our practical concerns, we always experience our surroundings in a certain light. We find them now comforting, now menacing; sometimes puzzling, sometimes refractory and so on. One remarkable talent of the artist is to be able to show us the light in which we experience our lived world and its contents, so that the very way in which we view them (generally unconsciously) is itself something that we are consciously brought to see by and in the image. This is what makes the painting expressive, where its subject matter is not. So in the painting we are given to experience something that we do not already have in our grasp outside it. Its possession in the form of Still Life painting is the possession of an undoubted good. Furthermore, because the ways in which we experience things or can be brought to experience them, change over time, what fine paintings can offer us today will not be just the same as what their precursors offer us. Here we have one good reason to believe with confidence that Still Life still lives. I do not doubt that there are many others too.
Angela ACourt PS
For me, Still Life is the poetry of painting. Our feelings are deeply influenced by the objects and images that surround us.
My information comes from quiet observation and a curiosity in finding the stillness of a moment. My interest is in the play between positive and negative space formed by random placement of everyday objects the overlooked aspects of daily routine that is poetic and shifts our perception between reality and imagination.
Chocolate Plant Flowers Soft pastel on paper, 46 x 62 cm 1,100
Grey Leaves with Hellebore Soft pastel on paper, 62 x 58 cm 1,200
Hellebore on Windowsill Soft pastel on paper, 44 x 54 cm 1,050
Yellow Vase Soft pastel on paper, 63 x 69 cm 1,250
Christopher Aggs RBA
The excitement of Still Life painting for me comes from finding equivalents for visual sensation in paint. Objects shift and find their place on the little stage of my rectangle, and as the painting develops their relationships in terms of proximity, light and colour begin to form conversations each to each and ultimately with the viewer, I hope.
The tradition of Still Life is so full and the great exponents so compelling that it is hard not to walk where others have walked. I try to choose objects that dont get painted very often, taking my cue from the title of Norman Brysons great essay on the genre, Looking at the Overlooked.
Postage and Packaging Oil on board, 54 x 51cm 1,200
Still life with Cocoa Tin Oil on board, 45 x 51cm 950
Two BagsOil on board, 47 x 47 cm 1,000
Glenys Ambrus PS ARCA
I have always been fascinated by the little personal possessions appearing in early 15th century paintings of the Annunciation which the artist has depicted as belonging to Mary a row of embroidered cushions, a precious book or a candlestick. Most of my pictures contain things I have picked up in junkshops, or when shopping.
I love patterns and shapes, putting round objects on squares and vice versa. Colour plays a huge part in my pictures and I like to repeat certain ones to lead the eye around the picture. Even if the main colours in the painting are cool, there is usually a little place where I can put in a bit of zing.
Striped Cloth with Oranges Pastel, 126 x 95 cm 1,250
PearsOil, 74 x 84 cm 1,500
Roses and RibbonsPastel, 46 X 72 cm 1,250
Lillias August RI
From the early years of still life painting objects were used as coded messages and symbols. They conveyed something more than their everyday purpose. I started painting objects when working as a project artist during the building of a Cathedral tower. I could see the significance of the individual components in the general scheme of things however small and unimportant they appeared, their inclusion was an essential part of the grander scheme.
Humble objects are evocative they show history, human endeavour and the visual beauty of aging and use. Still life will always be alive because there is more to it than meets the eye it is intimate yet worldly, simple yet powerful, quiet yet evocative. My direct approach in looking straight at an object is almost a way of forcing attention towards all these things.
Three Hinges and a HookWatercolour, 26 x 43 cm 680
Brush on Folded PaperWatercolour, 32 x 43 cm 700
Brushes on CardboardWatercolour, 28 x 40 cm 680
Chisel on bits of Cardboard Watercolour, 34 x 29 cm 680
Richard Bawden NEAC RE RWS
For me a still life is a personal gathering of collected objects that reflect the personality of the owner; objets trouv, aesthetic forms, bare or covered with decoration; symbolic of life.
ShellsWatercolour, 48 x 64 cm 680
Sunflower, Acanthus, HollyhocksWatercolour, 81 x 59 cm 850
Jason Bowyer PNEAC PS RP