Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Still Life

One of the things that has happened during the several years now that I've been following various people with an interest in art on Tumblr is that I've become much more broadly aware of and attentive to still life as an artistic subgenre.

There's a tumblr blog called Still Life Quick Heart which consists entirely of still life postings. Here's one by an artist named Petra Reece that hit my dashboard today:

In any painting, abstract or representational, in doesn't matter, there are a limited number of variables to work with. You've basically got a blank space, a rectangle, and you need to put paint on it. Before or while doing so, you need to make some decisions about shapes, some decisions about color, some decisions relative proportions of light and dark, some decisions about texture and the extent to which the paint is recognizable as paint, or becomes a vehicle of some other content that so fully reaches the eye that the is essentially invisible. This painting is way over to the right on that scale. By way of contrast, this one, by Cezanne is further over to the left:

Cezanne is not trying to disguise the fact of the paint, on the contrary, he's left the brush strokes visible and rendered the whole thing in such a way that the handling of the paint is as much a part what is appealing about the picture as the three apples. 

Taking it one step further, Yuri Konstantinov puts together what at first glance looks like it might be an abstract, except that in the center the colors resolve somewhat gesturally into a tabletop, some roses, a window.

Then, way over on the left, you can find something like Nancy Gruskin's "Tablescape," which comes across mostly as a arrangement of pigment on a plane and only secondarily as a plate and a pear on a table.

I don't have a preference. I like all of 'em. But I'm intrigued by the various ways that individual artists answer the challenge of making a still life that makes us want to keep looking at it.

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