Completing the circle – ‘a still life of disorder’

It is crunch time now. I have three months to go until the end of MA show in Walsall. Tomorrow, I am seeing the curators of the Walsall Art Gallery and I need to make sense when I talk to them. I need to sound confident. I need to know what I am going to do.

This time last week, my head was very woolly indeed, as reflected in my musing about the pain of the group crit. I realised at that point that I had exactly seven sleeps to come up with something concrete, something real, a ‘thing’ so to speak. There’s nothing like blind panic to bring focus.

It took a couple of days of blind panic, but while sitting in my favourite coffee establishment in Eccleshall thinking about oatcakes, I had an idea. It isn’t a revolutionary idea. In fact, it is just me completing the circle on what I’ve been doing for two years and what I’ve been thinking about. I’ve turned, I hope, the wool into steel. I’ve completed the eternal circle that has been troubling me for two years.

So this is the idea. I have decided to create a grouping of still-life objects as a semi-sculptural painting. Each individual ‘painting’ within the bigger painting will not be dissimilar to the paintings I have made recently, on wood, with a black background. The paintings will be bigger though and resembling the original object more than these did. They will adopt some of the virtual reality painterly drawing style but I will mirror the colours and form of the objects more closely. They will be free standing and more sturdy. They will be placed on the ground of the gallery so people can walk amongst them. 

A close-up

The title of the work is going to be ‘a still life of disorder’ which is a quote by Norman Bryson, author of Looking at the Overlooked, which is a well known collection of essays on still-life art and the still-life genre, published in 1990. The title refers to the ongoing battle within the tradition of still life of the objects often depicted in that genre: between vice and virtue, between wealth and poverty, and pleasure and abstention. I want to reflect that these battles are still inherent, in our live sand in our ‘treasured’ objects of today. The only thing that has changed, is the objects themselves. The metaphors they stand for, are the same.

To this end, I asked people to send me photographs of objects to paint. So far I have received a few and I have come up with some of my own including: blueberries (superfood – metaphor for life); a cup of Costa coffee (it is what it is); a fitbit (time – metaphor for death); apple (Apple features massive in Western society today – it is also a metaphor for knowledge, wisdom and joy); beer (alcohol – symbolic of debauchery, binging, a desire to forget and escape); Alexa (symbolic of monopoly, also domination, surveillance, convenience, isolation); a vape (not symbolic as such but a contemporary object); chargers (a source of technology oxygen); diet coke can (the epitome of company duopoly, capitalism); a cat (something the Internet seems obsessed with, as do people, traditionally symbolises lust and vice). And that is just the start.

Do you know what this is?

The background on the paintings will be black, to represent the fact that our modern objects exist in five areas of space: real, visual, metaphoric, imaginary and virtual. Space is black. Black also to reference the tradition of still life which often used and still does use a black backdrop as a way to highlight the beauty and power of objects. Black enobles them, isolates them and praises them.

I represent lust, apparently.

So, that is my idea. Will it work? I have no idea. Will I be able to paint the ‘essence’ of things in this idea? I really have no idea. I have nothing to lose now. ‘Fear is the enemy of art’ said someone I know recently. I’m just going to jump in feet first and face the fear.

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