The Still Life genre emerged in Italy around the 16th century, it has since been well popularised right across the globe, with each era and geographical area developing its own particular patois. You’d now be hard pressed to find a home, hospital, head office or homewares shop today that does not have at least one painting or print depicting a ‘still life’, of varying levels of merit!
While contemporary art is often seen as conceptual and difficult, the still life genre is instead uncomplicated and beautiful. It is so because it is familiar, relatable, and accessible to almost any viewer – often seen to hero the food, flowers, and man-made objects of our everyday lives.
For the viewer, the visual language employed by a still life artist might evoke a jolting memory – an object acting as a trigger or portal to another place or time. It might allow a beautiful still moment to rest one’s eyes on amid an otherwise frenzied life devoid of enough beauty. It might be the unidentifiable atmosphere suggested in its rendering of a subject, less as object and more as mood or feeling.
Whatever the grounds might be, still life offers to us a subjective glimpse into our very human life. Our routines and the impermanence of life are brought to light by the possessions we acquire, and those we leave behind.
Still life communicates grand gestures despite its modesty.
This exhibition curated by Amber Creswell Bell brings together a selection of artists featured in her 2021 book ‘Still Life’ (Thames & Hudson).