I am in the midst of a rather intense CFS crash & can’t concentrate on writing. I was stressing out about tumbleweeds blowing through the blog, when I thought ‘wait a minute, I’ve got tons of old writing I could reuse’. So here’s a slightly edited piece from my college years. It seemed apt to publish a piece about Still Life at a time when my life is essentially standing still.
Still Life – written 1st July 2001
I have come to realise that much of what I make is actually Still Life. My photographs, in particular, definitely have a Still Life sensibility. I am looking at small things, like hot raspberries on the beach or the reflection in a bowl of water and saying that they are small, yet very important.
It seems to me that that is what most Still Lives do: they take things and set them apart. Still Life demands that we really look at the flagon of wine and the apple, or the bowl of cherries, or the lifeless carcasses. It ponders the flowers, the glass and the tablecloth. It makes us see the texture of everyday life and forces the realisation that actually these things are amazing. The bread we eat, the soft cheese, the pile of fruit, the luscious cakes, the humble or grand spread. This is what keeps us alive after all. This is what nourishes us.
Of course, we also need vast epic pictures of the imagination and portraits that force us to look at our frail human bodies. We need art to consider many things. But it seems sad to me that Still Life should so long have been considered to be the least important subject when it also deals with life and death. To me, mortality seems a vital component of many Still Lives. Those flowers will soon be dead: they are just caught for a moment in time. Caught at the point of perfection? Or perhaps already weeping their petals onto the rough-hewn table or perfect lace. That food will spoil or be devoured by a hoard of hungry mouths. Even that fine glass goblet will eventually be broken or lost. The table itself will be consumed by history. Who knows what happened to the musical instruments, the sheet music or the pile of books? They are lost to us except for the contained, still, captured image.
It is that quality of stillness that I love about Still Life. More and more my work has been edging towards stillness; not actual silence but definitely quietness. I think I am looking for contemplation and the mysterious void. Stillness is a quality that I associate strongly with the colour white, which is perhaps why my work has contained so much paleness in the last two years. I am searching for that perfect moment perhaps, that moment of clarity and stillness?