Still Life

When the weather turns harsh and the cold nights of winter hem me into the studio, I relish the time I can spend on my experiments. Still life painting (Nature morte to the French) is a traditional, and often maligned, subject area. What is not fully realised is that it has been the testbed for many great painters, notably Picasso, Matisse, Van Gogh, Gauguin. I say test bed as it is how experiments with forms, colours, tones and textures can be made. We are surrounded by all kinds of extraordinary objects both human made and natural that one is spoilt for choice. 


For me the excitement is in the juxtapositions; arrangements that can have all kinds of ramifications. The juxtapositions can tell stories, write poems, produce surreal dreams. I love to lay out a plethora of plants and objects including various lighting systems; candle, oil lamp, halogen spots on a very large glossy white table. Why the glossy table? To obtain complex shadows and reflections as well as adding drama and more complex shapes. This layout system can and does produce a complex mini world; a kind of landscape in which one can roam about. This method has the potential to produce numerous images which have varying ways of bringing out the character of the separate components. One of the interesting juxtapositions I like are the relationship between human made decorations on ceramics, cloth etc and natural forms, especially flowers. 


Occasionally I want to introduce a plate or vase but don’t have one that would be appropriate. My solution is to make one up from my imagination and decorate accordingly. Building still life arrangements enables me to live in a fantasy world where objects interplay, where particular colours can interact and resonate and where I can conduct lighting experiments, playing out harmonies in the same way as musical composers would play with their notes.