Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Review: Still Alive - Contemporary Still Life Painting

This is a review of Still Alive - Contemporary Still Life Painting by FBA members.  The exhibition is now on at the Mall Galleries and admission is free. It is open everyday 10am to 5pm - and closes on 21 September at 5pm.  However you can also browse the works on display and buy online.

Still Alive at the Mall Galleries - a visitor views works by Lucy McKie
Still Alive at the Mall Galleries - one corner
The exhibition is described thus
A selling exhibition of contemporary still life paintings by members of the Federation of British Artists, Still Alive showcases an eclectic selection of still lifes, ranging from the realist to the abstract, all of which utilise form and texture, colour and tone, to convey the extraordinary essence of everyday objects.
A short essay on the still life genre by Professor Anthony Savile, King’s College London was also specially commissioned for the exhibition – click here to read it. (I must confess I got a bit lost in this - maybe it needs a second read?)

Still Life is a curious genre.  It comes and goes in popularity and has never enjoyed the status of (say) portrait painting - and yet it endures and is ever popular with collectors. 

Some six years ago I started to research still life painting in response to a debate about it is - which ended up with me writing a post for this blog What is a still life?  I also developed developed a website (Still Life - Resources for Artists) as a repository for all the links I could find online to information about 'the still life' - including
  • a definition of what it is, 
  • how the genre has developed over time and 
  • some sense of the variety which we can see in people's artwork today. 
In doing my research I came across an awful lot of still life paintings by artists from different countries and different ages.  As a result, I'm now very fond of a good still life - but by the same token, the bar has been raised  from my personal perspective in relation to what I think is a good still life!

On the whole I find I prefer paintings by people who regularly pursue (or pursued)  the art of still life painting on a regular basis.  That's because it's actually more complicated than it looks to do well. Artfully arranged 'found' objects are my particular 'bete noire'! It's the surest signal I've yet found of amateur painting.  Those who paint still life on a regular basis eventually develop the skills to present an image which is constructed to tell a story - and we all know that this has happened - or create an arrangement that is aesthetically pleasing, without any pretensions as to having just happened on it.  Plus they can spot a genuine 'found' still life subject at 20 paces!  I'm very fond of those who use it as an exercise in rendering basic shapes, colour and light - with the subject matter being somewhat incidental to what is basically an abstracted painting.

Artists included in this exhibition at the Mall Galleries this week are listed below - with images of artwork from the show.  My preference very much leaned towards those who presented a consistent suite of works framed for showing in a coherent way.  I liked individual pieces by other artists - some of whom I rate as excellent still life artists - but the ones who I'm highlighting below are the ones who had the most positive impact on me.

Still Alive at the Mall Galleries - Pastel artwork by Angela ACourt PS
Still Alive at the Mall Galleries - watercolour paintings by Lilias August RI
Still Alive at the Mall Galleries
- watercolour paintings by Richard Bawden NEAC RE RWS
Still Alive at the Mall Galleries
small oil on board paintings by Barbara Richardson
Still Alive at the Mall Galleries - watercolour paintings by Annie Williams RBA, RE, RWS

1 comment:

jacqui boyd said...

thanks for putting up your links (and for opening in a new window) Unfortunately your link to Andrew James is not working - think this is the correct website -http://www.andrewjamesartist.co.uk/ Haven't had time again for the challenge but once my daughter, Son-in-law and grand-daughter move into their new house in about 6 wks my time will suddenly become much more expansive until I become the childminder in Jan.



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