I’ve been channeling Van Gogh and the Dutch Masters while trying to get my head around the history of still life painting. I’ve learnt that in the 17th Century the French Academy created a hierarchy of art ranging from historic/religious, portraiture, daily life, landscape to still life right down the bottom. I’ve never really bothered with this genre of photography till we went into lockdown and time stood still.
“It seems to be that it is a painter’s duty to put an idea into his work” ~Van Gogh
Going to the Van Gogh exhibition recently, here in Sydney made me really think about the colour yellow and still life. Still Life requires that you take everyday objects and make them special. I like that. The old masters realised they needed to master the two lowest ranked genres before they could excel in portraiture or religious art because still life was present everywhere. I’ve needed to be very deliberate in how I thought about composition, colour, texture and light while creating this scene.
Normality is a paved road: It’s comfortable to walk, but no flowers grow on it. ~Van Gogh
I was always confused by the title ‘Still Life’ till recently. How could life be still I wondered. I learnt that the word has been derived from the French ‘nature morte’, meaning that the image comprised of something from nature (like the flowers) together with something that was still, inanimate or dead (like the vase).
But these wild flowers have been cut from my garden and we know that they too will pass. So — the original idea of still life painting was to remind us that all life passes and if it is to live on, it must be recorded.
I dream of painting and then I paint my dream ~Van Gogh
So here you go my friends. The wildflowers from my spring garden have been immortalised. I tried a few different compositions as well as a few monochrome images. Each image seems to evoke a different feel. After sharing the images on social media and listening to what my friends said, I shot this final image.
I have found in my still-life work that I seem to be able to tell what objects are important to me by what tends to stay in the painting as it develops.~Richard Diebenkorn