Memento Mori, “Remember that you must die” is well captured in its classic form of still life at 101 Art Gallery’s recent Still There Is Life exhibition.
The traditional incorporation of memento mori in still life was alive and well (in its less than alive and well) symbolism of broken wine glasses, depictions of dead fish and birds and rotten fruits. The exhibition, keeping with the traditional still life themes, also depicted works of ‘Vanitas’, momento moris artistic relative which is centered more on the notion of the vanities of life as it pertains to the shortness and fragility of it, the #YOLO of classic art forms.
In this exhibition vanitas came in the form of oversized renderings of Carib beer cans (see Hinkson's charcoal) and Sundiata's nude women, which we found an odd addition to an exhibition on still life, a genre about capturing the inanimate and commonplace.
The exhibition title does leave room for Sundiata's inclusion, and Sundiata explains that for him still life is not about objects, composition, textures and things like that but instead the female form has always been his interpretation of still life (see video).
The nudes were not the most intimate of the images on show however. The group gave the viewers a look at the minutiae of their lives via the collection of objects portrayed.
As Hinkson describes, he has always been drawn to the everyday. “I may have just had a can of beer and I am about to throw away the tin… that’s it I’m ready to go”. What we are left with as the viewer is this unfiltered look at the artists life through the objects surrounding him, arranged for practice and method as opposed to a curated experience. This view of the artists life includes articles of clothing, art supplies and food and drink among other objects.
For the most part the massive exhibition (a total of 75 works of art) is simplistic in its approach a “presentation of shapes, perspective, and pigments” as detailed on the gallery webpage. Karl Doyle breaks from this briefly in his piece 'In the corner' which feels more expressive in its composition, the confines of the busy corner and lonely chair elicit an emotional response.
Similarly, one of Antonio Figuero's many fish on display, done in classical still life lighting, moves away from the traditional in its use of a contrasting outline of the subjects eye and mouth. This gives the piece an illustrative element that serves to almost animate a gasp for air making the title 'Portrait of a fish’ more apt as this fish in particular doesn’t seem quite as dead as its headless still life counterparts on show.
This notion of portrait and still life brings us back then to the nudes. All vibrantly depicted females (all hopefully not deceased) included among the objects with titles 'Still life with plantain', 'Still life with jug’, ‘Still life with mango’, I still can't fully wrap my head around it.
Sundiata did include one artwork that did not depict a nude, it’s title? ‘Green fig and cane’. I could expound on this but I am going to leave that for you to unbox.
'Still there is life' continues until Wednesday 18th
Visit the 101 Art Gallery page for more information on their meet the artists event this weekend.