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05.08. - 25.09.2021 STILL LIFE OF THINGS

05.08. - 25.09.2021

Galerija "Māksla XO"

Elizabetes iela 14, Rīga, LV 1010

Ilze Orinska. Four Rotten Apples. 2008, oil on paper, 45,5x34 cm


For many centuries, still life was considered the lowest and simplest form of art in the context of academic genres of painting. It was perceived as an elementary part of art studies, even women could practise it. At the same time, still life as a genre has attracted the attention of many great masters - from ancient Greeks to modern contemporary artists.
The topicality and popularity of still life among society can be explained not only by its easy-to-understand reflection of the prose of life, but more by its multi-layered, illusory nature and the mixing of hidden symbols with important philosophical concepts, through which one seeks the meaning and order of the world, as well as his place within it.
The symbolism of still life should remind us that the food that keeps us alive is doomed to disintegration, just as we are. But unlike most of their predecessors, contemporary artists generally avoid moralizing in their work, instead reminding us that death is inevitable, but life is short, so it is worth enjoying it as long as possible.
The first part of the 17th century is often considered as the emergence time for the still life genre, when in several leading European countries paintings of still life-like scenes flourished at the same time – their compositions including inanimate objects, fruits, flowers and animals.
Within the 17th century Dutch and Flemish art scene emerged vanitas and pronk paintings - now a new middle-class market existed, typified by the merchant class of the Low Countries, and it's purchasers were happy to select from existing works executed to the artist’s own preference.

Vanitas still life paintings speak of the passage of time, of all that it will eventually take away from us, of death and loss. The term vanitas comes from a longer biblical Latin aphorism from the Book of Ecclesiastes: “Vanitas vanitatum omnia vanitas”, or “vanity of vanities, all is vanity”. Translating the same phrase from the Hebrew results in the slightly altered version, “vapour of vapours”. Despite their differences, both translations evoke the futility of the worldly possessions and the fragility of human life.
The most widely recognised symbol of all vanitas paintings is the human skull, it can be depicted by itself or among worldly objects, as well as flora and fauna, creating a story about fading pleasures and death. In addition to the skull, the painting could also feature a mechanical clock, hourglass or a candle, reminding viewers of their own imminent death and encouraging them to uphold their integrity in this world, so that in the afterlife they could meet the creator face to face and stand before his divine judgment. Symbolism inhabited almost every depicted object in these artworks.

Pronk still life - “pronkstilleven - is known for particularly bountiful compositions that include striking objects, chosen as conspicuous indicators of their owner’s wealth - gold and silverware, tulips and other exotic flowers, Persian fabrics and rare household goods. The word “pronk” translated from the Dutch roughly means “to boast”, “to show off”, in this case - to demonstrate one's wealth. Showing off was the general ethos of Dutch culture: by the second half of the 17th century, Amsterdam had become one of the world's leading global trade ports, leaving the Dutch Republic with more money and valuable goods than they knew what to do with it. Pronk still life served both as a documentation of wealth and as an object of wealth itself.

Bodegones still life, with its extremely minimal depiction glorified asceticism, rather than outward ostentation, developed in Catholic Spain, especially in the paintings by Zurbarán and Velasquez. In Spanish, the term bodegone means “pantry”, “cellar” or even “tavern”. Bodegones still life depicts food items, game and drinks, often set on a simple stone slab. The composition of a painting can also include one or more figures, but with significant elements of still life in the foreground, while the kitchen or tavern is usually chosen as the setting. Bodegones paintings often depicted simple, modest objects, with dead animals instead of cooked meat and replacing extravagant desserts with fresh fruits and vegetables.

In the 18th century, still life paintings with floral depictions were especially in demand in the society of the French high bourgeoisie, replacing the moralizing symbolism.
Floral still life paintings flourished in the first part of the 19th century, Victorian Britain - it was a true cult of florography - the English went flower mad, applying their famed industriousness to the classification and documentation of flora. The “language of flowers” came into being, it was a complex code system, which was used by lovers to secretly express their feelings and wishes, away from prying eyes. Each flower carried a specific meaning, so when a lady received flowers from an admirer, most likely she could read the message of the gift. Red roses spoke of true love, but hyacinths said “forgive me.” If a gentleman gave a lady a bouquet of sunflowers, it meant that he saw her as proud and haughty.

The 20th century not only changed the attitude towards painting and its techniques, but also added new media and changed the approach towards the depiction of subjects - including still life - focusing on the still life of the objects themselves and their mutual, metaphysical relations.
With the help of established still-life objects, many contemporary artists talk about politics, war and ideology, gender and sexuality, the preservation of environment and animals, and the passions and personal tastes of the modern individual.

STILL LIFE OF THINGS exhibited artists:
Arturs Berzins, Laima Bikse, Harijs Brants, Jana Brike, Janis Deinats, Envija, Andris Eglitis, Edvards Grube, Anna Heinrihsone, Helena Heinrihsone, Ivars Heinrihsons, Ieva Iltnere, Zane IltnereRoman Korovin, Tatjana Krivenkova, Leonards Laganovskis, Paulis Liepa, Neonilla Medvedeva, Ilze Orinska, Glebs Pantelejevs, Raimonds Staprans, Olga Silova, Janis Sneiders, Imants Vecozols, Indulis Zarins, Kristaps Zarins, Zile Ziemele 

Exhibition is curated by Ilze Zeivate.

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