Stay up to date
with our newsletter

Now Showing

Breaking the Rules: Traditional and Contemporary Still Life by Della Hunter

March 29 - June 23, 2024 

Getting through Covid and beyond with still life.

I started to really appreciate still life painting when Covid took away so many other avenues for engagement with the world. Still life painting is as difficult and requires as much skill as painting any other subject. It is an opportunity to explore painting meaningful objects, play with composition, colour and light.

When Covid drove all of us into isolation, still life painting was a boon for me. It was a chance to focus on the beauty of the everyday or the odd. Sometimes an object like a rusty piece of junk captures your eye and connects with you. Hooks is an example of this. These are accidental finds and seem to be about what really captures your attention. At other times, you need to create the right setting for an idea. Treasure Box is one of the latter. I loved my little treasure boxes as a child. They were a collection of found objects of no use but still precious. I wanted to recreate that sense of childhood wonder in this painting and explore light at the same time. There is always a little story in every painting.

In other cases, I want to celebrate the fruits of my garden or objects that evoke the past in other ways. Still life is intimate and personal.

These works on display are a mix of traditional still life, (the dark background with objects at eye level) and contemporary (light backgrounds and differing points of view) and rule breaking. Breaking the rules for me is to change the angle of view, especially a view directly above, to have something unexpected in the scene or to take the setting outdoors. Still life painters tend to follow rules about composition (e.g., that the main object is at eye level) and that the object painted is set indoors. I like take more extreme points of view. It is nice to be able to paint an object outside in natural light and to paint found-objects as they lay rather than structuring the composition and lighting. By putting a lemon in an old barn lantern, something unexpected is available but, it is possible that some will see the lantern and not the lemon.

Painting is both a pleasure and a struggle. It is never easy. On the other hand, I am always learning and discovering new things about art and the world. The more I look at something, the more there is to see. The trick is to bring that to life on canvas. That is always a translation and a bit of magic when a brush stroke is just right. It never gets old!