Still Lives

A Still life (plural Still Lifes) is a work depicting mostly inanimate subject matter,  most typically commonplace objects which may be either natural (food, plants, rocks, shells) or man-made (drinking glasses, books, vases, jewellery, coins) or a combination of both. With origins in the Middle Ages and Ancient Greek/Roman art, still life paintings give the artist more leeway in the arrangement of design elements within a composition than do paintings of other types of subjects such as landscape or portraiture.  Still life paintings, particularly before 1700, often contained religious and allegorical  symbolism relating to the objects depicted. Some modern still life breaks the two-dimensional barrier and employs three-dimensional mixed media, and uses found objects, photography, computer graphics, as well as video and sound. The rise of Photorealism in the 1970s reasserted illusionistic representation, while retaining some of Pop’s message of the fusion of object, image, and commercial product.

In this exhibition the term ‘Still Lives’ is not only a descriptive term for the composition of the image but also a statement of how static many peoples’ lives have become under the state imposed structures of earthquake recovery activities in Christchurch. The inability to move forward, particularly for those in red zone or TC3 areas from the earthquakes of 2010/2011, without often significant bureaucratic engagement, a commitment to loss or a single-focus to leave/relocate brought about by necessity – has resulted in a stagnation of purpose for many, me included. Lives that were previously driven by self-improvement, pride of place and action, now in perpetual on-hold status. Interactions with monosyllabic call centres waiting for a meaningful conversation and decisions seemingly made on their behalf by entities whose personnel may or may not have my wellbeing as their primary focus.  The life I previously felt I had some control over, made decisions about, and had freedom of location established around the liquidity of home ownership are all now conceptual notions determined under the legislature of the Civil Defence Emergency Management Act. Still Lives – Lives Still and for how long?

The Still Lives suite of works feature that which have been identified as insurance claim material – objects of opulence, beauty, craftsmanship and desire contrasted, using a limited palette, against the urbane and banal characteristics of a cardboard box, the juxtaposition to create an element of pathos in the images. The objects, original crafted one-off art/antique pieces now lost, enhance the perception of loss, the loss of cultural history, the irreplaceable and unique losses in events that affect beyond the boundaries of the broken city. The cardboard box, ordinary, utilitarian, yet representative of previous use, the wine now consumed, the thoughts of the recipient perhaps taken away for a few precious minutes from the tortures of ennui.

In an anonymous administrative procedure requested decisions of worth are further evaluated. The sum of your accumulated worth/loss rubber stamped, numbered and the images consigned to the file box of history in some forgotten archive, discarded as might the faded Polaroid of your meeting with Andy Warhol. 

Then back to the endless days of waiting for decisions to be made, by other people, by my community, by me. The Groundhog Days of 2010 dreaming of having a ‘normal’ life again, not being able to perceive what that ‘normal’ will look like, yet knowing that it will never again be the life I lived before. Until then Still Lives, Lives Still.

This is my third exhibition of work referencing the Canterbury earthquakes.

2011 ‘Out of Order’

2012 ‘Winners/Losers’