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STATIC: Still Life Reconsidered

STATIC: Still Life Reconsidered

11th June 2014

New exhibition exploring the art of still life opens at the Waterhall, Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery July 26 – 31 December 2014. Visitors are invited to explore Birmingham’s exceptional collection of modern and contemporary art collection. The exhibition includes three major art acquisitions by West-Bromwich born artist Donald Rodney and young sculptor Jess Flood-Paddock will be displayed for the first time.

STATIC: Still Life Reconsidered is a new display of over fifty artworks from Birmingham’s collection from the 1800s to the present day.

Bringing together a range of artistic styles across painting, printmaking and sculpture, STATIC will reconsider artistic approaches to still life subject matter, arrangement and material, looking at how artists have approached and touched on this genre. The display aims to open up a discussion about the genre of still life in its broadest sense, bringing together a mixture of innovative artistic approaches, styles and mediums.

Works by Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, Howard Hodgkin, Giorgio Morandi, Patrick Caulfield, Jane Harris, William Nicholson, Mary Fedden, Henry Moore, Jim Dine and Henri Fantin-Latour will be included amongst others.

Birmingham Museums Trust will be showcasing three major new contemporary art acquisitions as part of this display: ‘Land of Milk and Honey II’ by the late West Bromwich born artist Donald Rodney and ‘Snacks 15’ and ‘London Oyster Shells’ by London-based young artist Jess Flood-Paddock. This will be the first time that these works have been shown in Birmingham.

Donald Rodney was born in West Bromwich in 1961 and grew up in Smethwick, on the outskirts of Birmingham. He died aged 36 from complications arising from sickle cell anaemia and much of his work reflects aspects of fragility and decay, in reference to the effects of his illness.

The title of Rodney’s sculpture connects to the artist’s Caribbean heritage and evokes the mythical ‘land of milk and honey’ that his father believed he would find when he travelled to Britain in the 1950s. The sculpture comprises a glass vitrine with strata of milk, honey and copper coins that have gradually curdled and bled into one another over time. The materials have reacted with each other and shifted over time to create a striking range of colour, texture and pattern which was part of the artist’s original intention.

The sculpture is a metaphorical piece about the souring of hopes, memory and unfulfilled promise. Its incorporation of milk, honey and copper coins along with the intended decay of these materials extends what we might commonly think of as a still-life through the use of food and inanimate objects as the artistic medium itself.

Joining Donald Rodney’s work are two sculptures by Jess Flood-Paddock, purchased with the assistance of the Contemporary Art Society. ‘Snack’s 15’ and ‘London Oyster Shells’ are larger-than life edible objects – a Japanese seaweed peanut and two oyster shells. Intended to look exactly like their consumable counterparts, they become Surreal over-sized surrogates – sculpted, painted and presented as such. However, the sculptures scale and formal properties conflict with our normal appreciation of these objects as food to be consumed.

These exciting new acquisitions present a new way of considering the genre of still life, and in different ways these artists have used inanimate objects and food as part of their visual repertoire – as subject-matter, material and as a metaphor for commenting on issues pertinent to contemporary culture.

Lisa Beauchamp, Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at Birmingham Museums comments; “Still life is an integral element of every artist’s studies, a stalwart of much art education, and a way for artists to accomplish key skills of observation and recording. However, the genre of Still Life as a concept, subject matter and material is something that is often overlooked. By reconsidering this genre in its most broadest sense it is interesting to see just how varied artistic approaches can be – from the most traditional flower paintings to the incorporation of food as metaphor, STATIC aims to present Still Life at its most exciting and innovative.

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