Despite many years of painting, drawing and (most recently) printmaking, and just as much time treading the boards of art galleries around Europe, I have been guilty of a great crime: I forgot all about still lifes. Subconsciously I have somehow discounted them, despite knowing them to be a great staple of art history and art collections around the world, and having enjoyed still life masterpieces such as Cezanne’s various compositions of oranges and apples, and the brilliantly photorealistic depictions of bouquets of flowers and lavish feasts from the Dutch golden age. Yet when I went to the Joaquin Peinado museum in Ronda last month, what really struck me above and beyond the majority of his wonderfully original cubist-inspired paintings, were his still lives. In particular I noticed his deceptively simple depictions of fruit and the odd household item such as a coffee pot, and an idea struck in my head: why don’t I paint a still life?!
By coincidence, before we left for Ronda from Marbella, I had already begun an oil painting – a surreal looking desert landscape which was to be the base of another germ of an idea which was developing in my head. But as soon as my still life idea struck, I realised that the combination of collected objects on a somewhat surreal deserted background would make for the perfect twist on the traditional still life composition. So as soon as we got back from Ronda, I started work.
The objects I collected for my work were not really the result of coincidence. Rather, I carefully planned my selection so that I could achieve a colour balance within the two main colours of the palette chosen for this work: red and green. The ceramic elephant was already a feature of the garden in which I was doing my painting, and the various fruits were chosen specifically for their colour, shape and what they represented: the watermelon represents the global profile of Marbella; the elephant our time out on the terrace. The kiwis represent our constant furry travelling companions Fluffy and Bilbao, and the cactus fruits represent the extensive work we did on redecorating our Marbella terrace. The beautiful silvery sea bream represents all the pleasure we took in eating out; while the cherries represent my partner and I, never separated, coming as a pair. Finally the coffee pot is there in homage to Peinado who gave me the idea of a still life; and because coffee culture is surely one of the most enjoyable aspects of life in Marbella.
So after several days painting this work in instalments after visits to the beach, my first Still Life was complete. Now I’m hooked on the idea and can already imagine doing so many more. The question is, what will I paint in my next Still Life?
Creating my still life in our garden in Marbella
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