In the introduction to my book, Still Life (Thames & Hudson, 2021) I refer to a perceptible and condescending hangover in some quarters of the art world, where the still life genre has been considered ‘the preserve of women and Sunday painters’. Well, in this show Objects in Spaces, two artists who are neither female nor weekend hobbyists explore the genre in a compelling, contemporary and very personal way – and I am a big fan!
Bernard Greaves and Oliver Abbott are two young artists both living and working in Sydney.
Bernard’s artworks are a contemporary expression of colour, movement and texture. Each collection of works tells a narrative through the thick and instinctive application of oil paint, allowing the viewer to examine a variety of bold, playful and organic gestures. His recent Still Life series depicts a recent snapshot into his studio surrounds at his grandparents home. The paintings depicting certain items of the everyday are recognisable yet, together, the works hint at a timeless sense of domestic family life. This depiction showcases connection to his own family’s history, having come as migrants from old-world Europe and embracing a new Australia. By closely observing the everyday possessions around him, Bernard aims to remind the viewer of their own connection to their familial memories.
The large chunks of paint draw attention to the material itself, to its colour and to the marks on the canvas, reminding us that what we see is different to what is actually there. By creating these images, detail is reduced, so the viewer must draw on their own memory to make it their own. Bernard utilises the energy and motion of the application of paint to evoke a visceral response so that one may see, touch and smell the pigment in front of them. The oil paintings will draw the viewer even closer to an inspection of the surface and what is indeed the focus – paint.
Oliver’s practice is informed by an interest in external and internal spaces and the built environment. He views interior spaces and the objects within as protected and supported by the architecture around them. Enclosed space affords us the ability to decide the placement of objects within, and the space we provide around them determines how we perceive them. He suggests that objects we own can sit restfully or with a sense of unease, stoicism or ambition.
Referencing Gaston Bachelard in ‘The Poetics of Space’, Oliver highlights the quote “I should say: the house shelters day-dreaming, the house protects the dreamer, the house allows one to dream in peace.” And referencing the great Giorgio Morandi, Oliver brings our attention to the suggestion that “There is little or nothing new in the world. What matters is the new and different position in which an artist finds himself seeing and considering the things of so-called nature and the works that have preceded and interested him.” Oliver contends that objects we own can sit restfully or with a sense of unease, stoicism or ambition. Still life is a well worn path in painting, but it also affords a familiar entry point.
Bernard comes to his art practice from a design background, having completed a Bachelor of Design in Architecture and working in the design and building industry for a number of years. He has recently completed a Bachelor of Fine Arts at the National Art School, Sydney.
Oliver is currently undertaking a Master of Fine Arts in Painting at the National Art School.