The Dark Charm of the Still Life at the Guildhall Art Gallery

“A rose is a rose,” wrote Gertrude Stein. But are we so sure? The exhibition curated by Michael Petry at the Guildhall Art Gallery explores the theme of the still life from its origins to more recents manifestations: beyond the beauty of vases of flowers and fruit baskets, they open on the mystery of the transience of life, from the XVII Century they have never ceased to fascinate artists. Even in its most lavish expression, the natura morta - “dead nature”- has its base in the understanding of the end of all things, as seen in the compositions of the 1600s with their skulls, hourglasses, snuffed candles or a simple broken flower or twisted fruit. And today? Next to the historic paintings from the City of London Collection, the works of Mat Collishaw, Michael Craig-Martin, Gabriel Orozco, Marc Quinn and other stars of contemporary art: along with the paintings are sculptures, digital art, sound installations, in a gallery of daring images, sometimes macabre, that make indifference impossible. From the last supper of a death-row inmate in a prison in Texas (Collishaw) to the painted skulls of Jim Skull; from the evidence of a hot weekend in the gay clubs of New York (Darren Jones) to the comforter covered in dust that recalls the skeletal face of Warhol (Paul Hazelton), up to the painted leaves of Eric Rhein dedicated to Robert Mapplethorpe and his other friends that died of Aids: an itinerary of ancient allegories and contemporary metaphors, with the Black Angel ever-present in the background.
Francesca Grego - © 2017 for Bulgari Hotel London