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For Media Information - Art Gallery of NSW

Still life

25 still-life works from the Gallery's collection

Ricky Swallow Killing time 2003–04 and John Passmore Poppies, fruit and skull 1953

A new exhibition focusing on still life and its various iterations through the 20th century to the present day will showcase a selection of paintings and works on paper from the rich, extensive holdings of still-life works in the Gallery’s collection.

Featuring works by some of Australia’s most famous and popular artists, the 25 works chart the continuous development and re-presentation of the still life in Australian art, allowing comparisons between individual works and more broadly between different periods and styles.

The range of paintings includes significant still lifes by George W Lambert and Arthur Streeton, which have not been exhibited for decades. Margaret Preston’s modernist approach is also featured and a work by Margaret Olley, renowned for her still-life and interior subjects, is also included, said Wayne Tunnicliffe, head curator, Australian art.

A large-scale contemporary sculpture by Ricky Swallow – exploring the theme of still life – is positioned at the centre of the gallery space, amidst the paintings and works on paper on display. Acquired in 2004, Swallow’s work acts as a point of contrast to and continuation of the historic works. Its title Killing time is apt not only for the sculpture itself, but as a reflection upon the still-life works surrounding it. It conjures ideas of memento mori, reminiscent of 17th-century vanitas still-life paintings, which celebrated the abundance of natural life and worldly goods, while ultimately pointing to their transience, just like the transience of life itself.

A selection of works on paper purchased through the Kathleen Buchanan May Bequest Fund – specifically established for the purchase of Australian still-life works in watercolour – is also amongst the still lifes on show. This is the first time the public has had a chance to see these works which have been steadily acquired since 2007, when the Gallery received a bequest from Yvonne Buchanan May in honour of her mother. The artists represented include Elisabeth Cummings, Kevin Lincoln, Brian Dunlop, Peter Godwin and John Bokor – with works primarily in watercolour. In late October these works will be refreshed by a new selection of prints and drawings on the theme of still life by Peter Booth, John Brack, Cressida Campbell and others.

On view
27 Jul 2013 – 19 Jan 2014
Art Gallery of New South Wales
Art Gallery Road, The Domain, Sydney


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