The Economy of Still Life: A Practice-Led Exploration of Still-Life Painting
In this practice-led research project I have explored the genre of still-life painting, with a focus on material culture. I came to the project with a background as a still-life painter and economist. I was curious about the relationship between the two activities, and speculated that an artist's approach to still-life painting might reflect the overall economic circumstances of the times. If so, how might a disruptive change to those circumstances generate changes in the way paintings were
... paintings were made? And how could material culture – the objects that help define, interpret and understand the world we live in – be used to represent economic conditions? In the light of questions such as these, the objective for my project was to investigate how I could effectively explore and model material culture through my studio-based painting, and do so within the context of current economic conditions and contemporary painting culture. The accompanying exegesis tracks the project. It began with an exploration of seventeenth-century Dutch still-life painting. I drew on historical analysis of the period to explore how the traditions of the still life could be adapted to contemporary painting. An economic model for analysing convention and innovation in the still-life genre was developed using evidence from this period. As the project developed, the limitations of this approach become increasingly apparent. This led to a reassessment of my approach. I reviewed the balance between objective analysis and subjective responses to economic conditions through my painting. Contemporary artistic influences were incorporated, including North American still-life painting from the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries, contemporary painting from Asia and South America, and the work of Australian still-life artists. This led to a re-conception of the ways a still-life painting practice could constitute a distinctive, creative engagement with material culture.