It’s a matter of life and death as Nature Morte takes a closer look at the genre of still life

Nature Morte is a new exhibition at London’s Guildhall Art Gallery that illustrates how leading artists of the 21st century have reinvigorated still life, a genre previously synonymous with the 16th and 17th centuries. A major show, artists include Mat Collishaw, Michael Craig-Martin, Gabriel Orozco and Marc Quinn, as well as London-based artists Clare Twomey and Michael Raedecker.

The still life, or “nature morte”, has been a constant subject throughout the history of art, its significance changing over time. As an independent genre of painting, it came into its own in the mid-seventeenth century when the Flemish term stilleven first came to be applied to oil paintings characterised by their tight focus on an assortment of objects sitting on a flat surface.

Nature Morte is very different in tone from exhibitions we would usually expect to see at Guildhall with over 100 pieces from different disciplines going beyond the two-dimensional, including sculpture, digital, and sound.

Nature Morte is based on Michael Petry’s recent Thames & Hudson book of the same name. It brings together historical still life paintings and contemporary artworks that seek to use the language of the past for modern audiences.

Main image credit: Nancy Fouts, Rabbit with Curlers, 2010, taxidermy rabbit, curlers and kirby grips, 10 × 15 cm (3 78 × 5 78 in.)

Alexander James, ‘The Great Leveller’, 2010, from ‘Vanitas’,Chromogenic print, mounted to polished aluminium plate, Face mounted with museum grade ar acrylic, 19 x 25 cm

Alexander James, ‘The Great Leveller’, 2010, from ‘Vanitas’,Chromogenic print, mounted to polished aluminium plate, Face mounted with museum grade ar acrylic, 19 x 25 cm

Janne Malmros, Unfold, 2007, floral pattern on a period, English oak foot-stool, cut out in one piece and arranged on wall, 35 x 96 x 107 cm (1)

Janne Malmros, Unfold, 2007, floral pattern on a period, English oak foot-stool, cut out in one piece and arranged on wall, 35 x 96 x 107 cm (1)

Jim Skull, Untitled, 2009, papier maché, perles de verre 1930, 90 cm, Photo C.Lebedinsky

Jim Skull, Untitled, 2009, papier maché, perles de verre 1930, 90 cm, Photo C.Lebedinsky

Jim Skull, Untitled, 2010, papier maché, raphia tressé, 130 cm, © the artist, Photo C.Lebedinsky (2)

Jim Skull, Untitled, 2010, papier maché, raphia tressé, 130 cm, © the artist, Photo C.Lebedinsky (2)

Mat Collishaw, Last Meal on Death Row, Texas (Juan Soria), 2011, C-type photographic print, Frame Red Grandis timber, rubbed back with black lacquer finish, 89 x 64 cm (35 x 25 ¼ in).

Mat Collishaw, Last Meal on Death Row, Texas (Juan Soria), 2011, C-type photographic print, Frame Red Grandis timber, rubbed back with black lacquer finish, 89 x 64 cm (35 x 25 ¼ in).

Roberto Ekholm, The Healer, 2012, plaster, resin, neodymium magnets, iron filings, printed ink on paper, 25 x 20 x 19 cm (Courtesy Roberto Ekholm & Pattie Campbell) Photo by Gunnar Tufta

Roberto Ekholm, The Healer, 2012, plaster, resin, neodymium magnets, iron filings, printed ink on paper, 25 x 20 x 19 cm (Courtesy Roberto Ekholm & Pattie Campbell) Photo by Gunnar Tufta

Victoria Reynolds, Globular Cluster, 2015, Oil on canvas(framed) 42.1 x 52.2 cm overall (16.5 x 20.5 in.) Photographer Brian Forrest

Victoria Reynolds, Globular Cluster, 2015, Oil on canvas(framed) 42.1 x 52.2 cm overall (16.5 x 20.5 in.) Photographer Brian Forrest

Nancy Fouts, Still life + real Life, Painting with butterflies, 47 x 41 x 5 cm (1)

Nancy Fouts, Still life + real Life, Painting with butterflies, 47 x 41 x 5 cm (1)

Saara Ekström, Clouded Yellow Bud, 2007, stop frame animation transferred on DVD, loop

Saara Ekström, Clouded Yellow Bud, 2007, stop frame animation transferred on DVD, loop

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