Vanitas are a style of still-life painting originating from the Netherlands in the early 17th century that bring together objects together objects that symbolise the inevitability death, the transience of life, and the vanity of achievements or pleasures.
My piece is made from appropriated images collected from contemporary fashion magazines, physically cut out then turned into a digital collage. Each was chosen primarily for conceptual reasons. It is uncommon to find figures in vanitas paintings but the female form is central to my practice so I’ve picked passive, perfect female figures, disrupted them using division, thereby denying an assertive gaze possession of a whole, complete form.
Thoughts behind my object choice and general composition are inspired by Petrus Schotanus ‘Vanitas, Still Life with a Globe’. Jewellery, accessories, clothes and birds of prey refer to wealth and power, whilst a wristwatch and flowers offer symbols of transience and death. Wall art references arts and science, and succulent plants spilling out of the vase hint at resurrection and eternal life. Objects tumble in disarray suggestive of the eventual overthrow of the achievements they represent.
Constructing this image was more difficult than it looks! After several failed attempts I realise the key is to work from background forwards building up layers gradually. Although there is a nod to perspectival accuracy, ultimately the results are intentionally somewhat Surrealist. Colour-wise, I’ve looked for rich tones but not stuck slavishly to the traditional vanitas palette.
So far the base image (shown) is composed but needs printing, mounting and painting. The painting will further mar the perfection of the image offered and my goal is to relinquish control and deliver chance.