DEAD LIFE 1999
- 50 X 70 CM EACH
- OIL ON CANVAS (TRIPTYCH)
- Accession number
Since the early 1990s artist group Bank’s activities have been characterised by a persistent irreverence and a determination to critique the complacency of the artworld and its institutions. In their non-gallery space, rebranded regularly until its final incarnation as Gallerie Poo Poo, they orchestrated distinctive, often byzantine exhibitions of works by their own fluctuating membership alongside work by artists of differing generations. They produced their own tabloid pamphlet lampooning artworld figures and provided a ‘fax-bak’ correction service to ‘improve’ the dreary literature that passes for the gallery press release. A press release issued in 1999 by a prominent gallery in London’s conservative gallery area was met with surprise if not confusion when it announced an exhibition by Bank called ‘Dead Life’. The three – at this time – members of the group had spent months painstakingly executing a collaborative triptych of still lifes in oil on canvas. The dust that had settled over time onto the objects was transferred into the painting and the completed works were glazed and framed to complete the historicising process. They were spot-lit as a trinity in the otherwise dim and empty gallery space. In these works considerable attention has been devoted to the characteristic elements of the genre while the inclusion of contemporary bottle labels, pill packaging and a paint scraper, in place of say a palette, is at least consistent with the evolutionary nature of the still life tradition. The unexpected adoption of the restricted conventions of one of art’s classical genres is not unprecedented and in Bank’s case it is perhaps less perplexing than it may seem. To work in the manner of a seventeenth century master of the table still life is perhaps the least complacent activity that an artist could engage in. If the intention was to question the terms of radical activity, these paintings are the relics of a heroic action.
Still Life, British Council 2000