KING'S CROSS, LONDON 1980
Richard Wentworth (1947 – )
- 11 X 7 CM
- COLOUR PRINT MADE FROM TRANSPARENCY
- Accession number
Evidence of still life imagery predating its establishment as an autonomous genre is found in trompe l’oeil decorative schemes in fragments of images and writings from antiquity. These ‘rhyparos’, the base or trivial subjects that appeared in illusionistic images in Pompeii and elsewhere, are the same simple foodstuffs or ‘prime objects’ that reoccur throughout the history of still life. The photographic still life has mostly conformed to the traditional method of assembling everyday material for mimetic depiction. Another type of rhopographic image originates when the artist appropriates a readymade, idiosyncratic arrangement of objects in their everyday setting, having had no hand in the arrangement of his subject matter. Sculptor Richard Wentworth’s photographs from the ongoing series ‘Making Do and Getting By’ take as their subject the curious use made of the detritus of everyday life. In a society characterised by over-production he finds examples of contingency at every turn. The swift pace of urban living means that such scenes are vaguely familiar but go largely unnoticed, so when a lone chair or a group of plant pots feature as his subject we are obliged to reassess their function. The chair stands guard over a potential parking space with the help of the long stick it supports, and the plant pots form a sentry around a potentially hazardous hole in the ground. The framing of the images supplies us with just enough information to detect the artifice but no more. A small clock is fixed on top of a much larger one – we assume the smaller clock tells the correct time and the larger one no longer functions. Wentworth seems to delight both in the humour of the image and in the eccentric reasoning behind the placement of the objects, the humanism surviving in a digital age.
In a specialised sense this term refers to the portrayal of everyday life, and refers to painting; more broadly it means the subject types covered by an artist.
The 17th Century French Academy decreed that there were five main genres an artist should study. These were History, Portrait, Genre, Landscape and Still Life. History was considered the most important as it portrayed Man in his most noblest endeavours and in his relationship with God; Still Life the lowest as it dealt with the moribund and innate.