Signs of Still Life

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Bramley-Moore, Mostyn

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Jolly, Paul

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The research question under investigation is: Working within the genre of still life, how can my current work represent a ‘radical revision’ of selected aspects of this traditional genre? The issues and art historical knowledge informing the creation of my contemporary still lifes is the central subject of this project – involving a selfeffacing, metacognitive process of ‘radical revisionism’ (see Butler, 2005), reflecting contemporary practices among artists and art historians alike. The ancient genre of still life, stemming from Pompeian frescoes and mosaics to the current day, will be exposed to an openly subjective historical narrative, compelled in directions associated with the creation of my own artwork. My own processes of art making will likewise be questioned in terms of the way they might be historically understood against the scholarship of art historians and critics, and where they may find a place within the broad intellectual and academic framework under construction by a range of international artists and art historians. The contribution to be made to new knowledge will by the nature of the subject under investigation and result in an analysis of the continual interaction of making and theorising about art. New theoretical knowledge linked to the creation of my own artworks will be partially constructed through and by the artwork, so that the completed artworks and their making are theorised themselves (Macleod and Holdridge, 2006: 2) against a backdrop of considerable existing writings on the origins, contexts and meanings of still life. The contemporary theorising of Rex Butler (2005) on ‘radical revisionism’ will be important to this endeavour. Butler (2005:9) summarises the difficulties and preferences of the contemporary art historian in bringing to bear present knowledge and values to any study of the past, the subject of an enduring debate in historiography: It is a history, therefore, that sees the artists of the past speaking across what we might like to call ‘time-separated’ areas to contemporary issues. In other words – and we should try to remain aware of just what is so extraordinary about this – it is a history that conceives of the artists of the past as though they were already post-modernists, already reacting in their work to the same concerns that artists of today do. It is a theoretical position which is well-suited to the present study because Butler (2005) seeks to displace a straightforward dichotomy between analysing objects, people or actions on their own past terms and their work and behaviour in relation to contemporary reference points. It is an analytical stance which automatically dismisses claims for an ‘impartial’, ‘objective’ or ‘singular’ history and locates the interpreter as a person who is wilfully intervening in the recasting of the motives and meanings linked to objects, people and actions. The notion of ‘radical revisionism’ will be applied to an historical account of members of the genre of still life as well as to the developmental processes of my own artworks. The work of a range of contemporary artists who have sought to rejuvenate the language and conventions of still life will be examined, followed by the discussion of my own work. Any emerging divide in operation between theory and practice will be viewed as mutable. Central to the written research output was the creation of a major body of works on paper and paintings, and this research includes an analysis of the deliberations involved in the development of my artworks. The works on paper and paintings reveal the application of relatively instinctual artistic decisionmaking processes in conjunction with more reflective theoretical and art-historical considerations. Other mediums such as video or installation could equally have been used by me (or preferred by other artists) in subsequent related investigations to explore similar concerns. Likewise, genres other than still life could be viewed by others as suitable vehicles for reflecting on the interaction between theorising and art making against the long backdrop of an historical genre.

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Thesis (Professional Doctorate)

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Doctor of Visual Arts (DVA)


Queensland College of Art

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The author owns the copyright in this thesis, unless stated otherwise.

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Still Life



Radical Revisionism



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