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Small Stages: Still Life from the Permanent Collection

Encounter a variety of still life artwork from paintings to 3D sculptures.

Paintings of bowls of fruit, flowers, and objects on a table top are imagery commonly associated with classic still life art, but what about a photograph of books with miniature llamas on them, or a chandelier-like sculpture of kitchen and garden utensils? Drawn from the Gallery’s permanent collection, the artworks in this show depict carefully arranged—and sometimes unusual—scenes that reflect on and expand the still life genre.

The exhibition Small Stages considers the range of representation and expression within the genre of art known as still life. The tradition of still life painting encompasses the depiction of domestic objects such as food, bowls, and glassware; floral arrangements; and displays of objects of wealth, curiosity, and symbolic value.

One can think of the still life composition as a stage set where an artist intentionally composes a scene, or vignette, where the interplay of the objects creates a story for our interpretation. The table top or shelf becomes the equivalent to the stage floor. The objects placed into the scene may evoke personal and cultural meanings, and the viewer’s own experiences will influence the associations that are brought to the work. Thus the composition of inanimate objects becomes quite animated by our thoughtful observations, contemplations, and interpretations. A still life can celebrate the simple things in life, present an allegory on the transience of human existence (vanitas), or point to broader social and cultural issues.

The artists included in the exhibition are:  Leonard Brett, Bill Burns, Share Corsaut, Sarindar Dhaliwal, Richard Davis, Julie Duschenes, Torrie Groening, Gu Xiong, Tam Irving, Carole Itter, Cameron Mathieson, Alex McLeod, my name is scot, David Ostrem, Joseph Plaskett, Bob Strazicich, Doug Taylor, Joanna S. Wilson.

Image credit (top): Bill Burns, How to Help Animals Escape from Natural History (The Lama Version) (2005), chromogenic photographic print on paper. Collection of the Surrey Art Gallery.

Image credit (left): David Ostrem, Glance (1996-2005), acrylic on canvas, 40.3 x 50.2 cm. Collection of the Surrey Art Gallery, gift of Bill Jeffries. Photo by Scott Massey.