May 13, 2020
Capturing images of our food is nothing new, The 17th-century German, Flemish and Dutch artist were masters at it; only they didn't call it Instagramming, but still life. Now New Zealand photographer Emma Bass pays homage to the likes of Bosschaert, Van aelst and Brueghel in a new series of works, A Little Garden.
Smudging the line between collage, photography and painting, she uses reproduction of the Old Masters paintings as her canvas. On top she places assorted objects, photographs the result - and them a surprise touch: Matisse shapes painted in 24-carat gilded gold leaf are arranged on the image, a shimmering reminder that, unlike the subject, art is never still. In fact the whole series is an expression of an artist in evolution. It's quite a departure from Emma's floral portraits, such as Hydrangeas 8.50 am, presented at the Royal Academy 2016 Summer Show in London. Or so it seems. But then you realise that her 'new style' is also a kind of layering; she's using the same elements that have always absorbed her, but she is still creating floral compositions. It's still the language of flowers, just a different accent.
"I'm entering the second phase of motherhood and life, and this is a moment of change for me," says the artist. In this featured work, titled Ode to Georg Flegel & Matisse, Emma honours both the 17th-century German still-life artist and the 19th-century French icon. As with each work in the series, she's enriched the original still life with her own embellishments. Here it is vibrant monarch butterflies that breathe 'life' into the 'still' - and find an echo in the markings of the miniature tiger - plus other insects and the Matisse shapes. "The gilded gold shapes are replicas of Matisse's cut-outs - in respect to his artistic endurance - he made them whilst incapacitated. Knowing they were created from his sickbed reiterates for me the healing power of beauty," says Emma.
- Maria Hoyle