Between Still Life and Sculpture.
Representations of fruit (still life and sculpture) are striking not just because of their illusionism (in the case of the image) or in the transformation wrought by the change of material (in the case of the sculpture) but because something time-bound has become immortal. The portion due to decay, to nature, to entropy, has somehow been redeemed without the destruction of the object. Invisible ideality (Platonic, universal or formal) has been pre-empted. This is the enchantment due to representation. A bowl of fruit depicted on canvas, whether in in oils or in water colours, like the silver pear or golden apple, will not rot. In this way eternity is evoked amidst the catastrophe of the contingent world.
For eternity is the hint proffered in the Still Life, at once the secret of its magnetism and source of its elusive halo; the trace of eternity lends the contingent the allure of immortality. What exists as veiled suggestion in the Still Life takes the form of a full-blown blast on the Trumpet of the Last Judgement in Sculpture. The petrifaction of the real bears witness to the possibility of a world reborn: it offers the key to utopia; it is the advance guard of the end of time. The magic of transformation has gone way beyond the limited remit of Mimesis, for the wave of resemblance has beached upon another shore, and the shell of recognisability survives rather as a transparent husk, a chrysalis pregnant with symbolic content. Yet the winged creature that is born out of the translucent tomb of form is not an insect - for moths and butterflies, no matter how beautiful, are still themselves reformed in their imitation in metal or in marble - but as something more akin to an angel. Always already from the other side of the temporal/atemporal divide even if they appear standing over on this side. It is the fruit of heaven and not of this earth that is called into being before us. An evocation of the Grail and its contents. A prosopopoeia of roses.
Painted roses. Marble roses. The aesthetic impact of such representations is in part due to their immortalisation in the work of art; of immortalisation as the work of art (a gift added by the labour of art). An immortality that is performed by the very act of reproduction in imperishable form (comparatively speaking; in the light of eternity all illusionism, no matter its degree of virtuosity, must appear as perishable, as passing illusion). A bridge is cast over the waters of time; yet there is no other shore. The Still Life conceals a metalepsis: an infinite distance crossed in the presence of paint and stone. White lilies breathe death and redemption.
The perishability depicted in the Still Life is foregrounded in its metaphysical subgenre, its negative image, the Vanitas, where the presence of the death's head, the ghost hovering in the empty eye-sockets of the human skull, guarantees that the energies of this genre are guided into religious reflection. Even more than the spirit behind the heroic solidity of Sculpture, the Still Life calls up the presence of eternity in answer to the ineluctable pull of entropy.
Copyright 2002 Peter Nesteruk