LIFE Stills, the latest in a series of thematic shows curated at the Lotte Inch Gallery in York, rethinks the tradition of still life painting.
To do so, the gallery in Bootham presents works by Michael Kirkman, Amy Rose Clyfan, James & Tilla Waters and others, alongside the celebrated names of Ivon Hitchens and Edward Burra.
"The tradition of the still life goes back hundreds of years and has been used by countless artists as a means to hone their skills and to cast an inquisitive eye over the everyday objects that surround us," suggests curator Lotte Inch. "It's also a subject imbued with historical, socio-political, religious and symbolic undertones, and yet, all too often, these underlying messages are overlooked and the genre unfairly and simply labelled 'unexciting'.
"Life Stills redresses this misconception through the presentation of modern still life works that reinvigorate the genre and acknowledge both its persistence and its potential as an engaging subject."
By presenting a variety of approaches – drawing, painting, printmaking and ceramics – this exhibition re-frames the still life as essential to artistic study and offers a mixed-media interpretation of an important aspect of art history and practice, suggests Lotte.
The minutiae of daily life are transformed, reinvigorated and re-presented by artists Michael Kirkman, Amy Rose Clyfan, Alex Leadbeater and Becky Adams along with ceramicists James & Tilla Waters and Kathryn Sherriff. Works by British artists Edward Burra (1905-1976) and Ivon Hitchens (1893-1979) provide a 20th century counterpoint.
Michael Kirkman, Difficult Subject, 2016 © The Artist
Michael Kirkman, who lives and works in Edinburgh, produces mainly linocut prints and drawings and has done commissioned prints for the National Theatre, Faber and Faber and the Palace of Westminster, as well as being featured in the collections of York Art Gallery and the Palace of Westminster.
York artist Amy Rose Clyfan works out of her attic studio, producing thought-provoking compositions drawn from daily life. Working predominantly in acrylic and oil paint, she plays with colour and texture in her paintings.
Working by the coast, Alex Leadbeater makes images of everyday items. Careful layering of paint, using a variety of techniques, helps to tell stories about the objects she depicts.
Working with fabrics and textiles, Becky Adams creates stories through the small objects she makes. Becky lives in Cardiff, where she runs frequent workshops alongside continuing her own practice.
Lotte is thrilled to be exhibiting new ceramic pieces by husband-and-wife collaborators James & Tilla Waters, who set up their studio in Carmathenshire in 2002 and have become well-known figures in the ceramics world, winning the Homes and Gardens Design Award for Ceramics and Glass in 2013.
"Their simultaneously beautiful and functional stoneware and ceramic pieces are coveted by many," says the curator. "Maker Kathryn Sherriff, whose work also features in this exhibition, openly admits that she treasures her James & Tilla Waters mug and is a huge fan of their work."
Amy Rose Clyfan, Tin Mug and February's Flowers, 2016 © The Artist
Tilla says: "Our pots are in the tradition of functional domestic wares, but we conceive and evaluate them increasingly in aesthetic terms. Subtle qualities – the degree of curve in a bowl, for instance – hopefully result in work which is pleasing to live with beyond being simply nice to use."
Kathryn Sherriff makes fine porcelain, inspired by a love of mid-century modern design, from her small but wonderfully functional garden studio in Carshalton, South London.
After a career in teaching and a background in fine arts, she joined the London Potters in 2014 and has never looked back. Today she carries out her own work while fulfilling large commissions for the likes of McQueens florists. Every piece she creates is handmade, wheel-thrown porcelain, designed for everyday use in the home.
"I'm really excited about this exhibition," says Lotte, who is also showing ceramics by gallery regulars Rebecca Callis Porcelain and the Leach Studio Pottery.
"The works are by such a diverse range of artists, some living, some not, but somehow they all come together to create a really vibrant and appealing show.
"These are works of art and ceramics that you could really imagine living with. It's also great to be able to show work by artists who will be in this year's York Open Studios, alongside some really exquisite paintings by Edward Burra and Ivon Hitchens, artists that you don't normally get to see in small, local galleries."
Life Stills, Rethinking the Traditional Still Life, runs at Lotte Inch Gallery, Bootham, York, until May 28. Opening hours: Wednesday to Saturday, 10am to 6pm; other times by appointment on 01904 848660.