''About Still Life Painting
In secondary school I was very good at Maths & Sciences so I found myself studying Medicine when I left school in the early 80’s. It was in microscopic anatomy when I was told not to do a “drawing” but to do a “diagram” so that other people could understand what I was seeing down the microscope. Art is about communication. The mental light bulb turned on and I started spending too much time in the art section of the Baillieu library at Melbourne Uni and the NGV in Melbourne. Soon I had left the medical course and started night classes in life drawing & painting (with the very enthusiastic Howard Arkley). I had to go back to basics because I had no art background (but I had a natural advantage in anatomy). I did a TAFE art & design year which was a roller coaster crash course in everything and came out starting Sculpture at the VCA moving to the Painting department after six months.
Why still life? In the final year at VCA I decided to do some still life painting to focus on some basics in painting and came across the wonderful Spanish still life painters of the early seventeenth century. Juan Sanchez Cotan used geometric arrangements of vegetables in rectangular spaces with dark backgrounds. I loved it! The unglamorous vegetables common to his time and mine; the hyperbola used as a subject itself; the black void and shallow but emphatically three dimensional space and the simple & intimate lighting. Gareth Sansom was Dean of the art school at the time & still calls me “The Cabbage Painter” – I painted many cabbages as well as turnips, pumpkins, onions, cucumbers etc. Still life is a genre common to painting across millennia and cultures, from Pompeii to China to Cezanne, Magritte and Morandi.
I work in a traditional method with oils on prepared linen. This is the digital age and the digital camera and Photoshop are tools of production along with drawing & careful scaled griding in chalk before underpainting in lead white on a burnt sienna ground. The objects are slowly modelled in opposing glazes to create a sense of three dimensionality. I select my subjects at Safeway or more recently at a local farmer’s market. I set up the still life in the studio doing drawings & thumbnails and working with the digital camera. A working image or number of images are finalised in Photoshop and a grid applied then chalked to the canvas. As the vegetables wilt and dry up over the coming months I work from a laptop screen zooming in & out while working into glazes hoping to capture the glow of the LCD balancing the black background. There is no black paint in the backgrounds of these paintings. Alternating glazes of red vermillion & green viridian absorb light as it travels into the painting creating a surface which feels darker that anything black paint can do.
The space in these works is a virtual or abstract space while the rendering of objects wholly representational. I had a great interest in astronomy as a child. The heavens are an abstract emptiness with objects moving on principles of geometry. The world of atoms & molecules are often pictured as coloured spheres in this same black space. Atoms and molecules don’t actually look like this at all but this helps us to understand them conceptually. It is the same space of 3D computer modelling. I have grown up in a time when these images are commonplace and this is definitely an influence on the way I conceive of paintings.
Something that appears in the older works in this show is the presence of paper collage & black-board paint. Still life objects have to sit on something usually a table or ledge – the “architecture” of the painting. The paper is newspaper lists of stocks, law lists or even death notices. This is the type of information we call data, these days assembled in databases. I have worked as an information architect and we see our world in terms relationships to data. The space in these paintings is not the solid architecture of the real world and old still life paintings but the virtual space of our world. Paper collage and black-board paint unambiguously identify the flat surface of a painting which is a principle theme in modernism. Curiously the representational parts of the work are made stronger as these two modes clash.
Finally the act of building time & sensibility into a painting is what I love most about the paintings. These works take a lot of time as I essentially redraw the objects over and over again until they start to carve out some space of their own.''
Christopher Beaumont 2006
Born: Melbourne, Australia 1961
Studied 1997 Swinburne University of Technology - Grad Dip. Multimedia Software Development
1985-87 Victorian College of the Arts - BA. Painting & Sculpture
1984 Prahran College of TAFE(now Swinburne University) - Dip. TOP Art & Design
1980-83 University of Melbourne - MB., BS. Medicine