For Caryn Scrimgeour, the genre of still life serves as the departure point for a painterly sleight of hand in the form of the ancient tradition of trompe l'oeil painting. A French phrase meaning 'to fool the eye,' the art of trompe l'oeil refers to paintings that deceive the viewer into believing the images represented on the two-dimensional surface are three-dimensional and therefore 'real'.
Scrimgeour's concerns, however, transcend technical acumen in the service of optical trickery. Her choice of imagery, while varied, steers towards the fragile and fragmented, with objects evoking nostalgia, solitude and alienation. Trifles and trinkets such as a sugar sachet or Chinese White Rabbit sweet wrapper are rendered as preciously as the oriental tableware and florid fabrics on which they are displayed. Scrimgeour's elevation of the mundane to the status of painterly memorabilia is also reminiscent of 17th century Dutch still life painting, in which the detritus of consumption and domesticity (food and fruit skins, for example) were often immortalised as emblems of bourgeois prosperity, or as vanitas symbols. The aerial perspective adopted by Scrimgeour, on the other hand, propels her imagery firmly into a contemporary context, imbuing it with offbeat, photo-real resonance.
Scrimgeour's place-settings, dinenrware and curious delicacies - juxtaposed with strategically mismatched eating utensils - serve both as quirky cultural chimeras and powerful personal metaphors. We may attach a metaphysical reading to her imagery, from the shifting positions of knives and forks, to the fragility of the selected objects, and from the miscellany of tableware to her choice of wrappers, vessels, skins and shells. Intricately patterned cloths with embroidered latticework, and luxuriant fabric folds that seem to extend beyond the frame augment the emptiness of the plates atop them and suggest not only spacial emptiness, but psychic barrenness as well.
Yet these works also resonate with idiosyncratic and archetypal imagery signifying hope, healing and regeneration. The pomegranate fruit, for example, is inextricably associated with fertility in Judeo-Christian mythology.
Scrimgeour acknowledges that her choice of table adornments derives from a 'personal reflection of occurrences and events which have had a significant impact on my life...(they) trace a journey which could easily be applied to any woman living anywhere in the world, independent of the demographics or political aspects of a situation.'
- Hazel Friedman
Caryn Scrimgeour was born in Johannesburg in 1970 and has lived in Cape Town since 1972. In 1991 she graduated from the University of Stellenbosch with a BA in Fine back