I came upon a picture of some glass jars by Elizabeth Lyons on tumblr. Stunning as they are they reminded me of another work I’d seen this weekend when watching a documentary: a still life by Giorgio Morandi.
“I want to communicate those images and feelings that the natural world awakens in us.”
Morandi might very well be Italy’s most famous still life painter from the 20th century. His use of colors (fade greys, browns, and blues) and his choice of subjects (jars, bottles and boxes) make it easy for us to recognize his work. But when looking at them and comparing them to the grouping of glass jars, something strikes me: with the jars it’s all about the objects. Bur for Morandi it’s also about the space around them and how they related to it and each other, how the light shines upon them. It’s not just about the bottle being a bottle.
Hence his mute colors and use of everyday kitchen containers, not to distract the viewer. It also explains why he would spend weeks shuffling them around until he’d found the right composition. Some people even call it the theatre of visual relationships. This idea has its roots in some of the earliest examples of the genre where items in a still life would competed for the viewers attention. However with Morandi they seem to be working together drawing attention not to themselves but to the painting as a whole. And with this to the questions Morandi is asking such as how being a spectator influences our knowledge of the world and how viewers separate illusion from reality.