Exercise 5: Finding out more
I used the Bridgeman Education Library (BEL) to find a couple still life/nature morte paintings (with fish) that appealed to me. I am far more interested in representations of people, bodies and emotion in art, so still life paintings, and the “dead” worlds they often depict don’t appeal to me. There were a few exceptions in my research, and I’ve included my sketches, brief notes and BEL image links for a few of those here.
I don’t think I would have connected still life (or more specifically, vanitas) paintings (the Carr being a looser interpretation of a still life) to Hirst’s “formaldehyde shark” if I hadn’t been pointed in that direction by the course material. I often feel like once you’ve seen a still life painting, you’ve seen them all. Hirst’s work is a more literal interpretation of the term “still life,” although the fact of the original shark’s eventual decay speaks to the impossibility of protecting true artifacts of nature from the effects of time.
I was able to go further in my thinking about Hirst’s work through listening to the Khan Academy video discussion about The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living and, later, reading Adrian Searle’s 2012 review in The Guardian.