StrawberryShell | David Paul Gleeson
Signed, Limited Edition of 100.
Giclée print. Pure pigment archival ink on 300gsm Minuet 100% Cotton Rag stock, 31.5cm x 47.5cm (19cm x 35cm print area), unframed.
(Please note: The prints in these photographs may bear proof markings and numbering. Purchased prints are marked with applicable edition numbers.)
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In his first series of prints for Editions SSA, David Paul Gleeson celebrates “The Magic of the Quotidian.”
“This conch shell has been in my collection of interesting objects for some time. One summer I had bought some strawberries. Suddenly, the colour of the shell asked to be painted,” Gleeson explains. “It’s almost as if the strawberry has rolled out of the shell.”
We are accustomed to seeing strawberries en masse – associations with whipped cream, a glass of champagne or a delightful summer picnic immediately spring to mind. In this image, however, we are asked to contemplate the sensual, luscious beauty of a single fruit, juxtaposed with – perhaps emerging from – an object of the sea. The surface on which these two very different products of the natural world are depicted is indeterminate: is it a slab of stone? “I wanted the background to be strongly abstract so as to emphasise and contrast with the realism of the subjects, which I depict as though they are the characters in a portrait,” Gleeson continues. The abrupt break between the surface on which the shell and the fruit are displayed and the dark band of colour beneath draws the eye downwards, creating a sense of gravity. Will the strawberry roll off the surface before it can be savoured?
In a contemporary reinterpretation of a tradition of still-life painting that dates back to 17th- and 18th-century Spanish and Dutch masters such as Juan Sanchez Cotán and Adrian Coorte, Gleeson captures the transience of everyday existence and holds it up for scrutiny. At the same time, he builds on his affinity with 20th-century Color Field painting as exemplified by artists such as Mark Rothko, Ellsworth Kelly and Frank Stella. This is apparent in the composition of these arrestingly simple images, which hover between the abstract and the figurative.
In Gleeson’s work, the stone ledges or frames frequently shown in early still-life paintings, which focus the onlooker’s eye on the very ordinary objects depicted – a cabbage, a peach, a radish – are replaced by Rothko-inspired colour fields. As much attention is paid to the backgrounds – dragged in to appear substantial rather than being mere planes of colour – as the objects portrayed. The complex, subtle hues are very much based on the tonal composition. There is no indication that we are looking at a real surface such as stone, slate or wood. Together with the sharp shadows and highlights, the colour fields thus contrast with and heighten the objects depicted – raising our awareness of things that we would normally take for granted and elevating these still-lifes to the status of portraits.