A theme linking many artists’ still life works is the domestic interior. The artist situates the viewer as though they are there, at the kitchen table with a vase of flowers, or sitting on a sofa in the corner of a room – part of an intimate and personal setting. This everyday beauty is often overlooked, however there are artists that are inspired most by these humble surroundings.
Cressida Campbell has solidified her place as one of Australia’s most important contemporary artists. Her paintings and prints explore aspects of her world through the hyper-focused lens of still life and interior views within her Sydney home and garden. Bedroom Nocturne 2022 conveys the intimate and tranquil mood of a private space, encompassing a harmonised array of objects. She has simplified the bedroom’s surfaces into stylised patterns – the unmade bed bursting with line and texture as though you can almost reach out to touch it, the flickering light and shadow transparent through the rattan chair, shadowing onto the floor below, along with the ambient light of the paper lamp against the wall. These elements harmoniously work together to transport the viewer into Campbell’s private home.
An inspiration to Campbell’s oeuvre and friend to the artist is Margaret Olley. Olley’s legacy as a significant still life and interior artist is wildly recognised. Like Campbell, her inspiration came from her surroundings, including her home, studio and collected everyday objects. Yellow Tablecloth with Cornflowers 2007 depicts a table setting with an arrangement of flowers and fruit, positioned amidst pottery; the draping of the tablecloth ensures that the objects do not appear staged. The warmth of this print transports you to that table setting in Olley’s home, as though you were about to pick up the knife and cut the apple.
Dorrit Black’s The Pot Plant 1933 is considered a masterpiece of modernist composition, whilst maintaining the traditions of still life imagery. This petite print is barely contained to the sheet’s edge, releasing a contrast of green and brown hues, impeccably embodying the pot of gum leaves. Throughout this arrangement, there is an oddly satisfying newness of where the shapes move and lines meet.
Still lifes offer insights into an artist’s perception of beauty through everyday objects and domestic interiors. Cressida Campbell, Margaret Olley, and Dorrit Black are amongst many others that have found inspiration in their everyday surroundings, creating works that transport the viewer into their private spaces. Campbell’s Bedroom Nocturne, Olley’s Yellow Tablecloth with Cornflowers and Black’s The Pot Plant all showcase the mastery of composition, using form and line to place objects into perspective and harmonise the works.
These depictions continue to inspire and enthrall the viewer, serving as a reminder to cherish the beauty that surrounds our daily lives.
HANNAH RYAN / Art Specialist
Banner Image: Dorrit Black, The Pot Plant 1933