A still life artwork which includes various symbolic objects designed to remind the viewer of their mortality and of the worthlessness of worldly goods and pleasures
The term originally comes from the opening lines of the Book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible: ‘Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities, all is vanity.’
Vanitas are closely related to memento mori still lifes which are artworks that remind the viewer of the shortness and fragility of life (memento mori is a Latin phrase meaning ‘remember you must die’) and include symbols such as skulls and extinguished candles. However vanitas still-lifes also include other symbols such as musical instruments, wine and books to remind us explicitly of the vanity (in the sense of worthlessness) of worldly pleasures and goods.
It is always fabulous to read how someone (especially with notoriety) perceives your work. The recent referencing to 'Vanitas' a genre associated with the still life paintings of Flanders & Netherlandish art of the 16th & 17th century has given me the opportunity to view my work from a different perspective.
'Vanitas' meaning 'futility' or 'worthlessness' reminds us of the pointlessness of earthly goods and how the transience of life foresees the inevitability of death. These paintings focus on decay and the distinguishing of life through symbolic representation; the snuffed candle, the rotting fruit, a skull visualize and capture the inevitability of death and the deterioration of physical presence.
The process of ephemeral decay is initially what drives my practice. My work at present with individual sculptural ice pieces melt, break down, rot and deteriorate. They can at times be visually dark and sinister due to the nature of the organic materials used within them. Recent experimental ways of photographing within a dark space is also in a similar vein to the unsettling and mysterious Vanitas paintings of the16th & 17th century.
Within their frame the Vanitas paintings contain the grouping of rotting or a representation of, perished life, as a still life. The paintings show a moment in time of degeneration. The ice sculptures are also placed within a 'frame' through photography; recording a moment in their dissolve. By isolating these pieces of work within an indoor space away from their origin of the outdoor environment their organicness is emphasized. We are forced to look in more detail at 'moments in time' within these frames. The point of decay and disintegration are captured in order for us to reflect and take perspective of our own existence.
It is a curious and strange experience to work with an ephemeral piece so closely and in such detail; record its beauty and presence, have many images that prove its existence but for it to no longer exist!
Here one minute gone the next, out of sight out of mind, gone but not forgotten, transience, life's cycle, regeneration,
I know the ice sculptures were real because I physically engaged with them; I made them. I touched them and worked with the pieces as they melted and faded away.