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Clare Chapman, Jonny green and Alex Hanna, three from Wales, David gould, Philip Nicol and Christopher Nurse, and the Scottish painter, Janice mcNab who lives and works in Amsterdam. i visited each of them in their studios where i recorded our conversations. it was a mutual decision as to which available works would be included in the exhibition, and why. From that moment it was my job to put these paintings into a conversation of their own, where new dialogues could be drawn out. many of these artists paint in a relation to theoretical frameworks: the monstrous feminine, abjection, ambiguity, formalism, the everyday, postmodernism, psychoanalysis. their modes of working are the subject of current critical writing: description, play, appropriation, allusion, confusion, blurring of boundaries. their paintings correspond with cross-disciplinary practices of ethnography, topography, transcription, psychoanalysis and staging for example. these artists are testing the boundaries of ‘still life’. they are being attentive to liminality, metaphor, the poetic, aporia, inversion, deception, doubt, enigma, incompleteness and resistance. models play a large part in their painting procedures: found, made, and staged, where bricolage, Photoshop, collage, assemblage, reprographic copies are put to use. there is no doubt that the still life model plays a crucial role in ambiguating reality, in making it strange. Letter writing was originally a form of written conversation where each correspondent wrote at the time and pace of their choosing. As gadamer writes: [it] stretches out the movement of talking at cross purposes and seeing each other’s point. … it also consists in preserving and fulfilling the standard of finality that everything stated in writing has.’22 Our correspondence lasted approximately two months and was by turns, erratic, intense, productive or frustrating as life and work intervened, but a process that all of us entered into with commitment and rigour. Correspondence enabled each correspondent to rethink, change, and edit their own text as it proceeded. in the course of the correspondence i began to sense a redressing of the balance between us, so that i became more participant than interviewer, which had always been my intention. i particularly relished moments when i was held to account with questions like, What do you mean by this? or when words veered off into capitals, even bold ones! the artists were unflinching in their willingness to engage, to reflect on assumptions, to engage with my perspective as well as theirs, and i am grateful for their efforts. Ambiguity is situated here at the site of the contemporary work, but also in its historical origins, in the artist’s intention and non-attention, in what slips past the artist and viewer, and what slips through the painting, making and viewing, convention and its disruption. Artworks resist meaning, refuse entry, send the viewer scurrying in all directions searching for hooks, but ambiguity also causes a beckoning that seduces and suggests, keeps us lingering as we think we catch the resemblance of something other that we think we might know.

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grootenboer, Hanneke 2005 The Rhetoric of Perspective: Realism and Illusionism in Seventeenth-Century Dutch Still life Painting. Chicago: university of Chicago Press. p. 19. Woolf, Virginia 1918 ‘Solid Objects’ in Dick, Susan ed. 1989 The Complete Shorter Fiction. San Diego: Harcourt Brace. p.104. Woodley, Frances 2014 Still Life: All Coherence Gone. Aberystwyth: Aberystwyth university: A School of Art Publication. gadamer, Hans-georg 2006 Truth and Method. London and New York: Continuum. p. 361. Deleuze, gilles 1993 The Fold: Leibniz and the Baroque. London: Continuum. p. 30. Alpers, Svetlana 1984 The Art of Describing: Dutch Art in the Seventeenth Century. Chicago: Chicago university Press. pp. 90-91. Lloyd, Rosemary 2005 Shimmering in a Transformed Light: Writing the Still Life. ithaca and London: Cornell university Press. p. xi. Lowenthal, Anne W. ed. 1996 The Object as Subject: Studies in the Interpretation of Still Life. New Jersey: Princeton university Press. pp. 6-7. mcNab, Janice 2015 ‘Correspondence’ in Woodley, Frances 2015 Still Life: Ambiguous Practices. Aberystwyth: School of Art Publication. p. 66. marmassian Pascal 2008 ‘Ambiguities and Conventions in the Perception of Visual Art’ Vision Research 48 pp. 2143-2153. Found at Accessed 5 April 2015. Elkins, James 1999, Why Are our Pictures Puzzles? New York and London: Routledge. p. 88. Deleuze, gilles, 1993 The Fold: Leibniz and the Baroque. London: Continuum. p. 20. Bryson, Norman 1990 Looking at the Overlooked: Four Essays on Still Life Painting. London: Reaktion Books. p. 137. ibid. p. 143. Alpers, Svetlana op.cit. p. 77. ibid. p. 91. mamassian & Kersten, 1996 in mamassian, Pascal op. cit. p. 2148. Elkins, James, op. cit. p. 189. mamassian, Pascal 2008 ‘Ambiguities and Conventions in the Perception of Visual Art’. pp. 2143-2153. ibid. p. 108. tate,’glenn Brown: Room 8’. Found at Accessed 5 April 2015. gadamer, Hans-georg 2006 Truth and Method. p. 362.

AmBiguOuS PRACtiCES 19

Still Life: Ambiguous Practices Exhibition Catalogue  
Still Life: Ambiguous Practices Exhibition Catalogue  

Catalogue by Frances Woodley