Robyn Stacey: as still as life

Robyn Stacey, Mr Macleay's fruit and flora, 2008Leading audiences into the tantalising world of still life and through to the work of Robyn Stacey, a practicing artist fascinated by the history of the Renaissance and Baroque still life genre, Monash Gallery of Art presents Robyn Stacey: as still as life, on display from 24 November 2018.

Stacey’s magnificent photographs are prodigious in scale and spectacular in their detailed beauty. Her sumptuous evocations explores Australia’s colonial history with stories so often buried in the sands of time.

“Still life is about life and death and everything in between,” says Anouska Phizacklea, MGA Director. “This is still life as we rarely see it – monumental, powerful and challenging.”

Stacey is one of Australia’s leading photographic artists whose fascination with the still life genre inspired the magnificent works in this exhibition. Through the contemporary medium of photography Stacey brings historical collections to life on a monumental scale, interrogating what these collections meant for the original owners and brilliantly interweaving personal historical narratives into sumptuous still lifes.

“Characterised by meticulous realism, dynamic compositions, powerful forms and evocative lighting, still life is one of the most enduring and significant genres in Western art,” says Stacey. “The still-life qualities of rendering detail lovingly and creating a powerful mise-en-scene through lighting lend themselves brilliantly to photographic interpretation.”

“Underpinning the compositions, whether simple (The First Cut, Walnuts, Presentation Pear) or complex (Fontaine de Vaucluse, Table of Industry, Mr. Macleays Fruit and Flora), is the search for order and meaning. Every element is there to educate and elucidate, and the image is incomplete unless the viewer participates in this decoding, inviting an investment in the image by both the maker and the viewer.”

Twenty-four of Stacey’s large scale monumental works will take over MGA’s main gallery space. These are drawn from projects that have documented and explored scientifically and historically significant collections throughout Australia, including the Macleay collection held at Sydney University and the collection of the Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney. The exhibition also includes over fifty Australian photographs from MGA’s collection, and a Baroque still life painting on loan from the NGV.

Still life is one of the most enduring genres, which flourished during the Baroque period in Europe. It created a type of code through which inanimate objects took on allegorical meanings. Still life reflected, responded to and shaped society, and changed and democratised the art market into what it is today.

Still life was the perfect subject matter for photographers to focus on during the medium’s infancy. Inanimate, unmoving objects could be composed in elaborate and dynamic composition within a controlled environment, allowing for the long exposures that photography demanded.

Still life has continued to evolve in photography to this day, from compositions that reflect early baroque paintings, through to highly conceptual and experimental works that push the boundaries of what still life can be.

Through the contemporary medium of photography, Stacey brings historical collections to life on a monumental scale, interrogating what these collections meant for the original owners, brilliantly interweaving personal historical narratives into sumptuous still lifes.


Robyn Stacey: as still as life
Monash Gallery of Art, 860 Ferntree Gully Road, Wheelers Hill
Exhibition: 24 November 2018 – 3 March 2019
Free entry

For more information, visit: www.mga.org.au for details.

Image: Robyn Stacey, Mr Macleay’s fruit and flora, 2008 from the series The great and the good. Chromogenic print 240.0 x 340.0 cm. Courtesy of the artist, Darren Knight Gallery (Sydney) and Jan Manton Gallery (Brisbane)

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