What we call 'still life' (with such appealing ambiguity in that 'still') is what the French call nature mort. This is not the place to explore the complex cultural relations between art and mutability and death, but let's agree that they exist and that these beautiful images are part of that discourse.
French film critics have long employed the term temps mort (literally 'dead time', although also meaning 'injury time' in sport) and this is something I'd like to mull over with you. An example of temps mort would be the wonderfully ripe moment when Laurel and Hardy settle down together 'outside' the narrative, as it were, to deliver some ruminations unrelated to the plot, if there is a plot. The story is temporarily abandoned, or put on hold, while the protagonists reflect, bicker, mooch around, smoulder (and Ollie in particular is a wonderful smoulderer), or do nothing at all. It's lovely.
Hollywood cinema isn't much given to rumination these days - hyperkinetic helter-skelter blockbusters have no room for thought, for reflection, for stillness and for what the silent film pioneer D. W. Griffith called 'the wind in the trees'. There's no place in such films - as in much contemporary art - for nature or the human.
In a rowdy market-place Kate Hopkins' paintings create their own space. Here are two more pictures - of grapes (below) and cherries (below the grapes). She must have looked very closely and for a long time at these two modest clusters of fruit, and has captured perfectly, and permanently, the mustiness of the grapes and the enamelled glamour of the cherries. They are small images but have monumental presence. These and the pictures above all have something of temps mort about them - something essential salvaged from the wreck of time. They are not loud or pushy or overbearing or sentimental or gauchely confessional - they're the sound of the wind in the trees.
But this prompts an afterthought. Victor Enrice's 1992 film The Quince Tree Sun (El Sol del Membrillo) is that rarest of things - a film that captures the process of the making of a painting in the smallest detail. It's a quasi-documentary about the painter Antonio López García (playing himself) and his attempt, in the course of a long summer, to paint a quince tree. López works conscientiously as the tree changes day by day, and the light changes constantly, and old friends drop by and interrupt him. Just as he chronicles the dying tree, the film chronicles his effort. It becomes, improbably, a nail-biting race against time. Beautiful.
|Still from The Quince Tree Sun