Cool, classy, contemporary Still Life artwork in the classic tradition by Nichola Martin at the Torrance Gallery
Every artist needs to study Still Life, they say, to learn the foundation basics and advanced techniques for successful drawing and painting.
Following the pioneering Flemish masters, ‘Canestra di Frutta’ (Basket of Fruit, 1599) by Caravaggio is considered to be the first Italian Still Life painting – he did not search so much for aesthetically pleasing representations but an element of reality.
The detail is painted accurately, the apple eaten by a worm, the dried leaf of the fig and dust on the grapes, developing a new way to see painting – Caravaggio depicts things as they are.
The 17th century Dutch painter, Davidsz de Heem, was celebrated for his lavish Baroque displays of fruit, flowers, as well as studies of wine goblets and piles of books.
This popular genre of fine art was later modelled and modernised by such Impressionist artists as Gauguin, Van Gogh, Monet, Matisse, Valadon and also Picasso with his characteristic Cubist style. The French term Nature Morte is not perhaps the ideal translation for Still Life.!
It is therefore most inspiring to view this stunning exhibition by Nichola Martin who graduated with a BA (Hons) Fine Art degree from Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art, Dundee in 2007. Her range of subjects for Still Life, working in both charcoal and oil, ranges from lemons and limes to whisky decanters and books on art and literature
Take time to carefully observe the meticulous detail in the compilation of “Art & Poetry” (charcoal on fabriano paper). Nichola explains that she is left handed and starts at the top right hand corner working her way across the paper to avoid smudging with a gradual structured method. It is a captivating image of such realism – text, font and intricate imagery to illustrate all the book covers.
‘During my studies at Art College (I) began paying attention to the surroundings in my home and everyday objects. Almost like an autobiography or a biography, my work related to my experiences, thoughts and emotions …focused exclusively with light and dark, my Degree Show consisting of large scale charcoal drawings. The main reason I chose this medium is because of its versatility. ..whether for quick sketches or more dramatic drawings.’
Fine figurative charcoal drawings too on show such as ‘Peaceful Perusal’ where there is a slither of sunlight against shimmering shade – beautifully crafted.
‘My portraits which are mostly life size charcoal drawings, dispense with the relationship between myself and the sitter. I prefer to catch my subjects unaware, presenting their most private moments, those spent alone.’
Also see the extraordinary ability to create the texture of clothing, skin and hair in ‘Silent Study,’ – most evocative.
Nichola has also developed a love of working with oils on paper. A library of books is a recurring theme, handled with such dexterity in ‘A History of Art’ – a marvellous colourful display of biographical guides to art from Caravaaggio to Warhol, with exceptional photorealism.
The jumble of books on the floor in ‘A History of Art 11’ adds a touch of humour, as if the owner has moved house and trying to find an assemblage of order to the collection. The illustrations from fashion models and “Chop Suey” by Edward Hopper to abstract paintings are exquisitely done.
At college, Nichola was inspired by and studed the works of Caravaggio, M C Escher, William Kentridge, Lewis Chamberlain as well as Vincent Desiderio, (American, born 1955), who was the subject of her 4th year dissertation. A selection of a student’s essential books is given pride of place on the shelf in ‘The Art Lover.’
Those with a fondness of Scotch would be happy to have ‘The Whisky Connoisseur’ on the wall. A simple but effective display of a crystal tumbler, pewter jug, bottle of Highland Park and associated books, such as the well thumbed copy of “Whisky Galore.”
If your tipple is more akin to Cocktails, there are superb paintings of a Martini, in which the depiction of glass, spirit, vemouth with garnish of olives or lemon peel glistens with a glossy shaft of light – you feel you could just pick up the glass off the canvas and take a sip!.
The European Old Masters studied and pefected a vision of inanimate objects as an artistic genre. Nichola Martin clearly shows her exemplary skills to observe everyday objects and create an intimate sense of realism. There is such a mood of stillness – glasses, bottles, books as well as female figures – are all captured as if in a theatrical scene, frozen in a moment of time. Cool, classy, contemporary masterpieces in the classic tradition.
Also at The Torrance Gallery in the front studio, is a marvellous collection of city, land and seascapes by Stuart Herd, taking the viewer on a journey from Edinburgh and North Berwick to Caithness and the Hebrides.
An exhibition of works by Stuart Herd and Nichola Martin
The Torrance Gallery, 36 Dundas Street, Edinburgh EH3 6JN
Saturday 2 November to Saturday 16 November, 2019
Monday to Friday, 11am-6pm. Saturday, 10.30am -4pm.