Artistic Licence: Still Life paintings by Ian Mastin present a banquet of fruit, cheese, brandy and wine with classic style.
This most inspiring exhibition of Still Life paintings opened on Saturday 3rd April, 2021 at “Art on Cairncross”, Maleny, Queensland, Australia.
The good news is that the artwork is also now available as an online exhibition in the UK, through select galleries such as The Torrance Gallery, Ian Mastin’s exclusive agent in Edinburgh.
“The concept of a physical exhibition in Australia accompanied simultaneously by the same exhibition online in the UK was not something I’d ever have considered pre-COVID – an experimental endeavour.”
Ian Mastin was born in England before his family later emigrated to Australia. With no formal training, he enjoyed sketching for recreation, and when living in Scotland for over a decade, he began to study artistic technique and styles, and is now a full time, professional artist, based in Queensland.
Known in French as Nature Morte, Still Life paintings are a stylised arrangement of objects on a table, such as fruit, flowers, glassware and textiles.
It really is extraordinary to compare Mastin’s exceptional natural talent and skill with the 16th and 17th century Dutch and Flemish Masters. Their subjects ranged from flowers, human skulls and candles to depict Memento Mori, the fleeting nature of life, to simple breakfast dishes and lavish Baroque displays of fruit, wine goblets and books to illustrate culture and wealth.
A superb example is ‘Still Life with Cheese’ by Floris van Dyck, an elaborate feast of grapes, apples, nuts and wine.
From this Golden Age, fast forward to see how these domestic scenes were modelled and modernised by such Impressionist artists as Cezanne, Gauguin, Manet, Van Gogh and Valadon.
“Bring a brioche, I want to see you paint one: Still Life is the touchstone of painting.” Edouard Manet.
Paul Cezanne seemed to be fascinated by orchard fruits especially apples of all shapes and sizes which were the star subject for numerous paintings.
” I am captivated by the deep roots of the past .. the relationship between inanimate objects and our origins .. a simple relic of some antiquity immediately stirs within a hunger to connect with its provenance.”
Let’s take a look around the ‘Artistic Licence’ exhibition of contemporary Still Life acrylic paintings:
Bread, Wine and Cheese
You could be forgiven for assuming this softly lit composition was painted around 1620 …..not 2020. Here the dark varnished, cracked old wooden table is set for a meal: the delicately, draped fold of a linen napkin, the glistening glass of white wine, a scatter of crumbly cheese and crusty bread, all finely crafted with such intimate precision.
Still Life with Pears and Grapes
It may appear a more simplified display, but this has exceptional photographic quality. Look at the surface of the splintered table, the purple-black skin of the grapes with sharp stalks and shapely pears with tiny nicks in the skin. All so aesthetically pleasing to the eye.
Spoilt for Choice
Following the recurring theme of Paul Cezanne, here too is a fine collection of crisp, shiny, polished apples – perhaps Gala, Granny Smith, McIntosh, Pink Lady et al. – in contrast to the gnarled timber grains of the table.
“I always love painting fruits and never tire of the subtleties and richness of their colours and textures. I’m also drawn to the bonhomie evoked by images of good wine and food. I never need much encouraging to go searching for a succulent cheese to complement a classic burgundy – used purely for artistic purposes, needless to say.”
Moulin des Carruades 1977
A meticulously detailed and most appetising Study of wine, bread and cheese as similarly depicted by the Dutch Masters. You could view this for hours and still find hidden facets in the tactile textures. First the dusty sheen on this vintage wine bottle, as if just retrieved from the cellar, the ripe, melting Camembert in greaseproof paper with freshly baked bread. Note too, the hinged metal lock on this antique chest.
Moulin Des Carruades from Domaine Barons de Rothschild: Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc – “Rich fruit, blackcurrant, tobacco, cedar, oak, well-balanced.”
Chateau d’Angluet Margaux
The wine estate, Château Angludet has belonged to the Sichel family for six generations so this represents a real sense of heritage: the dark green bottle with its intricately sketched label and the reflection of glinting sunlight. Uncorked, it’s ready to serve with grapes and slice of cheese. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, & Petit Verdot, this vintage 2006 Bordeaux is described as deep red with black tints, ripe and elegant.
Age Before Beauty
This may certainly appeal to those in Scotland and worldwide who relish a dram of these fine Single Malt Scotch Whiskies from the Speyside and Highland regions. The fisherman’s rod and basket create a dramatic setting, to illustrate a day out on the River Dee, Aberdeenshire or, indeed, Baroon Pocket Dam, Queensland. Slainte Mhath!
Still Life paintings provided the best opportunity for the pioneering 16th century artists to show off their painterly skills.
With artistic licence and photo-realism accuracy, as a modern master of the genre, Ian Mastin demonstrates such delicate beauty and classic style in these exquisite compositions. Whether a bowl of cherries, a carafe of port or a pile of antiquarian books, this is an artist with a dedicated passion for perfecting this iconic, timeless tradition.
Artistic Licence – a showcase of Still Life paintings by Ian Mastin
3 – 25th April, 2021
Maleny, Queensland: ‘Art on Cairncross’ – if you live locally, visit the gallery.
Edinburgh: available online at The Torrance Gallery
View the exhibition here:
Prices include P&P, insurance, tracked shipping and UK customs duty.
Browse the E-catalogue:
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.
Julie Dumbarton & Kelly-Anne Cairns @ The Torrance Gallery: vibrant, dramatic landscapes and poignant, peaceful portraits.
When it first opened in 1970, The Torrance Gallery was the only contemporary art gallery on Dundas Street. Nearly 50 years on, this is the address for the crème de la crème of the city’s independent galleries. Fiona McCrindle, the owner of the Edinburgh Drawing School, has recently taken over the baton to preserve the legacy of this New Town gallery.
Year round, there is a regularly changing showcase of a diverse range of artists with either solo, duo or mixed exhibitions, as well as ceramics, crafts and jewellery. The current exhibition brings together land and seascapes by Julie Dumbarton with portraits and life drawings by Kelly-Anne Cairns – a contrast of genres but sharing a bold, colourful expression.
Posed and poised, Kelly-Anne captures a genuine sense of character in her series of portraits of young women, each so natural and relaxed as if in quiet contemplation.
With titles such as Sunday, Forget-me-not and Promise, these are like snapshots, a moment in time, with an underlying dark, dramatic mood in their perceived sadness and solitude. What are they thinking, who are they thinking of? Their facial expressions give little away.
Yellow is a dominant colour together with a recurring motif of birds, (especially swallows) and flowers. A stunning self portrait, “To Belong,” features Kelly-Anne in a pretty bird print frock, eyes closed as of in meditation. She paints herself with the use of a mirror, so this is a reflection, as she sees herself.
Several gallery visitors on the opening day suggested that Kelly-Anne should design this as a dress material. Well, fashion is all about beautiful, wearable art!.
The domestic settings of a home are exquisitely brought to life through richly patterned fabrics, cushions and wallpaper backdrop within which we have a glimpse of an interior space, both physical and personal.
This most evocative image, entitled “Drifting” focuses on a girl falling asleep on a bed, her hands drooped down over a blue sheet, which is symbolically dripping down the canvas. As a voyeur of this intimate scene, we cannot help but be drawn into her private, secret dreamland.
Most impressive too is a series of black ink sketches, “All the Young Nudes,” four exquisitely composed figures. There is a delicate touch here in the fine, flowing representation of the soft, youthful, rounded contours of the slender female body; these clearly emphasise Kelly-Anne’s masterly talent at the classic artistry of life drawing.
‘I love to recreate subtle skin tones in oil paint and manipulate the model’s pose to create an atmosphere and elusive narratives within the composition. I am inspired by the human form, capturing the flowing lines and layers of muscles, tendons, and skin, capturing and suggesting emotions through body language.” Kelly-Anne Cairns
Julie Dumbarton lives in Langholm and the wild natural expanse of the Scottish countryside is central to her work. Her dramatic, vibrant colourful land and seascapes enhances and exaggerates the rich hues of flowers, heather hills and sunsets.
A red sky at night, a shepherd’s delight – here the clouds burst with a flurry of fireworks in shades of gold, crimson and salmon pink. Through thick brushstrokes, the tone and texture gives a multi-layered surface and depth to the perspective.
These luminous landscapes clearly bridge the gap between realistic views and bold, brash expressionism. The swirling water in “Waves” depicts both the rising, rolling sea as well as a row of whitewashed cottages on the shoreline beneath the calm, cool golden embers of an evening sky.
With painterly precision, a dark, melancholic mood pervades this seascape of “Orkney”: with this whirlwind of yellow, coral and mauve clouds, there is such hidden beauty in this wild, unspoilt beach scene.
Moving over even more to the complete abstract, “Autumn Waterlilies” is a stunning, surreal composition where a scattering of white petals can just be glimpsed within a flurry of pink, blue and green. A most attractive floral design which would be ideal for fabrics and decorative designs.
“I like to explore the same themes and images, the tension between abstraction and representation. I’m obsessed with colour, and strive to show the subtle details that we all see but often go unnoticed. As a landscape artist, I endeavour to inspire and nurture our love of the natural world.” Julie Dumbarton
The Torrance Gallery
Julie Dumbarton & Kelly-Anne Cairns
31st August to 15th September, 2019
36 Dundas Street, Edinburgh EH3 6JN
Open: Mon-Fri, 11am-6pm; Sat, 10.30am-4pm.