I love the still life paintings of the Dutch and Flemish old masters, particularly the three J’s - Jacob Gilleg, Jan Davidszoom de Heem, Jan Weenix. I’m fixated by the fruit and dead fowl, flowers and skulls, the tumbling silks and deep dark backgrounds especially when illuminated by candlelight.
Chiaroscuro. Even the word sounds deep and mysterious - the use of light and dark, shadow and flare, to achieve a heightened feeling of depth.
We often light candles at the weekend. The warm glow is so soothing, the flicker of the shadows so intriguing. They seem to take the ordinary and make it extraordinary, twisting, casting silhouette and reflection, changing the fabric of their surroundings, making new worlds out of the everyday.
Sometimes as I watch the flames, the golden light from the burning wick, I’m transported, fixated – slipped into another landscape. Grinning cat with angel wings, drawer cabinets full of secret wishes, twisted waxen blooms, dead petals fallen in a glass, cat things hanging in the air. A new world caused by candlelight, almost everyday – but not quite.
Chiaroscuro. Surreal? Probably. Fanciful? Definitely. But look closely. There are still life paintings everywhere – even on your sideboard, just look.