JONATHAN Chapman is a Senior Lecturer of Fine Art at the University of Northampton. For part of his PhD he exhibited ‘Still Lifes 1994-2010’ at the Avenue Campus gallery.
‘Still Lifes 1994-2010’ is an amalgamation of Chapman’s last sixteen years of artistry; the collection holds seventeen of his still life studies. The pieces show how inanimate objects can be given depth and purpose. Chapman achieves this predominantly through the use of manmade objects, which also give all of his works a socio-historical context that the viewer can interact with. This allows the viewer to reflect upon what the painting means to them, as they have probably encountered objects like this in their everyday life.
Chapman plays with dimension in his paintings. He uses everyday objects as focal points in his paintings to act as a neutral background for his experimentation. Still Life, Take Away Tins, shows this experimentation the most effectively, because colour, arrangement and imagination work in harmony to elevate the picture out of the ordinary, into a surreal representation of a socially unimportant object that goes from no meaning to a million flashbacks.
“For one of my painting to have the chance of having something original to offer, I feel I must know the context and know where I wish to place my practice in relation to it, both aesthetically and theoretically.” Chapman describes how he finds his angle when researching for a new painting, undoubtedly looking at other paintings of the object in question is a good starting point.
“Probably due to thousands of art works that are actually or virtually available to us at this point in history, I too cannot paint anything without ‘seeing’ a myriad of examples of how that thing has already been painted and ‘hearing’ a myriad of reasons why it might have been painted in that way.”
Chapman’s research is undoubtedly what gives his paintings an experimental edge which defines them as original. Still Life with Champaign Bottles is a classic example of a stereotypical still life painting; However Chapman’s interpretation is sat on a background of peeling images. This changes this idyllic scene instantly, even suggesting how the piece has been put together or even that the picture is peeling away and cracking under the strain of perfection. This gives the viewer chance to see the imperfections in the scene and relate to its context.
When you study still life at school you probably remember Van Gough with his Sunflowers, and the perfection with which he wielded his brush but never were we asked to look beyond the obvious, and into the narrative. Chapman’s ‘Still Life: 1994-2010’ allows us to do this and encourages us to relate personally to his works.
BY STEPHANIE PARKES