Saturday, July 21, 2007

Christopher Stott: Black Leather Shoe

Stott treats his subjects with care that transcends to something more sensuous; one could say he approaches them with love, which they duly reflect back. Still life becomes a fetish burdened with emotional investment. Technique make such evolutions possible: solid drawing with calculated color application combine to convey an aesthetic illusion. Yet sometimes the two work against each other. The artist applies colors carefully and very economically, and the brushwork is not intended to be visible. There is a methodical resemblance to 19th century French academic painting. Sometimes the layers of color seem so thin and even (particularly in the lighter tones) as to induce an aerial and detached effect, of which I spoke in the previous review. When the drawing is nearly perfect, the overall result is mesmerizing but, when it is not, the defects become accentuated after the paint is put on the canvas. Again, it is as if when they aren't together -- they are against each other.

I remember reading that Bouguereau could take up to six months to complete one work. The fact that these artists choose to complete one almost every day, alleviates responsibility -- though how much, is for the artist to decide. Fortunately, as a critic, I do not have to deal with such dilemmas. But I find Stott's insistence on using this particular technique as risk taking and bold; particularly so, considering that unlike in matters of style, these are generally conscious choices.

That shoe falls under the category where the drawing and the painting complement each other. Precision of delivery, subtle work on the shadows, especially where the sole touches the surface, somehow marble in my vision. The shoe projects affluence, but also understates it, turning timidly from the viewer, exposing its side. It is self contained on the one hand, yet evinces a communicative streak on the other. I imagine that the lighter tones elicit the latter characteristic, while the composition -- the viewer's angle and the placement -- the former. It is an aristocratic piece of footwear (in fact, that epithet would serve rightly many other Stott's model subjects). Examine Vincent van Gogh's boots:

A complete opposite. These expose themselves with a naturalistic frankness, as if taken out of a Zola novel. Battered, worn out, old and repulsive; I could almost sense the unsavory odor rise from their black innards. The one on the left displays its "ribs", the laces resembling the white bones of a skeleton. These boots pulse with allusion. Stott's shoe does not pulse: it breathes coolly and quietly. And all that remains to say is that we wear out many pairs during our lives.

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