Tuesday, July 31, 2007

J Matt Miller: Buttercups


This still life differs significantly from the close-ups Miller usually employs. In a way, it is a more conventional endeavor, though the unusually low viewing angle may serve to challenge that impression.

The transparent container reveals the less attractive stems that engender the flowers; by placing a single blossom near the jar's bottom, the artist recapitulates the theme of origin: the flower beside the stem reminds the viewer, in a more symbolic fashion, that one comes from the other. The artistic act of placing the top near the bottom displays a conscious reflection upon themes that eventually reincarnate as human, and humanistic: life, death and rebirth. This representation becomes a statement on these issues, rather than another visual rendering of nature's processes and peoples' taste for decoration.

The two buttercups closer to the right edge rhythmically gravitate towards the ground -- and the stems, -- describing an imaginary arc; as if in a slow motion simulation of a single flower's degradation, their movement reaffirms the circularity of their existence. The flower eventually returns to the ground and later becomes the basis for yet another cycle of growth. Of course, there is the possibility that the lying one fell off by itself, but it is hard for me to believe in such a turn of events: the whole arrangement appears too deliberate. Besides, there is no visible stem lacking a blossom.

Since most depictions of flowers (that I have seen) do not reveal entire stems, this one here may be perceived as defying the tradition.The yellow and the black play off each other, always an effective color combination. The detail where the light falls on the glass is realistic: it almost hurts my eyes, as if by a real flash. Despite the calculated composition, the sense of spontaneity is retained. All in all, because this painting is suggestive of the human condition, it projects an appropriate mood. It is sad and it is brooding. It is mournful. And, it is memorable.

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