Thursday, September 27, 2007

Neil Hollingsworth: Cherry Goblet

There are two paintings here: the still life itself and the miniature of the room, as it is reflected in the goblet's plump side. I believe that they vie for attention; the artist leaves it to viewers to decide which one they prefer (I will reveal my favorite only if asked nicely). It is possible, however, to envision a peaceful cohabitation. I suppose this choice is also a matter of individual standpoint -- once again the artist prompts the audience to take a stand. This predicament really reminds me of our peace negotiations, where even the terms of negotiations are being negotiated... Regardless, the mere abundance of available choices attests to the complexity of this piece. Perhaps there is one thing missing: such goblets are used in traditional Jewish Sabbath meals, held, full to the brim with red wine, in the right hand of the man of the family -- I think that a really nice, oily fingerprint would have made this painting even more interesting. Maybe I should make a poll on this...

The goblet and the cherries make up a cute composition. The berries saucily show off their tails, balancing out the sombre looking container. But there is a deeper conflict: the palatable fruit symbolizes life in its quickly passing, delicious moments, whereas the silver stands for tradition and time as it slowly limps across generations. That one contains the other not only emphasizes this discrepancy, but also mitigates it. Thus it is possible to interpret the scene in universal, philosophical terms. In this context, the cherry outside of the goblet may point either towards the artist's conviction that life should be lived "in the moment," or his statement that it will, anyway. I think that the photographic look, with its precision and uncompromising realism, serves to even further accelerate the clash between the young and the old. I would even go as far as to suggest that the outcome (for the viewer) needs to be somehow cathartic -- perhaps I am out of my scope here, but this is just a general feeling I get.

On a lighter note, the mirrored room provides a positively entertaining break. There are various colors and fine details: I think it is possible to make out a porch on the left, and a coffee table and an orange curtain on the right. But it is the light inside the room that makes this miniature so different from the goblet&cherry mise en scene, and that in fact makes it an independent painting. In a way, after all that tragicomic stress induced by the big players, it provides a safe way back to reality -- a device similar to that which protects the eyes of movie goers after they exit the dark hall into a sunny afternoon. Actually, I am not aware of the existence of such a device, but it would make sense to invent one. It seems that Neil has already tested its usefulness in his field, on his terms -- and with considerable effectiveness.

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