Thursday, April 28, 2011

Painting # 5 / STILL LIFE with STACKED BOOKS

Still Life with Stacked Books
James Aponovich
20 x 16, oil on canvas, 2011


Late in 2010 Beth and I were asked to submit paintings for a June 2011 exhibition
at Clark Gallery in Lincoln, MA. The theme for this invitational would be books as subject matter. The title for the show is Picture Books and will run from June 7th through the month of July.

I guess the good thing about a book theme is that it narrows the focus to...books. However, painting book titles is like putting bumper sticker on cars; it can broadcast .a lot about you in a few words. But when asked to do something, you try.

My first sketches failed, they were more like illustrations, so I was stuck. Then, during a phone conversation my eyes happened to fall on a bookcase in the studio. There sat a stack of old black books ( Thomas Mann) with an Italian greeting card sitting on top. Bingo, the found assemblage as still life. It was a light bulb moment, although not without pitfalls.


Detail: Still Life with Stacked Books, James Aponovich
Detail: The Virgin and Child with St. John the Baptist
Sandro Botticelli (1445-1510)
Musee du Louvre

An image of a painting ( by me) of a reproduction of a detail of a painting ( by Botticelli).
Whew! It's enough to make Plato walk around the Agora rubbing his forehead. According to Book X of Plato's Republic, all painting is more or less bogus because all things are a mere reflection or imitation of the "ideal". In other words, all things are once removed from reality. The artist comes along and paints things and therefore is twice removed. I paint a reproduction
( 3 times removed) and I am consequently 4 times removed. No wonder I am confused.

As ever hidden, look at its inner essence
As ever manifest, look at its outer aspects
Lao Tzu

I avoided painting titles on the books but instead painted the letters H, O and NE, along with some decorative gold bindings. One book has a Chinese ideogram, another a compass rose. In front sits the Clementine from Clementine with Tissue (week 4), with the tissue now acting a leaves of paper, the pages we do not see in the books. The cloth is a fragment of a Japanese kimono with a pattern of clouds and rain. The rain is a clue to what theme ties all these elements together. (answer next week)


Whatever the theme may be, the composition has, in my mind, a direct relationship to many
15th Century Italian Madonna and Child paintings.

Madonna col Bambino
Fra Filippo Lippi (1406-1469)
Florence, Palazzo Medici Riccardi

The child stands on a parapet, a standard horizontal railing or wall (notice the crude cast shadow from the feet). The composition builds with beautiful surface detail to the insanely sweet embrace and the faces touching, all set in a shallow field of focus, the niche.

By the way, when you are in Florence, it is imperative to visit the Palazzo Medici- Riccardi to see the frescos in the Chapel of The Magi by Benozzo Gozzoli.
It it well worth a visit and then follow it with lunch at Trattoria Sergio Gozzi (aka.Da Sergio),
in the nearby San Lorenzo market.

copyright James Aponovich, 2011
all Aponovich paintings and text are copyright J.Aponovich

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