Kate Bryan speaking about Rob & Nick Carter’s ‘Transforming Still Life Painting,’ 2012
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Kate Bryan speaking about Rob & Nick Carter’s ‘Transforming Still Life Painting,’ 2012

– This is the latest departure
for the artistic duo, Rob and Nick Carter. It’s been three years in the making. And in collaboration with
the Moving Picture Company, they have made the world’s first digitally rendered painting. It’s an extraordinary artwork. From a distance, it looks
like the original painting, which is a Dutch Golden Age masterpiece. It was painted in 1618, by a gentleman called
Ambrosius Bosschaert the Elder. He is an icon of Dutch
Golden Age painting. And his original painting
was flowers in a vase in an arch window. And Rob and Nick Carter, in the year 2012, have presented us with
a very 21st century take on his original oil painting. The original paintings in the Mauritshuis, in the Hague. and is a wonderful example
of a very inventive, artistic mind, operating in the early part of the 17th century. Bosschaert wanted to
create the most dramatic, the most compelling,
and the most innovative still life possible. And in order to do so, he employed hundreds of studio assistants. He was based in Middelburg, where there were actually
a lot of botanists, and they had these fantastic
botanical drawings. And so using the expertise
of his studio assistants, he was able to conjure up
an extraordinary still life, using flowers that could never have possibly existed
together at one time, as they are all from different seasons. And actually from different
parts of the world. And he was able to present to the viewer a really unusual, compelling still life. You know, cut flowers at that time were still a very rare
and precious commodity. So in the 21st century, Rob and Nick Carter worked with
the Moving Picture Company. I suppose their equivalent of the fantastical botanists in Middelburg. And used their expertise, which is effectively the
world’s best digital rendering. And they have produced a really
sympathetic and authentic response to Bosschaert’s painting. This is a digitally rendered film, so what you’re seeing is a
loop that lasts three hours. And it takes this vase, this still life conjured by Bosschaert, and it takes it through
the course of the day. So we start early in the morning, and this film shifts imperceptibly throughout the course of
the day toward the evening, and actually ends with stars in the sky. Now that’s all happening
without us being able to see it. So as I stand here, the clouds are moving. The water level is
coming down in the vase. The shadows are lengthening
as the day progresses. And that’s all happening
at such a slow pace that I can’t see it. But actually, what I do notice is that every two or three minutes, there’s some real-time activity. And that’s all based on
actual information found in the original painting. So you might see a snail, or
a ladybird, or a butterfly, and even caterpillars
coming to eat the leaves throughout the course of the day. And those special moments provide this sort of tantalizing glimpse into this secret life of the still life. The fact that it’s operational. It has an existence. It has its own life. And what’s really wonderful about it is the longer you look,
the more you’re rewarded. The artists talk about
research that they’ve done into the typical length of
time we look at an image. You know, in a world
saturated with images. You know, numerous galleries
that we’re lucky enough to be able to visit. We might really spend just a few seconds looking at any given artwork. Whereas here, you’re really encouraged to spend a lot of time looking, and that time is rewarded. By not just in terms of
getting to see, you know, activity happening with a snail. But as you’re slowly
watching the passing of time, as this very sort of pristine experience, you’re thinking about
the way that time passes every single moment. Like a child looking up at the clouds and seeing how fast they move. It’s deeply evocative
and it sort of takes you to another place. And what I love about this work, is that the artists have really picked up where Ambrosius Bosschaert left off. They’ve produced a 21st
century still life painting, which makes me want to look
at Dutch Golden Age painting in a new way. And quite frankly, every
time I look at this work and then look at another painting, I’m left slightly perplexed
as to why it’s not moving. It’s so compelling and so believable. And it’s really, truly, you
know, a modern masterpiece.

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