Vanitas had its renaissance in the 17th C., when Dutch artists became focused on the theme of mortality using natural specimens such as flowers cut from the root and started to whither, or pieces of decaying fruit to express momento mori - a reminder of the inevitability of death in all things living. Moreover, ‘precious’ metals, and objects d’art were used to remind the audience of the meaninglessness of superficial existence. In the Dutch Golden Age, rabbits and the hare often signified voluptas carnis (lusts of the flesh), whole the fur of the animal allowed the artist to showcase his artistic ability to depict fine detail and difficult material. By the end of the 17th C., this subject evolved to the garner sub-genre of the hunting trophy still-life, featuring dead game and was set outdoors and often in the environment of a hunting lodge. In the history of art, floral still- lifes were known for their highly refined execution and in their subjects and symbolism was addressed to a cultivated audience.
James further explores these themes through the introduction of water; acting as both nurturer and destroyer, it has the power to cleanse and reinvent, or to drown and disappear. Ultimately, by playing upon and transforming the genre’s inherent symbiotic themes Alexander James Hamilton's Perception is a reflection on life and mortality, questioning its meaning in a society dominated by materialism. The quality and purity of the process are at the core of his work, attempting to engage his art with the most personal of realisations - brutal yet divine.
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