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Marcus Bolt: Still Life and the Miracle of Creation

My work is not created for museums. . .  But my hope is that the casual viewer will see (and feel) in them those Zen-like moments of wonder at existence and that sense of still calm and joie de vivre I experience while painting them.

Left:  Chipped Vase 2015 100cm x 80cm Acrylics on stretched canvas

The following is reprinted from April 2015 Subud Voice Marcus Bolt studied at St. Albans and Maidstone Colleges of Art, graduating with a First Class Honours degree in Graphic Communications. He currently works as a freelance designer and has always painted in his free time. He hopes to become a fulltime painter when he can afford to retire. He writes…

In the Spring of 2013, I read David Hockney’s book Secret Knowledge – and found it liberating. Hockney sets out to prove that many of the greats – Holbein, Caravaggio, Vermeer, Canaletto, Ingres et al used mirrors, lenses, camera obscura and camera lucida – the hi-tech media of their day – to project images onto paper or canvas, and then traced the outlines. As Hockney points out, this in no way diminishes their genius; they still had to know how to render flesh, fur, metal and cloth in paint, how to design and compose etc. And they could have drawn from life just as accurately, but had full order books and busy schedules, so any short cut was a boon. I already knew that Michelangelo, Durer and many others used the squaring-up technique to enlarge small sketches to Sistine Chapel proportions, so I thought, why not combine the two, but using digital photography instead of mirrors? (Hockney discovered mirrors have the same properties as lenses.) Fifty years of studying art history and working as a designer – initially with pencils rulers, pens, bow compasses and Magic Markers, and latterly with digital photography, Photoshop and Quark – conspired with my reading making me realise I could create images in a similar way, thus avoiding the (to me) time-stealing tyranny of ‘accurate drawing’. And why not? Artists from the Impressionists, through the Modernists, to early and contemporary Conceptualists have won all the ‘What is art?’ battles, so that today, whatever one says is art is art…. (whether good or bad art is another question entirely). In other words, art is now whatever you want it to be (or can get away with, as some cynics would say).

With a new technique under my belt, I returned to one of my original loves – still life painting. After years of studying the Dutch, Italian and French masters of the genre, as well as the Modernists (Picasso, Braques, Scott et al) through reproductions and in museum galleries, I realised, in an inspirational moment, that I could combine everything I know into a new way of looking and working. I could ally their traditional techniques with my own, more graphic approach and could put aesthetic rather than illustrative concerns as the primary concern. Thus each painting is a design of interlocking shapes and colour using everyday objects as a starting point rather than as an end in themselves. It was all tentative at first, but now, after 30-plus works in two years (each painting a steep learning curve), I can at last see where I’m going. My work is not created for museums, though. But, as a conceit, my hope is that the casual viewer will see (and feel) in them those Zen-like moments of wonder at existence and that sense of still calm and joie de vivre I experienced while painting them. To me, it is amazing that things exist at all, from a perfectly formed onion, peach or pear through to a plastic bowl. And it is a miracle of creation that they can be perceived by the mind through reflected light, shadow and colour via the eyes and then symbolically represented by the human hand. But the profoundest mystery of all is the very fact that we have consciousness and can be aware of being aware and can communicate that to others through the arts... And to me, that is what is meant by our being ‘created in God’s image’ – we too have been given the ability to shape raw material and to create, metaphorically, ‘something’ from ‘nothing’. To see more of my work, visit the online Greenchair Gallery and visit the Exhibition Room.  This exhbition runs through  mid-April, and is then archived for a while.


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