SELECTIONS delves into the world of acquisitions, exploring what museums and galleries have been adding to their collections in the past five years as well as featuring images and summaries of works and artists.
Bio: English, b. 1965
Title: Abundance, 2018
Medium: Oil on canvas
Size: 160 x 220 cm
Acquired by: Le Mobilier National, Paris
Acquired from: Stephen Peirce
Artist represented by: Mark Hachem Gallery, Beirut /
Acquisition date: 8 November 2018
The painting “Abundance” belongs to the series entitled “Trans” started in 2017 and presented, for the first time, at Art Paris 2018. It joined the collections of Mobilier National Français in 2018 and will be the model for the weaving of a monumental tapestry.
With his usual breathtaking technique, the British artist adds a new chapter to a body of work that knows no precedent. The still life becomes animated with unfeasible colour harmonies. It seems to breathe a hyperrealistic breath. A transformation that is a sensual overload, definitely disturbing and certainly mind-blowing. When the inanimate suddenly stirs and makes you jump with a start. In the “Trans” series, Peirce seems to want to continue to divert the “nature” of the painted subject while choosing, paradoxically and for the first time, perfectly recognisable elements. At first glance, we are on familiar ground. In detail and as a whole, we identify what we see: a still life with a hyper-realistic touch. The link with the Dutch still lifes of the 17th century or those of Chardin seems obvious. But, as we look at the canvas, we must soon agree that the artist goes far beyond a faithful reproduction of reality. Even, it moves away from it. First, we see that painted overlays and balances are impossible in reality. Everything is wrong! It is all imagination and not reproduction of any scene. Hyperrealism of the impossible.
First trouble! Even stranger, in his technique, Peirce adds an overflowing sensuality, almost disturbing. The feeling is almost physical. Each sense is awakened. As if one could feel the painted thing: touching the rough, caressing the smooth, noticing the humidity, smelling the smell, grasping the taste. This heightened sensuality allows the whole to reach such a presence that it becomes… almost alive! Which, for a flower, a candle or a fish head is something rather disturbing… In the end, Peirce’s hyperrealism not only accounts for the nature of the thing painted, but it also changes it. Second trouble!
Finally, foods that are difficult to look at, even repulsive, are integrated into the whole. Some of them even seem to evoke a decomposition to come.
Peirce uses his virtuosity to explore the border between what seduces and what repels and manages to make them cohabit in the same painting. The familiar aspect of still life reassures. The bright colours attract, the hyper-realistic description fascinates but, at the same time, Peirce plays on the impossibility of the scene, the degraded aspect of certain foods, the integration of raw body parts (liver, lung heart …) certainly vital but much less attractive than a fruit.
The scene attracts with repulsive elements. “Das Unheimliche” is not far… Third trouble. Ultimately, the viewer is aware of the illusion but, as he dives into it, he is taken by it to the point of feeling very real and, what is more, contradictory sensations until the paint itself takes him to a whole different path that has nothing to do with the original image. Emotion and the intellect are pitched against one another – one is compelled to ‘believe’ the scene even as the intellect struggles to comprehend it.
Stephen Peirce bypasses our brains and offers us works full of a reality a priori raw but amply transformed! The trouble is final! He immerses us in his world, thanks to LE MOBILIER NATIONAL, PARIS virtuoso works, falsely faithful. Hyperrealism of an identifiable thing or not, the work of Peirce is immediately recognizable and unique in the current contemporary scene. In order to offer all its philosophical significance – and in particular the links itmaintains with Thoreau, Merleau-Ponty, Jane Bennett… – Peirce’s painting lends itself – it requires! – limitless contemplation, like the greatest novels require careful reading.
Copyright: B. Atala
Courtesy of Mark Hachem Gallery
Credit line: Collections du Mobilier
A VERSION OF THIS ARTICLE APPEARED IN PRINT IN SELECTIONS #55