|Dimensions||20 x 24 x 0.5 cm|
Edition of one thousand, 2015
A red blotch mirrors the cherries in the printed reproduction on the opposite page of Nature morte avec oiseaux morts et cerises, an oil painting by Jean-Baptiste Oudry (1712). Does this stain come from ink, blood or juice?
Acquired by Swarthmore College Library, MoMA, Lafayette College Library and the Oslo National Academy of the Arts Library.
|Dimensions||20 x 24 x 0.5 cm|
Death and Life… comprises of just four pages; including a printed reproduction of a vanitas painting by Jean-Baptiste Oudry depicting two dead birds; one has been shot through the heart with an arrow and the other lies where it has fallen at the bottom of the canvas, beside a scattering of bright red berries. On the opposite page is a crimson stain – juice from crushed berries, blood, or merely an ink blot?
“The book was made for the AMBruno project on the theme of Red and selected by Elizabeth James of the National Art Library, V&A” artist Sophie Loss says. The viewer is left to his or her own decision, allowing a wonderful ambiguity to develop – and indeed, Sophie is unspecific about which of these outcomes it could be. “My own idea for Red was to place an image which would have the potential to leave traces or markings in red on its opposite page. Working with recto and verso as an idea, the spaces that exist independently are two sides of one whole. I could imagine the work over three pages asking, “what if the painting was still wet when assembled into a book? What if the fruit was real? The print has not dried yet?”
Sophie Loss works across different mediums – often with both book and video works. Sophie has co-ordinated AMBruno, since 2008 – a loose collective of artists working in the book format, the group create publications along themes “such as a one fold book and words. As distinctive as the books are in structure, print technique and visual content, a formal and conceptual thread connects each of them.”
Sophie’s own publications often examine the recto and verso of a page; that is, the ‘front’ and ‘back’ sides of bound pages. “At the centre of it is my love of orchestrating ‘what if’ situations, when two elements or worlds come together and the outcome is unpredictable, and often surprising and paradoxical. This essential quality weaves through all of my work be it video or print. With my love of books and having their constant presence I could see how the convention of recto/verso of the page and their relationship of dialogue and opposition fits well with my search for a point of rendezvous between two worlds. So as you can see with my Death and Life… for instance, that the form of the book as an idea and a space for constructed engagements is at the heart of what I do. There is a whole world out there of the multi-relational possibilities of recto-verso-recto waiting for me.” Death and Life… is a wonderful example of this interest, of a work stripped down to the minimum being and so fantastically imbued with meaning.
Vanitas paintings are well known genre, popular in the 16th and 17th century particularly. Imbued with symbolism, they are generally still life arrangements of objects designed to be symbolic of the inevitability of death, allowing the viewer to reflect upon their own mortality. Oudry, Sophie explains, was known for creating paintings of deceptive realism, often with dead animals, insects and fruit. “I was looking for a vanitas painting where the pleasures of the world came with a mortal warning, but without the ubiquitous skull in it,” she says. “Spending time with Nature morte avec oiseaux morts et cerises (1712) I was struck by the oxymoron, as found in most vanitas painting – it is a beautiful painting carrying the message ‘do not enjoy or trust beauty’. All this said in a theatrical and dramatic way, a bit biblical, a bit ‘Death and Life are in the power of the tongue’. Here was an artist who paints with the intention of giving eternal life to his work, that this work will live forever and remain as fresh, moist, vibrant and lively. It comes to life again to transfer stains and mark the present. Perfect!”