Jude Rae

Still Life 5

1998
oil on canvas
670mm x 700mm

signed J Rae, dated 98 and inscribed Still Life 5 in graphite verso

Provenance

Still Lives, Jonathan Smart Gallery, Christchurch, New Zealand, 3 March – 28 March, 1998.

Essay

Dutch still lifes from the 17th Century once depicted a private world to be drawn into. Laced with a heavy dose of morality, the interior spaces depicted within this ...

Read full text
Estimate $12,000 - $16,000
Achieved $18,400

Jude Rae

Still Life 5

1998

oil on canvas

signed J Rae, dated 98 and inscribed Still Life 5 in graphite verso

670mm x 700mm

Auction N˚1

Estimate $12,000 - $16,000

Achieved $18,400

Footnotes
  1. Robert Barry, Inert Gas Series, 1969.

Jude Rae’s Still Lifes

by Valerie Rose

Dutch still lifes from the 17th Century once depicted a private world to be drawn into. Laced with a heavy dose of morality, the interior spaces depicted within this genre would act to seduce by proffering treasures, nested goods and peculiar artifacts to be consumed. This beckoning mode of the Dutch Still Life creates the feeling of being drawn into the depths of a fecund domesticity, while also retaining belief in a particularly human centered notion of privacy and earthly pleasure.

Jude Rae’s contemporary still lives are sparse by contrast. Open and expansive, they speak of a vastness that exceeds human scales and temporalities. Just as the artist Robert Barry once placed an open helium canister in the desert, allowing its contents to be dispersed into the air, Rae’s paintings seem to be on the brink of dissipation.¹ Her paintings are populated with mass produced goods such as fire extinguishers, gas canisters, petrol containers and plastic water bottles,utilitarian vessels made to contain unruly materials such as oil, water and gas.

In her work Still Life 5 (1998), a number of bowls are depicted in opaque yellows, bland creams, and muddy greys. When looking at the painting, the viewer’s eyes travel over the imperfect stack of bowls, and over their lips, rims and edges, creating an effect of attention wandering elsewhere. The paint is buttery, a little smeared, and there is a monochrome backdrop daubed provisionally, and then a table top or horizon line rendered more definitively. By painting within the genre of still life, Rae undertakes the difficult task of conceiving of a contemporary moment from within a contemporary moment—of attempting to still the continually reeling present, or capture the necessary incompleteness of the everyday.

Rae’s focus on contemporary subject matter in the form of recognisable vessels also speaks of a deeply networked set of attachments and relations between human and non human entities. Rae’s painted vessels are fire extinguishers, mass produced bowls and water bottles, are made from oils, refined earths and minerals, and evoke the homogenised materials coursing through the veins of the global economy. The seemingly impersonal but familiar objects that Rae depicts are the things that work for us and through us, the items that unwittingly touch a life. Her still lives may then also capture the simultaneous effects of intimacy and alienation that characterise our era—the strange contrast between the lived everyday and the inconceivable vastness of the anthropocene. Here in Rae’s paintings domestic interiors and intimate items unfold into the flattened space-time of the global, in which a plastic drink bottle might evoke the unthinkable lifespan of a landfill, e-waste dump or open pit mine. Why paint a still life, then, if not to make visible the irreconcilable scales and temporalities of our era? To paint a still life is to speak of an unfathomable everyday—an everyday that almost always exceeds our descriptions.