Still life art is often association with paintings. It is basically a work of art where the artist paints a certain combination of objects which could either be natural objects or man-made. The challenge in painting still life is the ability of the artist to paint the scene to be as similar as the real object. Looking at a still life painting would make the viewer feel as if they are actually looking at the real object. Natural objects would usually involve the likes of flowers, fruits, rocks and such while man-made objects would include books, cutleries, furniture and such. Still life artists often approach their work in a more systematic way where they are considered to be less expressive as compared to others like abstract and pop artists. This is because still life paintings involve the use of objects to express one’s ideas.
Still life art came about through the Middle Ages and the Greek and Roman art and it involves the composition of the objects in a a way that they complement each other. Generally, the objects involve an inanimate subject matter and the composition of the objects is very important in this context. This is because the placement of each object would create different light shading and consequently would create a different combination of colours. Before 1700, still life paintings were mainly in the area of religion and symbolism and are often regarded to be very two-dimensional. However, in the more contemporary art scene, artists are more explorative where they adopt more 3-dimensioanl media with the adoption of more technological medium.
Still life art is very much about techniques and skills of the artist and if one is looking at a still life painting, chances are the strokes and the artist’s skills can be seen. It is often said and believed that an artist’s skills can be gauged by their ability to paint a still life work. Unlike landscapes or cityscapes, still life paintings are often ‘staged’. This means that the artist actually places the objects to his liking and then paints them. If the composition of the objects is poor, then the outcome of the painting would be poor as well. This means that the artist would have to cultivate the skills in the composition of the real objects before painting them.
Perhaps one of the most popular still life painting is the ‘Vase of Flowers’ by Hans Memling while Van Gogh’s ‘Vase with Twelve Sunflowers’ remain as one of the legendary icons and representation of still life painting. Other popular still life artists include the likes of Caravaggio, Giovanna Garzoni and many others. In Malaysia, Ahmad Zakki Anwar is widely regarded as one of the best still life artists around. His works have often depicted fruits, furniture and even animals where his techniques are known to be one of the best in the Malaysian art scene. This is probably why Zakii is considered as one of the top Malaysian contemporary artists today where he remains highly respected among other artists and his art is widely sought after by galleries and collectors alike.