Photography by Patrick Sijben
In the 17th century, the still-life genre in paintings was a real hit. The rich citizens of the Golden Age could buy one for a substantial sum and show it off in their period room. Still-lives often had a symbolic or moralizing meaning. Take for example the Vanitas still life, or the Memento Mori, which stood for the impermanence of life and the futility of earthly possessions, and how important it therefore was to turn to God. This was symbolized by, for example, rotting fruit and vegetables. After all, time marches forward. Fruit rot. Life ends.
Fruit and vegetables had a completely different value in the Golden Age. They were expensive because of the limited supply and because they came from afar. So it was only reserved for the wealthy. That is why the ‘pronkstilleven’ or ’sumptuous' still life’ often presented a lot of fruit, because it showed the wealth of the client.
Nowadays, fruit is something we perceive as normal and God no longer plays such a prominent role in our daily lives. Fruit can be bought everywhere, the whole year round, and the word atheist is not blasphemy.
You could even say that we have gone slightly berserk, playing for our own God. We as humans have a Utopian desire to manipulate everything into our own liking, including nature and its riches. Genetically manipulated fruit and vegetables are no stranger to us.
‘Stil Leven’ is a 3D reflection table piece with a 21st century message. You can’t go around it; it does not hang on your wall to show off. It invites the viewer to wonder, to reflect and to literally stand still for a moment. The abstract ceramics represent the urge and absurdity of humans to forge everything into their own liking; the decaying fruits and vegetables stand for the impermanence of life. In our modern society we are always in a rush and have no ‘time' to stand still, and with current technology we strive for immortality. But before you know it, life is over. This is also symbolized by the combination of ceramics and real fruit. The fruit will decay at a certain moment, but something will remain. If you are not aware of the preciousness of life, it will be over, and what is it that you will leave behind?