Colour Blast

indian pink with violet rectangle
red milk bottle top
blue square

sharp light
yellow window sill
bright light

new studio
the black jug and vermilion cloth
open book

saffron cloth and hawthorn
empty space
lemons and peaches

Colour Blast

The sensuous life of things

‘She placed a vase of jasmine on the windowsill.’  ‘The glass of water glowed as though the tablecloth’s deep pink colour had dissolved and intensified inside it…’.  Still-life, when you do it in words, is never entirely still – in the background, out of sight, someone is usually moving about , opening windows, eating breakfast.  And once people enter the scene, stories begin to unfold and the passage of time picks up its familiar distracting momentum.

Still-life paintings, on the other hand, really can slow the beat almost to standstill.  Light and shadow hold their balance however long you look, and longer.  In their refusal to be agitated by the human goings-on around them, objects radiate the self-contained, silent life of things.

Paradoxically, the stillness of still-life becomes deeper and more sensuous when, as in Alice Mumford’s new paintings, there’s a corresponding feeling of vitality, even exuberance, breaking through.  Alongside plain glass beakers and earthenware pots – those old retainers in the house of art – there are pink and orangey red textiles, warm atmospheric greys, and explosive sprigs of blossom rendered with the impulsive, open-ended kind of brush mark that’s a relatively recent development in Mumford’s work.

Modest as they are, the objects in these paintings – the patterned plates, milk-jugs and impromptu, vivid little bunches of flowers – inhabit what you imagine to be, in the general experience of twenty-first-century domestic multi-tasking, a pleasant, slightly rarefied world in which there will always be time to spread the table or explore the garden.  This is part of their allure, since who can resist the thought of such moments, however seldom they actually occur?

But it’s not quite that simple:  how is it, for example, that all those quick, approximate brush strokes finally add up to an effect of poise and calm?  It is much easier to enjoy than to explain how it feels so peaceful on the table top where the sunlight falls and where small, everyday objects focus a very particular sense of solace and elation.

Michael Bird
August 2010