Still Life: Autumn Fashion

WAG 9590


The bold and colourful work of Caulfield can be termed 'pop art' because of his use of highly unconventional techniques and the ironic position that he adopts towards high art. However, Caulfield does not aspire to the same choice of subject matter as American pop artists. Instead of painting advertising products, celebrities and other features of popular culture, he paints interiors, horses, churches and everyday objects. The thick outlines of the objects make them stand out as if they can be touched. Yet not all of the objects are complete, suggesting that an artist's work is only truly completed once it is viewed. In 'Still life: Autumn fashion' Caulfield skilfully layers pictorial elements, combining schematic techniques with real textures. The leeks, oysters and vessels of the painting are arranged in a disparate way to enable us to find our way into the picture. The play between the two worlds of reality and decoration is further intensified by Caulfield's treatment of two of the oysters in their real texture rather than in a graphic manner. Caulfield has always being interested in transforming ordinary things into extraordinary ones, perhaps suggesting that the role of the modern artist is to make people see and examine things in a different light. As he has noted: "what we call inspiration results from a careful sifting of everyday experience." Caulfield became interested in still lifes when he realised that they offered him the opportunity to depict objects true to scale; Caulfield has always enjoyed the one to one relationship with his chosen subjects. In the early 1980s he turned further still towards producing images of food and drink, presenting them with equal weight within his paintings. The layering of elements in 'Still life: Autumn fashion' gives the work an extraordinary mystery and intensity. Although Caulfield's art is enjoyable for its economy of means and lush colours, the ambivalence of the space can often mean that spectators feel they are staring into the void. One is confronted with multiple systems that seem to interfere and interact with each other. Unable to define a spatial position in relation to these objects and conventions, the viewer experiences the picture as if from within the compostition.