Project 1-Looking at context-Exercise 4.

DHS76_771_0 6th April 2016

I vaguely remember this piece being all over the news when it was first exhibited. I remember an old school teacher saying at the time; ‘It is just a fish in some bleach isn’t it?’ I would have been 15 in 1997 so back then I thought it was a bit strange and I probably said it was stupid. I wasn’t moved by it but I honestly don’t think I had any thoughts about it. Looking at it now, the things that I first think of that automatically enter my head are;

pretty, strange, the sea, beauty, shark, forever, blue, grey, fossil, kept, silent, teeth, open.

I didn’t have any response to it at the time of its release. I thought it was something I hadn’t ever seen before and wondered how it had been done but that is probably as far as I went with it. I now think after researching it again, where did the shark come from? Was it killed by an accident ? Was it found on a beach somewhere? Did it die naturally? I think looking at it now after so long I quite like it. It seems peaceful and something that you could sit and look at for a long time. The way the glass moves with the body, the face, the colours, the skin. The artist Damien Hirst describes it as a piece about death. I see it as what you can do with an object and how you can perceive something about that object. At that time this hadn’t really been done on this scale in the public eye so I am honestly thinking that it is as the title says –  ‘The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living.’ Looking at a deceased animal that is preserved from my living point of view. I am alive and looking at it, the shark is dead but is frozen in its last position in time as if still alive for me to look at it. I like the title as it describes what it is. Staring death in the face but your are there seeing it, feeling it and looking at it.

This painting is by the Dutch artist, Edwaert Collier and is titled-
‘Still Life with a Volume of Wither’s ‘Emblemes’ 1696′

Edward Collier ‘Still Life with a Volume of Wither’s ‘Emblemes’’, 1696 -accessed 8th April 2016

The description of Colliers piece from the Tate’s website says-

‘In this still-life painting the musical instruments, wine and jewels represent the fleeting pleasures of life, while the skull and hour-glass symbolise the inevitability of death. The open book shows a brief poem emphasising the theme of mortality. The Latin inscription in the top left corner comes from the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes: ‘Vanity of vanities, all is vanity’. This is why such pictures are known as vanitas paintings. Born in the Netherlands, Collier arrived in England in 1693 to produce still-life paintings like this to sell to the English market. He died in London in 1708’. 8th April 2016

My notes about the piece appear below-


all websites and links accessed 8th April 2016.


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