Over centuries, the still life has been used to demonstrate an artist’s mastery of technique, to pass philosophical and political comment, to explore variations in light, volume, and space. Damien Kurth continues in this vein with his carefully arranged depictions of everyday objects. His paintings of jars and cups, canisters and tins, require us to look past the mundane ordinariness of the object itself, and consider why they have been selected for representation in oils.
Kurth recognises the rich history of the genre - the exquisite glassware of the Dutch school, Morandi’s contemplative arrangements - and continues to explore the ways in which representational painting breaks down the visual parameters of a physical object and puts them back together in a different way each time. In this way, the ordinary can be looked at through new eyes and, perhaps, with new appreciation.
The objects are the sorts of things found in a workshop or shed: jars half-filled with unnamed viscous liquids, jerry cans of unknown origin, orphaned pieces of crockery. They possess no special aesthetic value, and any practical value they might have had seems to have disappeared along with their labels. Like their contents, the vessels are unknown quantities; by selecting and presenting them for contemplation, Kurth implies that there is something to be discovered by looking again, and looking more intently.
I think about how that plays out for a person who acquires the painting and then has it in their space. That person can then develop their own relationship to the work and its meaning over time. (1)
The visual trope of a cross regularly seen in Kurth’s paintings comes from an enamel X painted on an old motorbike carburetor. It is a loaded symbol and the artist admits that his works can become imbued with symbolic meaning for those who live with them. He does not proscribe what that meaning is, nor how it operates however. His paintings create an intimate space where this can be explored over time.