Shelf Life

October 11 - October 29, 2022

Marlborough presents Shelf Life, a selection of works exploring the theme of still lives curated by Jessica Draper and including works by Oda Iselin Sønderland, Taylor Simmons, Nathanaëlle Herbelin, Aubrey Levinthal, Nada Elkalaawy, Igor Moritz, Ryan Flores, Nick Farhi, Wolfgang Tillmans, Ella Kruglyanskaya, Julie Curtiss, Karyn Lyons, Shannon Cartier Lucy, Anna Freeman Bentley, Esme Hodsoll and Mia Middleton.

The subject of still life in itself is full of contradictions. While it can be associated with an objective, meticulous study of arranged objects, it has also been charged with more complex, personal meanings which reach beyond describing a mere artistic exercise. From the highly symbolic vanitas motives in Dutch natures mortes of the seventeenth century, to the interweaving of artistic practice and personal life in paintings by Dora Carrington or Vanessa Bell, the still life remains a potent subject for artists until this day. 

The works brought together in this exhibition are united by the close preoccupation with intimacy – between the artist’s studio and the outside world, between the artist’s persona and their private personality. 

The consistent interweaving of the digital and the analogue worlds is particularly evident in the objects that surround us in 2022, placing the notion of intimacy in the state of constant flux. Oda Iselin Sønderland’s (b. 1996) works underline the way in which modern objects can appear surreal. There is a certain sense of relief in the rooting of identity in material objects, which can also be altered in the malleable space of a painting or sculpture. Objects are imbued with meaning and speak to the complexity and fluidity of constructed identity. In Taylor Simmon's (b. 1990) A Boy And His Things, a self-portrait showing the artist surrounded by his many hats hanging in his studio, the idea of objects and personhood interchange. 

The artist’s studio is the critical starting point for this show. Wolfgang Tillman’s (b. 1968) Still Life, Bourne Estate, re-stages the traditional concept of the still life with the continual documentation of material in his studio, from deteriorating fruit, to blossoming trees. This also takes sculptural form in the work of Ryan Flores (b. 1986) in which the matter of the studio signals time passing. 

In Nathanaëlle Herbelin’s paintings (b. 1989), one can see her studio and recurring objects that are interwoven throughout her paintings, from the ‘love couch’ to the books that inform her practice. The objects of studio life become like clues or props to the mystery and fiction surrounding an artist’s persona.

Whether a table setting, a pair of shoes, a game boy, or a piece of fruit, the surreal, artist-authored objects start to morph into portraits, existing between fact and fiction.