Sarah Gilman, Trompe l’oeil after Gijsbrechts

"Trompe l'oeil after Gijsbrechts", Sarah Gilman, 2021

This project consists of a series of four oil paintings on canvas. It is an investigation into reproduction and appropriation in painting, looking primarily at 17th century vanitas still-life paintings with a focus on images that include books and literature. As the commission was initially planned to be held in a library setting, the intention was to draw attention to the history of books in paintings.

A parallel that can be drawn from the paintings and the books surrounding them in the library is that of reproduction. Not only is there a prolific use of reproduction in text but images can often be seen within the pages of books. Most people’s initial experience with art begins with a reproduced image whether that is through books or through the screen of an electronic device.

These paintings utilise a technique known as ‘trompe l’oeil’ (meaning to deceive the eye ). The idea is that they look as life-like as possible thus fooling the viewer into believing that they are looking at an object, not a painting. The approach is not a new one – it was used to great effect in the work of 17th century artists such as Cornelius Gijsbrechts, Edward Collier and Samuel van Hoogstraten – and my use of it today both acknowledges the influence of their work on mine and brings it to a modern audience who may not have previously seen the original paintings.

The paintings intend to encourage close scrutiny whilst promoting quiet and contemplative thinking.