This most inspiring exhibition of still life paintings opened on Saturday 3rd April at ‘Art on Cairncross’, Maleny, Queensland, Australia. The good news is that the artwork is also available as an online exhibition in the UK, through select galleries including The Torrance Gallery, Ian Mastin’s exclusive agent in Edinburgh, Scotland, and Eduardo Alexandra Studios in Dundee. ‘The concept of a physical exhibition in Australia accompanied simultaneously by the same exhibition online in the UK was not something I’d ever have considered pre-COVID – an experimental endeavour.’ – Ian Mastin
Ian Mastin was born in England before his family emigrated to Australia. With no formal training he enjoyed sketching for recreation, and when living in Scotland for over a decade, he began to learn and practice technique and styles. He is now a full time, professional artist based in Queensland. Known in French as Nature Morte, still life paintings are a stylised arrangement of objects on a table, such as fruit, flowers, glassware and textiles. It really is extraordinary to compare Mastin’s exceptional natural talent and skill with the work by the 16th and 17th century Dutch and Flemish Masters and the Impressionists, Cezanne, Manet, Van Gogh and Valadon. ‘Bring a brioche, I want to see you paint one: Still Life is the touchstone of painting.’ – Edouard Manet.
‘Bread, Wine and Cheese’: you could be forgiven for assuming this softly lit composition was painted around 1620… not 2020. Here the dark varnished, cracked old wooden table is set for a meal: the delicately draped fold of a linen napkin, the glistening glass of white wine, a scatter of crumbly cheese and crusty bread, all finely crafted with such intimate precision.
‘Still Life with Pears and Grapes’: it may appear a more simplified display, but this has exceptional photographic quality. Look at the surface of the splintered table, the purple-black skin of the grapes with sharp stalks and shapely pears with tiny nicks in the skin. All so aesthetically pleasing to the eye. ‘I always love painting fruits and never tire of the subtleties and richness of their colours and textures. I’m also drawn to the bonhomie evoked by images of good wine and food.’ – Ian Mastin
‘Moulin des Carruades 1977’: a meticulously detailed and most appetising study of wine, bread and cheese as similarly depicted by the Dutch masters. You could view this for hours and still find hidden facets in the tactile textures. First the dusty sheen on this vintage wine bottle, as if just retrieved from the cellar, the ripe, melting Camembert in greaseproof paper with freshly baked bread. Note too, the hinged metal lock on this antique chest.
‘Chateau d’Angluet Margaux’: the Château Angludet wine estate has belonged to the Sichel family for six generations so this represents a real sense of heritage: the dark green bottle with its intricately sketched label and the reflection of glinting sunlight. Uncorked, it’s ready to serve with grapes and slice of cheese.
‘Age Before Beauty’: this may certainly appeal to those in Scotland and worldwide who relish a dram of these fine Single Malt Scotch Whiskies from the Speyside and Highland regions. The fisherman’s rod and basket create a dramatic setting, to illustrate a day out on the River Dee, Aberdeenshire or, indeed, Baroon Pocket Dam, Queensland. Slainte Mhath!
Still life paintings provided the best opportunity for the pioneering 16th century artists to show off their painterly skills. With artistic licence and photo-realism accuracy, as a modern master of the genre, Ian Mastin demonstrates such delicate beauty and classic style in these exquisite compositions. Whether a bowl of cherries, a carafe of port or a pile of antiquarian books, this is an artist with a dedicated passion for perfecting this iconic, timeless tradition.
Those local to Maleny, Queensland can visit Art on Cairncross. The exhibition can viewed online at The Torrance Gallery’s website (see panel) and Eduardo Alessandro Studios. The exhibition’s e-catalogue is available to browse. The prices listed include postage and packaging, insurance, tracked shipping and UK customs duty from Australia.
With grateful thanks to Vivien Devlin for this review.