Echo: Joanna Hill – Still life with flowers

Posted July 30th, 2013

Featured, ikono, Paintings, Videos

“I primarily work in moving image, but often what I convey, the experience, is one of stillness,” says artist Joanna Hill about her videowork made for Old Masters reinterpreted at Rollo Contemporary Art, London. “In my videoworks it is my intention to to slow or still time, to remain immersed in each image in a kind of ‘intensive seeing’ and create a space for projection or memories. Working with the exterior – food, objects, small gestures – to create a connection with the interior – feeling, emotion and our experience of the world, which is outside language.

I take still life painting as my starting point – the material base of life that is constantly overlooked. There is something about the narrowness of !eld, the focused vision, the blank or empty nature of the background that creates a space for projection, it is this space that I am trying to create – a space for thought, memories, dreams and desire.

Characterised by familiar recognisable objects, still life paintings subtly yet insistently turn upside down expected ways of looking at the world in which we inhabit. Shadows and re”ections often have as much substance as objects themselves. Backgrounds can be as signi!cant as nominal subjects. Items of little intrinsic value become objects of great poise. They make us question commonly held distinctions about distance and proximity, the trivial and the grand. Through working in the medium of moving image, I aim to make some transformation and create a contemporary reading of the issues at play.

Spring Flowers in a glass vase by Jan van Kessel the Elder
Jan van Kessel the Elder Spring Flowers in a glass vase
From Alan Jacobs Gallery, London, UK

Jan van Kessel (1626 in Antwerp – 1679 in idem) was a Flemish painter of still lifes, who was the father of another painter with the same name Jan van Kessel, and Jan Brueghel the Elder’s grandson. He was the son of Hieronymus van Kessel and Paschasia Brueghel, and was a pupil of his father and his uncle Jan Brueghel the Younger. He became a member of the Antwerp Guild of Saint Luke in 1644 as “blomschilder” (flower painter). According to Houbraken, he was famous in his lifetime for the neatness of his flower paintings and Cornelis de Bie wrote a poem about him.

The Historic Context – Still Life Flower Painting
Art is made in a time and a place. In the C16 the flower still lives opened up a range of independent subjects. The motif of flowers in a vase had already been featured in numerous Dutch scenes of the Annunciation. In the early paintings the flowers often were symbolic, for example Lilia candida were a symbol of the chastity of the Virgin Mary’s immaculate conception. Flowers satis!ed a sense of beauty and had an important role in folk medicine. Medicinal herbs were always grown in the gardens of monasteries and convents for their pharmacy. A spiritual and physical wholeness.
The flowers depicted were often rare and had been forced or evolved through sophisticated horticulture. The artists tended not to repeat the same flower species, unless to show from a different angle or at a different stage eg a bud and an open flower. Some of the paintings by Ambrosius Bosschaert depict over 70 different specimens. Butterflies and dragonflies persist as emblems of ephemerality.

To some degree the flower paintings challenge the boundaries of space and time that frame human life. The flowers depicted were drawn together from many different parts of the world and from different seasons, existing there together in one vase. The idea of a particular place and of man as limited by space is negated.

They also reflect an economic time and space. Tulipmania was a very specific time and phenomenon in history. In the Netherlands in the 1620s, varieties valued had a flamboyance and complexity of colour, irregular stripes, and markings, flowers with a high rate of variation: tulips, hyacinths, roses and carnations. They were precious items, which commanded a high price. The artists had a royal and highly affluent patronage. It was a time of manic imperial collectors at the courts of Vienna and Prague – shells, scientific curiosities. The botanical garden originally developed through the patronage of the European courts.


Joanna was born in 1962 in Lancashire, UK. She works with food, objects, acts and gesture often taking still life painting as a starting point, the material base of life that is constantly overlooked. Through these it is her intention to connect or reflect an interior world of feelings, experience and memory. Through working in the medium of moving image, Hill aim’s to make some transformation and create a contemporary reading of the issues at play. She is interested in the relationship between still and moving, and how this reflects and influences our perception of time and space, and a space for projection or reverie. It is my desire to keep the viewer engaged in the moment, in a state of being rather than one of becoming. Joanna Hill is based in Greater London, London

Current projects:
- Project 101 The LAB Gallery, The Roger Smith Hotel, 501 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY. 10017
- Artist in residence, Middlesex University


Joanna Hill
- Artist Website: Joanna Hill
- The LAB Gallery, New York
- Number eleven Gallery, London

Jan van Kessel
- Wikipedia
- Bridgeman print on demand
- The Alan Jacobs Gallery at Bridgeman
- Works at PubHist
- Vermeer and The Delft School, a full text exhibition catalog from The Metropolitan Museum of Art, which contains material on Jan van Kessel, senior
- Europe and Asia, Jan van Kessel “the Elder”, (1660), by Almudena
- Video: Europe and Asia, Jan van Kessel “the Elder”, (1660), by Almudena Sánchez - On the occasion of the exhibition Captive Beauty from Fra Angelico to Fortuny, Almudena Sánchez, restorer at the Museo Nacional del Prado, comments on the works Europe and Asia, Jan van Kessel “the Elder”, (1660).