Elements of life

a selection of works from the Downton Collection

1 May – 26 July 2020

From landscapes to performance art, today there are a myriad of art genres, however some of the earliest are still life and studies of the human body.

Early depictions of food and objects were created by Ancient civilisations, mainly to document a harvest bounty or funereal offerings.  By the 16th century, inanimate man-made or natural objects of a still life were arranged symbolically to convey moral, religious, political beliefs or events. With an increased interest in science in the 18th century, some artists worked towards a more realistic representation of their subject matter, and later, concentrated on new stylistic interpretations over realism.

The human body has also been a common subject for artists deliberating on what it means to be human. Studies of human emotions and how the body moves appears across age, gender and ethnicity.  Objectification, politics, sexuality and identity are also complex ideas explored against human forms.

Line, shape, colour, texture, value, form and space are all critical decisions made by artists before and during their creative process.  Elements of life invites you to reflect on how and why artists create their works.

title image: Another Country (study).  Pencil sketch. Kim Nelson (1958-2015)