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Still Life with Dead Crab and Shells by Andrew Denman
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"Oceana III"
11 ˝ x 20" Acrylic on Board, 2003
Still Life with Dead Crab and Shells

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“OceanaIII” is part of a larger series of still lifes in which I paint a small scene in the midst of an abstract ground and then layer it with common objects painted in a hyper-realistic style. These pieces are modern reinterpretations of the trompe l’oeil still lifes popularized by William Harnett and John Haberle in the late 1800’s.

Haberle in particular painted still lifes with an exceptionally shallow depth of field so as to trick the viewer into believing that he was looking, not at a representation of an object, but the object itself, in real space (say a grain of sand one could brush away). I have modified this idea in two significant ways. First, by painting a central scene (in this case, the magical coastline of Bodega Head, CA) in traditional perspective, only to flatten it out again by resting objects on top of it, complete with cast shadows, so as to assert that the painting itself is a surface. This designation of the painting as flat is paradoxically contradicted by the very trompe l’eoil treatment of the dead crab, shells, water droplets, and sand. Second, I have added modern art elements, namely the randomized, abstract ground, and the graphic, starkly painted lines (my tribute to Mondrian, my favorite minimalist). The recent history of art from Manet on has been a struggle between the treatment of the canvas in the old fashioned way, as a space we can walk into, and the modern way, as a flat surface to be decorated. “Oceana III” is one of many paintings in which I am commenting on this push and pull of forces, representational versus abstract, and illusionistic versus flat. It is not just a painting, but a painting about painting.

“Oceana III” not only contrasts opposing styles of painting, but different modes of observation, specifically the faraway versus the intimate. In this piece I have juxtaposed my love of landscapes with my love of the minute organisms that live in them. If nothing else, I hope the viewer will appreciate the beauty and intricacy of nature my still lifes exhibit. Despite the conceptual underpinnings of this series, my still lifes are first and foremost about the objects I am looking at, no matter how small or common they may be, and my desire to share them with the world from my own unique perspective.

Welcome to the online home for artwork by Andrew Denman, a California –based, internationally recognized, award-winning contemporary wildlife artist. Denman primarily paints wildlife and animal subjects in a unique, hallmark style combining hyper-realism with stylization and abstraction. His dynamic and original acrylic paintings can be found in museum collections on two continents and in numerous private collections in the USA and abroad. His clear voice, unique vision, and commitment to constant artistic experimentation have positioned him on the forefront of an artistic vanguard of the best contemporary wildlife and animal painters working today.
All artwork and text featured on this page and throughout this website is protected by international copyright laws. Use of these images or text is prohibited without the express written permission of Andrew Denman.