Rob and Nick Carter’s Transforming Still Life Painting (2009-2012) is a three-hour looped film depicting a digital rendering of Ambrosius Bosschaert the Elder’s Baroque still life, Vase with Flowers in a Window (1618). Housed within the artists’ own frame and displayed on an Apple Mac screen, the scene evolves gradually with night replacing day, a caterpillar making its way across the vase for food and a butterfly coming in to land, without taking away from the vase of flowers as the main focus. Each detail of Bosschaert’s Golden Age masterpiece was meticulously transferred into the digital medium over three years from 2009-2012.
Transforming Still Life Painting exemplifies the Carters’ practice, which for over twenty-five years has been focused on exploring the boundaries between analogue and digital, often harnessing the latest technology to reinterpret works made hundreds of years ago by artists who could not take advantage of modern-day digital tools.
‘By painstakingly re-rending every component of the painting,’ the Carters explain, ‘the whole process draws attention to the mastery of the original and allows the viewer to consider it in a new light. We wanted the changes to be perceptible only with sustained looking, to ignite a subtle anticipation in the viewers’ gaze.’
Emilie E.S. Gordenker, Director of the Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis, said of the work: ‘Rob and Nick Carter have literally animated this flower painting, creating an image that moves and changes slowly over the course of three hours. In doing so, they bring out the fragility and transitoriness of the flowers and insects in the original work, and also suggest the passage of time by constantly changing the light cast over the landscape in the background. The care with which the Carters made their film calls attention to the extraordinary quality of Bosschaert’s painting.’ From the edition of twelve, one of the works resides in the permanent collection of the Mauritshuis as does Bosschaert’s original painting.
Rob and Nick Carter are a husband-and-wife artist duo whose work is housed in the collections of the Mauritshuis, The Hague; the Frans Hals Museum, Haarlem; the Victoria & Albert Museum, London; the David Roberts Foundation, London; the Städel Museum, Frankfurt; and the Foundation Custodia, Paris. They are also among the only living artists to have shown work at the Frick Collection, which they did in 2013 displaying another edition from Transforming Still Life Painting for the exhibition Vermeer, Rembrandt and Hals: Masterpieces of Dutch Painting from the Mauritshuis.