Abelardo Morell: Vanitas Reinvented

Taking up still life as his genre of choice in his series Flowers For Lisa, Abelardo Morell looks to the past with references to the Dutch painting tradition known as ‘Vanitas.’ The concept for the series came to Morell after giving flowers to his wife, Lisa: “Flowers are part of a long tradition of still life in art. Precisely because flowers are such a conventional subject, I felt a strong desire to describe them in new, inventive ways.”

Morell uses multiple exposures to create a technique that revitalises the genre’s ubiquitous themes about the passage of time and the fragility of beauty. The wonderful blur of the floral arrangements arises from Photoshop’s attempt to right the chaos of the multiple superimposed images. “The flowers are real but the rendering is a compromise between me and the computer,” he says.

Morell has found a way to incorporate the element of chance that he relishes in his camera obscura photographs into the predictability of digital production. Speaking about his long-term bugbear, Photoshop, he says, “in my old age I’m more happy to give in to chance.” Maintaining his uncompromising curiosity, Morell seems to have found a digital niche no less labour-intensive than his camera-less, tent-made serenades to the nineteenth century.

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