Quietly abstract yet believably solid, the vessels depicted in Jude Rae’s paintings are, more often than not, things the artist has found at the tip or kerbside. They are far from the fruit or flowers you see in more traditional still lifes.
As a genre of painting, still life was originally a depiction of material wealth (think, for example, of the luxurious table settings in the Dutch tradition). But in these simpler forms, Rae finds her own sense of richness.
Since the late 1990s, Rae’s skilful arrangements of containers, jars and gas bottles represent a deep investigation into both the still life genre and the nature of abstraction in painting. Minimally titled SL 342, this painting is a recent acquisition for the UTS Art Collection and a beautiful example of the artist’s work.
In it, the flatness of the picture plane is reinforced through the flecks of bright orange ground showing through the painted surface, yet subtly pulled back with minimal indications of reflective light and shadow. The optical ‘trick’ of the water filled jar distorting the shape behind creates an understated dynamism between the flatness of the paint and the solid form it describes.
Rae, who is also known for her work in portraiture, was awarded the Portia Geach portraiture prize in 2005 and 2008 and was a finalist in the 2014 Archibald prize. The Art Gallery of NSW acquired another of her still life paintings when she won of the prestigious Bulgari Art Award and a residency in Italy.
Assistant Curator (Collection)
This article originally appeared in U Magazine, April 2016