A Recollection of Spoils
Paul Elia Gallery, Hamilton Canada
When I started work on these laser cut and screen printed still lifes, I was mostly
concerned with how they related to the inclusion of food throughout the history of
Western art. I was interested in the progression of food’s representation as uncooked &
natural (early ‘Xenia’ Greek and Golden Age Dutch paintings) to cooked & refined
(Pop Art). The transition of food’s portrayal seems to reflect a large-scale cultural
shift from an appreciation of generosity and the abundance of nature, into the selfish
hoarding of consumer goods.
Initial concepts also considered the artistic notion of memento mori as found in Dutch
Vanitas paintings, but whereas the decaying foods portrayed in these works signify a
reminder of the inevitability of death, the plastic materials I’ve used suspends the
food in time. They cannot rot, renouncing any possibility of death or decay. Being
fully synthetic comes at the cost of forfeiting all semblances of life.
Not long after I began work on this series, however, Covid-19 started its sweep around
the world and everything shifted.
I started to think a lot about the normalcy that once was and those past experiences
so deeply connected with food. Well-worn memories of family dinners often came to mind,
but with much of their specifics lost to the spoilage that happens when something is
recalled over and over again. This inspired a re-doing of many of the works to make
them more allusory; referential, yet intentionally inaccurate with a skewing of scale
and commercial product names. Though the foods and related products are readily
recognizable, the works’ saturated palette and simplified forms evoke a hyper-
exaggerated nostalgia that is strangely not quite real.
The Romans used to create mosaics of food as a metaphor for the great
geographical expanse of their empire. Like many others, the expansiveness of my
lock-down world since last March was often limited to the distance between the grocery
store and back. I consider the opportunity here to share ‘A Recollection of Spoils’ as
a hopeful sign of a return to our more dynamic, yet predictable lives when we weren’t
so preoccupied with missed memories, staying home and keeping still.
David Trautrimas - June 2021