Rob and Nick Carter – Transforming Still Life Painting


Rob and Nick Carter · RN882 · Transforming Still Life Painting · 2009-12 after Ambrosius Bosschaert the Elder · Vase With Flowers in a Window · 1618 3 hour looped film, frame and Apple Mac Edition of 12 with 5 artist proofs 23 x 28 x 5 in (framed)

Rob and Nick Carter’s latest venture is a ground-breaking piece of digitally engineered film that takes as its subject a painting by the Dutch Golden Age master Ambrosius Bosschaert the Elder (1573–1621). Working with one of the world’s leading companies for digital visual effects, The Moving Picture Company, the Carters directed an animated version of Bosschaert’s Vase With Flowers in a Window. The undertaking was enormous and after two years the artists have produced a piece of incomparable technological invention and artistic quality. Quite literally nothing has been created on this scale before. The piece involved several thousands of hours of digital rendering, more than a feature length animated film.

Every aspect of Bosschaert’s painting has been brought to life including each flower stem, insect and background scenery. The film lasts three hours and takes the painted scene from early morning darkness through to noon (where the film exactly resembles the original painting) into dusk and late night. Although only perceptible upon sustained looking, the scene displays subtle shifts as the clouds pass by, the sun moves in the sky and the stars emerge.

Each flower has been based on actual time-lapse footage of real flowers throughout the course of the day, marking subtle shifts in bloom and direction as they turn to face the sun. Every few minutes the still life displays real time activity, such as a caterpillar entering the scene and proceeding to eat leaves or a snail emerging from its shell to leave a trail across the arched window. One can mark the passing of time by the water level in the vase slowly diminishing.

In their progressive, yet incredibly sensitive homage, the Carters have transformed an emblem of 17th century oil painting into a contemporary new media masterpiece. The original painting is an incredibly fine example of Bosschaert’s work and is one of only a handful that displays the arched window. It is valued somewhere in excess of £10 million and resides in the collection of the Mauritshuis Museum in The Hague, who will acquire an edition of the Carter’s artwork. Bosschaert was highly revered in his lifetime as a leading figure in the fashionable floral painting genre. However, like the Carters, he was also a pioneer in being one of the first artists to specialise in still life, and in doing so he started a long and respected tradition of painting detailed flower bouquets, which typically consisted of tulips, roses and an exotic species.

The Carters’ extraordinary vision has been brought to life using the most cutting edge of creative enterprise—in many respects they have picked up where Bosschaert’s extraordinary studio left off. In their distinctly 21st century artwork the artists address issues of the boundaries between the real and the imagined, analogue and digital, the traditional and the progressive and the very nature of art itself. By painstakingly re-rendering every component of the painting the whole process draws attention to the mastery of the original and allows us to consider it in a new light. However, the video work goes one step beyond Bosschaert, literally allowing us to see the secret life of a still life.

Kate Bryan

Viewing by appointment for a limited time at The Fine Art Society
Please contact Kate Bryan

The Fine Art Society Contemporary will be launching Transforming Still Life Painting
at TEFAF Maastricht art fair, 16–25 March 2012
You can view clips from the film here:


About Mark Westall

Mark Westall is the founder and editor of FAD magazine, a curation of the world’s most interesting culture, and Creative Director of FAD Agency, a strategy & creative agency working with brands to solve business problems using cultural tools. In 2008 following his passion for art he founded what has grown to become FAD magazine. FAD magazine is internationally recognized as a key figure within the emerging and contemporary art world, and has been selected as official partner by organizations as diverse as Moniker Art Fair, START, Volta and Christie’s. In addition Mark is a columnist for City Magazine.

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