The virtuosic paintings of artist Kate Bergin take the viewer on a playful expedition through the absurd and the profound. Strange gatherings of animals and objects are configured in impossible scenarios on the brink of collapse atop tables draped with white cloth, alluding to the conventions of seventeenth century Dutch and Flemish still life painting. Yet Bergin’s compositions are far from ‘still’. They pulsate with movement as animals prepare to leap from the canvas and birds take flight, and yet these moments are frozen in time like mimetic dioramas. ‘As a still life artist the idea of bringing life back to the tabletop is an irresistible one’, Bergin explains. It is in this dialogue between stasis and motion, stability and precariousness, that the artist seeks to find.
The still life has become un-still and the noise of the creatures reflects our own noisy lives full of juggling and balancing acts – our everyday royal gala performances. – Kate Bergin
The title for this exhibition, ‘Royal Gala Performance’, is inspired in part by the royal gala apple. The motif of the peeled apple – often used in early still lifes as a sign of artistic virtuosity – signifies Bergin’s drive to challenge herself as the apple must be painted in one sitting before it begins to decay.
For this collection Bergin builds each painting around a central character, the tabletop acting as a stage upon which she moves creatures around to create a believable space with convincing relationships. Together, the works in ‘Royal Gala Performance’ conjure the old world charm of the annual Royal Variety Performances that began in London in 1912. Each painting brings a cast of characters ready to delight their audience with spectacular acts and remind them of the eccentric joys our world has to offer.