The name ‘still life’, when referring to the genre, was derived from the French nature morte, which literally translates to dead nature. The irony is not lost that a still life, depicting the nourishing foods that maintain life, is cast in a substance that simultaneously preserves food and prevents growth – thus embodying both life and death. Consumption and environmental decline are issues at the forefront of the work with the salt highlighting the death of the ecosystem from which the groundwater is pumped. The salt sculptures with their ghostly pallor and the effervescent fleeting ice forms embody the transient nature of the organic products. Through modern farming practices, shallow rooted plants replace native vegetation enabling the dissolved salts stored in the ground to rise and contaminate water systems on the surface. The result is saline water, demonstrating the way both water and salt are intrinsically linked. Through the Yonetani’s work, the need for a conscious awareness of where food is sourced and how its consumption effects the environment is reinforced.
Ken + Julia Yonetani, Still Life: The Food Bowl, 2011, Murray River salt,* dimensions variable (all objects life size), Copyright the Artists and Artereal Gallery, Sydney
* All the salt in this work was obtained from SunSalt, and originates from the Buronga Salt Interception Scheme on the Murray River.
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