Masters of Realism: Vanitas, Kunstkammer & Still Lifes. By Josep and Pere Santilari

Martin Cid Magazine 

April 14th, 2022

Stuart Lochhead Sculpture at London Art Week Sunday 3rd July – Friday 15th July 2022 Times: Sunday 12-5pm, Monday through Friday 10-6pm

Stuart Lochhead Sculpture is proud to present the extraordinary talents of celebrated artists Josep and Pere Santilari, exhibiting for the first time in the UK.

In the broad and varied landscape of contemporary art, the work of Josep and Pere Santilari (b. 1959) stands out as something truly special. Based in Barcelona, the brothers, who are also identical twins, have gained a reputation over the last three decades for their meticulously rendered drawings and paintings which have dazzled audiences with their remarkable technical mastery.

Renaissance Memento Mori Janus head, 16th Century, German or Low Countries, boxwood, h.5cm (image credit Georg Laue, Kunstkammer Ltd. London)

The exhibition will present recent works by the artists, with an emphasis on drawings. There will be a group of superb Vanitas pieces, a subject that has long interested them and which is particularly popular with their followers, alongside a selection of exquisite floral still lives (both paintings and drawings), whose titles make reference to the French specialist of the genre, Henri Fantin-Latour. The show will include a fascinating series of drawings that quote works by such earlier masters as Parmigianino and Rembrandt, made partly in response to the academic tradition in which the Santilaris themselves were trained. We are also excited to show for the first time a group of drawings inspired by the theme of the Kunstkammer (Cabinet of Wonders), which signals a new direction for the artists.

Josep Santilari, The topic, Fantin-Latour series, 2020, oil on canvas, 35 x 35cm (image courtesy of Stuart Lochhead Gallery, 2022)

If the subject matter of the works in the exhibition reveals the brothers’ interest in more traditional genres of art, it is the extraordinary technique they employ that places their practice in a more contemporary setting. Their drawings, in particular, reveal a mesmerising attention to detail and near-obsessive description of objects that leaves the viewer wondering how such images are created. The answer is a long, painstaking process. The brothers work from digital photographs of their carefully arranged compositions and then translate the image onto the paper, literally inch by inch. They use a wide range of pencils with different values to build up a surface texture they call “the skin of the drawing”. The “skin” of the resulting images almost defies belief, with their immaculate surfaces inviting repeated inspection.

Equally striking is the studio practice of the twins. They work side-by-side, often using many of the same objects in their compositions. They do not, however, collaborate and yet their works are largely indistinguishable on stylistic grounds with only the signatures revealing who created the finished art work. As Timothy J. Standring has written, this approach may

“…reflect their compassionate adherence to each other as identical twins: They are competitive to the extent that their competitiveness enables each to produce the best that he can, not entirely for his own selfish satisfaction, but altruistically for their collective satisfaction and to move forward as a team.” (‘Virtue of Discipline’, in Ineffability, 2020, p. 24).

Alongside these contemporary visions of vanitas, we are thrilled to present a very special group of Memento Mori art works from the Renaissance and Baroque period, exhibited by Georg Laue, Kunstkammer Ltd.

This exhibition is organised in partnership with Artur Ramon Art, Barcelona and Warner- Johnson Art Advisory, London.

Stuart Lochhead Sculpture was opened in 2018 and displays the best in all media from antiquity to the 20th century. Stuart handles the work of some of the most celebrated artists whilst also championing less known but equally fascinating sculptors.