Scott Fraser’s Lemon Fall
presents an Exhibition of new works by
featuring his Magnus Opus: Lemon Fall
July 17 – August 4, 2015
26 Main Street
“My goal for Lemon Fall was to define in space a bold shape known as a catenary curve, using peeled lemons as my subject. Five months, 8 pre-studies, and 100 lemons later, I completed this labor of love, which combines my fascination with art history, a touch of humor and some surreal visual tension.” – Scott Fraser
Lemon Fall – an essay by the artist Scott Fraser
The greatest inspiration for Lemon Fall came from a painting called Quince, Cabbage, Melon and Cucumber by Juan Sanchez Cotan, a 16th century Spanish artist I greatly admire who has influenced not only me but countless artists over the generations. Because of its compositional and emotive mystery this painting is considered by many to be the greatest still-life ever created. I have seen the work in person several times, most recently in its permanent home at the San Diego Museum of Art. I love the effect of the dark square within a square which frames the curve made by carefully placed fruit and vegetables hung from strings. I borrowed from this composition for Homage to Cotan in 1987.
In a more recent painting titled Catenary Curve, I applied the structure of Quince, Cabbage, Melon and Cucumber to an art historical time line, using Jacques Louis Davids Death of Marat as the starting point. Each painting in the work relates back to the David. In fact, it is really a half catenary, as is Cotan’s painting.
Catenary Curve is a large painting, now in a private collection, but the pre-study painting is also in the collection of the San Diego Museum of Art, where it resides with the original Cotan, which Described as ‘the curve that a hanging chain or cable assumes under its own weight when supported only at its ends,’ the catenary is explored at length in the work of Jasper Johns, another artist whom I admire greatly. He thought the curve was so intriguing that he created a series of over 70 paintings, drawings and prints that dealt with this compositional device to which he felt the human eye was subliminally drawn.
One of our countries most iconic monuments, the Gateway Arch in St Louis, is an inverted catenary. Another stunning catenary. This all sounds kind of heavy and we artists can get so caught up in the underpinnings of concept, we forget that there should be some delight attached to the work, something that is entertaining to the eye. This is where my peel series comes in. A few years ago I had a little fun referencing Dutch painters of the 15th century, such as Willem Kalf and Pieter Claesz who used a partially peeled lemon as a motif in their still lifes. Painters of today still use this luscious visual conceit. I decided to exaggerate the effect by extending the lemon peel to extreme lengths, keeping the eye moving and creating a kind of surreal tension.
Taking things a step further, I envisioned a large painting which would include numerous peeled lemons of different lengths composed to incorporate an organic catenary curve, residing in a mysterious dark niche a la Cotan. Instead of fruit hanging from a string, this fruit was in itself the string. Why did Cotan use hanging fruit in his still life? I believe he used it purely as a compositional device and to lead the eye. That is what I am after here as well. While in the pre-study stage, a viewer commented that the work brought to mind falling.
Recently my wife and I, while visiting the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC, found ourselves in a room full of still-lifes by the Dutch masters of the 16th century. A majority of them included a peeled lemon hanging over the edge of some surface in the painting. It made me smile and feel like I was on the right track. In Lemon Fall I tip my hat to the artists of the past who found these peeled lemons so irresistible and to the artists of the present, including myself, who can’t resist them either. The challenge for me was to combine the two historical motifs, peeled lemons and mysterious dark spaces into an image with a memorable visual punch. My hope is to engage the viewer with a cascading bright yellow arch from a distance, and then have the detail in the pith and peel pull them in for a closer look.