[From the Community Collection, a public gallery for art in Agincourt, Iowa]
MITCHELL, Julian Gordon [born 1968]
Still Life with Surreal Flowers
oil on canvas / 23.8 inches by 29.9 inches
Few artists represented in the Community Collection have touched Agincourt in any direct way. One exception is contemporary British artist Julian Gordon Mitchell who may have no idea that three of his works are often on display. And among art movements of the 19th and 20th centuries, Surrealism — made a household word by Salvador Dali, its most notorious proponent — is also disproportionately included, largely through the works of Julian Gordon Mitchell.
Surrealism began in another medium, literature, in the years around 1910, an attempted bridge between reality and the dream state. Characterized by surprise, unexpected juxtaposition of compositional elements — one definition uses the Latin phrase non sequitur (“it does not follow”) — Surrealist art may be more difficult to live with than any other 20th century art movement and surely inappropriate for a dentist’s waiting room. Would it be biting the hand that feeds us to ask the reason for their donation? Still, some individual had to love these works, even if only for a while.
The untitled unsigned oil-on-canvas we call Still Life with Surreal Flowers is one of three canvasses by Mitchell, which may be as disquieting for its blue-green palette suggesting oxidized copper as for its inclusion of potted shapes that seem more animal than plant.