Still Life (Triptych)

Diana Shpungin, Still Life (Triptych), 2020

Each: three-channel hand-drawn pencil animation, composed sound, continuous loop, dimensions variable, ed of 3

Left to right:
Still Life (Open And Close), 1 min 22 sec loop
Still Life (Forward And Backward), 1 min 12 sec loop
Still Life (End And Begin), 1 min 12 sec loop

Unique drawing frames from Still Life (Triptych), 2020
Each: graphite pencil on paper, 9 x 12 inches, framed, signed and dated on back
Still Life (Open And Close), 10 drawings of 100 original source drawings
Still Life (Forward And Backward), 10 drawings of 100 original source drawings
Still Life (End And Begin), 10 drawings of 80 original source drawings

Reflecting upon the last several years, artist Diana Shpungin contemplated numerous dichotomies: the anxiety/bravery, hopeful/hopelessness, unity/division, waiting/hurrying and the expansion/compression of time related to world events and our current election. Rather than make an explicitly political proclamation, Shpungin chose to focus on these sentiments as a contemporary memento mori and as a keen reminder to remember to live, to fight and to remember this moment, perhaps as to not repeat it again. Taking inspiration from the well-known Philippe de Champaigne Vanitas Still Life painting from the 1600’s showing the transience of life, the futility of pleasure, and the certainty of death, Shpungin’s painstakingly made hand-drawn pencil animations contain these icons of historical still life paintings paired within contemporaneous settings. The triptych unfolds and in a continuous loop -reversing, slowing, quickening time.

An iris flower appears budding, blooming and dying in Still Life (Open And Close). Rooted in Greek mythology, the iris symbolizes hope, wisdom and courage. It loops endlessly in an unattainable feat of dying and rebirth, symbolic of the cycle of life and death, and optimism and pessimism. The opposing moving chain link fence is equally a simple backyard fence, while also emblematic of darker themes of confinement and barriers. The corresponding sound composition is made up of the reverberating murmur of a meditation bell.

Still Life (Forward And Backward) features an hourglass keeping ambiguous time. Frantically the sand falls through the funnel and the vessel gets persistently rotated in a never-ending timekeeping mission. The juxtaposed backdrop of silhouettes pictured is sourced from an abstracted crowd of protestors marching on Washington D.C., a scene ever so prevalent in our recent national psyche. The sound of rain accompanies the video, there as both diegetic sound and also as something you might here from a relaxing sound machine.

The work Still Life (End And Begin) shows a bodiless skull, drawn unfeasibly rotating, hovering in space, at once moving, yet clearly not alive. While, the ambient sound heard is the meditative hum of white noise. The skull is a well-recognized emblem of mortality, our own, of others and of our natural surroundings. In addition, across various cultures it often serves as much needed protection from evil. Paired with a moving landscape, this combining hints at an era passing, time cycling, day always becomes night, good exists alongside evil.

The sound compositions in these three works were created to allow for both contemplation and escape, -functioning as a meditative space to both tune in and tune out: meditation bell, rain falling and white noise.