In the end, the still life exists at a slant, blurred and barely recognizable, enduring, as Vance has said, as ‘the feeling of a memory – not a specific memory, but just that feeling a memory can produce’.
“Each Lesley Vance painting begins as an interaction with a still life of objects set up in her studio. Over the course of several hours, never more than a day, the objects morph, evaporate, dissolve and play inside the viscous nature of oil and watercolours. In the end, the still life exists at a slant, blurred and barely recognizable, enduring, as Vance has said, as ‘the feeling of a memory – not a specific memory, but just that feeling a memory can produce’.
Vance’s mention of memory makes a certain amount of sense. Her humble paintings (usually no bigger than 50 cm on a side, and all untitled) register primarily with floating, wispy forms, dipping and dancing into corners, on top of and through floating planes of browns, ochres, and other warm hues. If the still life as a collection of objects is present at all, it is only out of a preknowledge of Vance’s method or through an intellectual leap on the part of the viewer. Vance reserves her memory as the backdrop and originating force of her paintings, but for a viewer, that memory is not of the still life itself but of the historical styles of still life paintings.
Vance’s paintings have about as much of an ‘actual’ relationship to objects as one would find in Joan Miró or in surrealists like Yves Tanguy. The flavour one gets of historical still life painting instead comes across not through the objects but through the feel of the canvases, their antique warm emanations, their old-fashioned colours. Vance has an ability to conjure an old style painting without invoking its particulars. The paintings may remind one of Francisco de Zurbarán, but they contain none of his specific history other than an aftertaste, a bit of his light, a sense of his space. Each canvas creates an opportunity for historical way-finding that may be likened to how one might pick out different spices and fruits inside the taste of wine.”