‘We have always been inspired by Old Masters, and the starting point for this series was partly motivated upon learning (from a 2007 study) that the average time viewers spend looking at an artwork in a museum/gallery is around 4–6 seconds.
‘We were really trying to get people to engage in the works and look for longer — they would then be rewarded for that sustained viewing.
‘People are often insatiable in regards to “looking” — these time-based works encouraged sustained engagement. The human brain is also very intelligent and is capable of recognising loops, and will therefore get bored of the loop if it is too short. The films are made to be long so to not let the viewer get visually familiar with the loop. It also ensures that people would be happy to live with them for a long period of time.
‘Crucially, we also resisted the temptation to take the selected artworks into a realm of science fiction (so no speeding up the video, or adding things that weren’t there). Instead we used the arsenal of digital techniques at our disposal to maintain the poignancy of the original paintings. In each of the Transforming works, there is actually one single frame that matches exactly with the original painting.’
‘These works/interventions with film were made in hopes to reignite an interest in Old Masters for younger/newer audiences. The way of making these films resonated with the “life-like vs staged” quality of Old Masters (e.g.: in Bosschaert the Elder’s Vase with Flowers in a Window, the composition was highly staged, as a lot of the flowers would not have been in bloom at the same time).
‘By painstakingly re-rending every component of the painting, the whole process draws attention to the mastery of the original and allows the viewer to consider it in a new light. We wanted the changes to be perceptible only with sustained looking, to ignite a subtle anticipation in the viewers’ gaze.’
Rob and Nick Carter
‘I was lucky enough to be one of the first people to see this digitally rendered painting by our friends Rob and Nick. I immediately liked it and my wife Chrissy and I acquired the first in the edition the same day.
‘I sat looking at it for some time before I realised that the time of day was changing. To me it was an older-looking picture — I didn’t know anything about it or expect it would move. So it was wonderful when I saw the butterfly land on the flower — I hadn’t seen anything like it before; it hadn’t occurred to me that a painting could come alive like this.
‘It was the first major piece we had bought for some time — it’s marvellous. I have known them since they started out working together. They have always made such clever things.’
Sir Peter Blake
‘Transforming Still Life Painting is a great gift to the Mauritshuis, which specialises in Dutch and Flemish paintings of the Golden Age, because it offers a fresh perspective on one of the outstanding works in the collection — Ambrosius Bosschaert the Elder’s Vase with Flowers in a Window (c.1618).
‘Rob and Nick Carter have literally animated this flower painting, creating an image that moves and changes slowly over the course of three hours. In doing so, they bring out the fragility and transitoriness of the flowers and insects in the original work, and also suggest the passage of time by constantly changing the light cast over the landscape in the background. The care with which the Carters made their film calls attention to the extraordinary quality of Bosschaert’s painting.
Transforming Still Life Painting uses a fast medium, but actually has the effect of slowing the viewer down. I have seen people absolutely riveted by this work, taking a great deal of time to watch the still life change before their eyes. This is exactly what we hope that our visitors will do when they encounter the seventeenth-century painting by Bosschaert on which the Carters’ film is based — look, look and look again.’
Emilie E.S. Gordenker
Director | Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis | The Hague