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Leyla SpencerTitle
Still Life with Pears

In storage

Place of origin
New South Wales, Australia



Co-winner Calleen Award 1996

Accession number

Excerpt from The Calleen Collection by Peter Haynes (2019)

Leyla Spencer is again an artist about whom little is available in standard reference sources. She studied at the Julian Ashton School in Sydney and was a Fellow of the Royal Art Society. She won the prestigious Mosman Art Award in 2010. That she lived in Marrickville, Sydney, at the time of the Calleen Prize is in the exhibition brochure.

It is of interest to note that like her co-winner, Leyla Spencer elected to exhibit a work outside the landscape genre. Her Still Life with Pears offers a visually quirky take on a centuries-old theme. She divides the canvas into essentially 2 areas. The top part has a patterned object (a chair?) draped with a yellow cloth and a white apron. The bottom has a horizontal band of grey on which sits a bowl of green pears. The viewpoint is (almost) aerial but Spencer plays with perspective and formal relationships to purposefully subvert the initial apprehension that greets the viewer. We are not sure where objects sit in relation to one another, nor if aerial and normal viewpoints are conflated. Whatever, there is a level of pictorial unity and harmony in this work that is immediate and attractive. Alongside perspective riddles Spencer also plays with spatial layering, often investing areas of the painting with an optical double take. The spotted pattern could sit beside the grey table holding the pears or it could sit under it. Is it the lowest band of grey-green the shadow of the table or another element of that piece? One thinks here of comparisons with Cubist still life painting and particularly those of Georges Braque. The manipulation of space, surface, colour and pattern that animated his work is present in Spencer’s although of course the vocabularies (formal and pictorial) are inherently different. This is an interesting picture that asks as much as it gives.