The Exquisite Earthenware Pitcher

Eric Chamberlain Artist Work

Still Life

Studio Still Lives by Eric Day Chamberlain

at Shift through Aug. 29th

By Cynthia Hibbard
Eric Day Chamberlain keeps it simple and real—he focuses on still life tabletop settings to wring the most in texture, form and skewed perspective out of common objects, both in painting and printmaking.

Like the famous Italian painter Giorgio Morandi long before him, and more recently the British painter Ben Nickolson, Chamberlain found—after working predominantly abstractly for years, through both his BFA and MFA programs and beyond—that tabletop arrangements as subject matter freed him to explore the pure ramifications of his paint and mark making tools while still enabling him to incorporate the gestural strokes and energetic, heavy line work he favors in a variety of mediums and sizes.

The classic forms of tableware gave him “something to start with, rather than just thinking that this area here or there needed a mark,” he said. “Instead, I could put a pitcher or a plate there.”

Eric Chamberlain Artist Work

VT Still Life White

The classic forms of tableware gave him “something to start with, rather than just thinking that this area here or there needed a mark,” he said. “Instead, I could put a pitcher or a plate there.”

The earthenware pitcher, a staple in many of Chamberlain’s recent works, came to mind for him in 2009 “when I did a little thank you note for the woman who hosted my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary in Yakima,” he said.  “She ran the White House café and B & B, where everything is white pitchers and white dinnerware.”

Chamberlain made her a watercolor card of three white pitchers floating in negative space.  He remembers being really attracted to the shapes he created.  Soon after, he produced a series of monotypes of 10 objects on a tabletop to submit to Seattle Print Art’s 10th anniversary exhibition, the theme of which, of course, was “ten.”

As well, Chamberlain found himself thinking about tabletops more and more at his retail day job at Crate and Barrel at University Village. “As I was dusting and arranging these items I was imagining painting them,” he said.

Eric Chamberlain Artist Work

Studio Still Life with Still Life Painting

As I was dusting and arranging these items I was imagining painting them”

Most recently, the jars, cans, tools and hanging objects in his studio and other work spaces have been making their way into the work in his Shift show, such as in the painting “Studio Still Life with Abstract Studies.”   He also finds himself working more and more from drawings and previous works as opposed to from real or imagined arrangements, as in “Litho Studio Still Life,” which features an inked marble plate he created in Oaxaca earlier this year.

“I continue to depict everyday objects, creating imagery that juxtaposes both imagined and observed memories,” he said.  “Recently, as I spend more and more time in the studio, I have begun to incorporate an array of bottles, jars, cans and architectural elements from my workspace.”

Chamberlain.etching

Studio Still Life with Abstract Studies

Due to show again at Shift in January, Chamberlain is likely to stay within his subject range but vary the results.  “I did just find someone who’s going to bring me some more hollow core doors,” he said.  “Maybe I’ll make some bigger work.”