Still life is a subject about which Soskice has thought, written and lectured extensively: a clear theoretical basis informing his practice.“The still life takes simple things for its subject matter – wine bottles, jugs, apples – civilian things found on tables in the ordinary run of life; there is a long tradition of distilling rare beauty from these things. Notable in this tradition is Paul Cézanne, but also Giorgio Morandi and Adrian Stokes.
“One way of considering the still life is to think of its objects in terms of the spatial depth they inhabit. They are typically within bodily reach, but already in the realm of independent being: an estuary between the shifting perspectives arising from our own movements and the still depth around the things themselves. The painterly way of looking favours space as much as the solid things treating each as the principle by which the other becomes visible. In this way seeing may cease its usual hurried glancing and become a steady contemplative gaze. The bottles and jugs stop being just items in the daily round and through the painterly gaze are disclosed as luminous presence.”
While the still lifes are clearly within the tradition he has studied, the abstract landscapes are in a style that is uniquely his own. “The landscape paintings are derived from time spent painting and drawing in the flat countryside around Cambridge where I live and the abstract paintings follow on from the landscapes; they are not directly descriptive of the elements of landscape but should recall and suggest such things as the ground, the hedgerows, distant lines of trees, clouds and their shadows. Indeed rather than ‘things’, they are more bound up with the light of different times of day and the stages of the year; the passage of daylight through foliage, across walls and the muted reflection of the sky in the fields... These works are ‘abstract’ in the sense of being drawn from the visible world, even built around the depth of landscape. Collectively they could be called ‘In praise of English daylight.’ ”
Oliver Soskice was born in 1947. He comes from a family of painters, the best known of whom was the pre-Raphaelite Ford Madox Brown. An early influence was the painter and critic Adrian Stokes, who lived next door. He read English literature at Trinity Hall, Cambridge and after several years in publishing has painted full time since 1972. He lived in Oxford from 1974 to 1988, and was a founder member of the Oxford Artists’ Group. Since 1988 he has lived and worked in Cambridge. He has exhibited in Oxford and Cambridge colleges and the Kettles Yard Open.