As many artists know, ‘vanitas’ can be defined as a type of symbolic art, often including symbols like skulls, rotten fruit, hourglasses, and other items related to the brevity of life and the certainty of death. Talk about a downer! However, London-based artist James Hopkins’ series Vanitas is quite a clever, modern take on this still life genre.
The artist uses everyday items like books, clocks, guitars, mirrors, and wine glasses to form the suggestion of a skull head across a row of six bookshelves. Like we’ve seen in his previous work, the artist plays with the ideas of illusion and perspective, encouraging his viewers to take a step back to get a good look at the form he has created. It sounds crazy, but these symbols of morbidity are so incredibly original that they actually appear quite upbeat and approachable. Though the name suggests otherwise, I think the version entitled Wasted Youth—which uses items like a disco ball, beer bottles, a lava lamp, and a stereo—seems like quite the fun party!
Regardless of the message that you find in this collection of abstract skulls, Hopkins says, “I don’t want people to think of these works as being negative or morbid—in fact, they should be read as a celebration of life.”