Notes by Gwen Bautista
In Aesop’s fable The Fox and the Grapes, a famished fox enters a vineyard and immediately sees the grapes hanging on the vines. He then tries to reach for them, jumping and leaping with all his might, but unsuccessful in his bid. The fox, then, walks away and declares how these grapes must be sour anyway; he would never have eaten them if served on a silver platter.
Inspired by an expression alluded to this story, Leny Leonor presents us with works in the form of Still Life and reminds us of the original intention surrounding this genre while bringing us a sense of realization in our attitude towards the temporary. Images of food, animals, and objects that are skillfully rendered, bordering on the real and the unreal, taunt the human appetite for indulgence —much like of how the fox felt with the grapes. However, this is quickly returned by a feeling similar to betrayal and deception as the viewer’s mind quickly realizes that nothing is edible but everything is a mere 2D representation, thus, as the fox laments, unreachable.
It is on this plane that Leonor brings forth an emphasis to what Still Life brings – a marker that continues to revel pleasures of human life whilst warning us of its brevity. Clearly, Food has become a symbol to celebrate a moment made steadfast by our lustful indulgence: it stands to be the only thing that bears neither past nor future and carries no meaning as we savor and devour.
In “Ice Cream on Skull”, our appetite for the scrumptious dessert is immediately diminished by the arrangement of a skull filled with ice cream sitting on a plate – a memento mori that sneaks into our imagination like conscience muttering the phrase, “remember you must die”, as our eyes lust on the popular dessert. Hence, it is well within the intention of Leonor to depict symbolic objects prompting the viewer of their mortality and the emptiness of pleasure, as seen in “Still Life with Dead Game and Spaghetti”, where the famous pantry scene of Flemish painter Frans Snijders is evident and placed alongside an image of a modern woman sucking on spaghetti. This portrayal, if not callous, plays on the mind of the viewer as we are torn between Snijders’ quixotic illustration and today’s fast-paced consumption where the worthlessness of these pleasures are even immensely reduced. Therefore, it is important that Leonor has given more weight to the spectacle of leisure, the vanitas in her works thriving obviously on its display of gratification; it directs us to become delighted by the brief flash of debauchery that a moment holds.