NIGHTS AND DAYS
Dickon Hall Fine Art, Belfast - 2014
The title Nights and Days was plucked out of the air but seems appropriate for this selection. Obvious symbols of difference and of contrasting states - physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual - this contrast is evoked in the work. It also asserts the inevitable march of time and its own paradox, as opportunity for change and continual renewal and/or as something perpetually eluding our grasp, as if being stolen from us.
So images are made to store up what is past and to give the inner life continuity. The physical act or event which inspired the work and the act of making remain locked in time as it were. The thoughts and internal sensations engaged and the related memories continue to operate.
Events are remodelled into what Walter Benjamin referred to as the ‘gestus’. The full length figures of ‘Host’ are detached observers set apart in their stasis from the contingencies of time and space. The spectator is the temporal, literally, passing guest. The world of painting is past, present and future. Could a painting, having willed itself into plastic existence, become the voice of multitudes and millennia? An angel of history?
The primacy of Night over Day upsets the conventional order and seems to prioritise the ‘work’ of the night and its associations with introspection, solitude and mystery as opposed to the day’s communal and rational realm. While the world rests, an inner light flickers to life.
References in these works to folk legend and custom, universal myth and sacred histories suggest our need to give a deeper significance to the so-called everyday.
The oil on paper ‘heads’ pay homage to the outsider, the despised, forgotten, overlooked and misunderstood. Characters often represented in literature as ‘simple’ souls with a profound understanding of human foibles, weaknesses and fundamental needs who are trodden underfoot by the uncomprehending world. Their strangeness unsettles us because it forces us to re-examine the hierarchy of our so-called principles, our distasteful insistence on our entitlements, and the unwavering conviction of the ultimate control of our fate. We fear their proximity yet they may be instruments in the banishment of our deepest anxieties.
Two poets commemorated in these works were such persons. Georg Trakl, a poet of the night, and Charles Peguy, a poet of the day, both of whose deaths occurred exactly one hundred years ago amid the chaos and brutality of the first months of the Great War. One could hardly think of two more diametrically opposed writers at first glance, yet in their sparseness of language and eye for the invisible something is shared and in their preoccupation with atonement and longing for redemption they are ultimately united.
In the landscape referencing series, Spectral, the idea of nature offering us a kind of balance is suggested. The title plays with a double response of rational, scientific with a mysterious, ghostly one. The natural world is often sought as a means of healing. In a contemplation of and identification with nature, its apparent contradictions can seem reconciled. The wild contrasts, the newness yet timelessness of the seasons, the opposing properties of the elements, and the phenomena of night and day itself – when it is both night and day on the earth at the same time - give us some apprehension of wholeness. We become attuned to, or construct, a symbolism in the fabric of nature. Its vastness contracts to an intimacy and resonates with our own inscape.