Nyctophilia is an exhibition about the magic of the night explored through the work of four contemporary artists: John Stark, Carolein Smit, Suzanne Moxhay, and Jon Braley.
John Stark’s paintings explore the imaginative potential of the dark with a lithe sense of humour. The works here are influenced by Spanish Golden Age painting and the shadow-infused world of the Counter Reformation. A group of soup-eaters elaborately reimagines Velazquez’s ‘Old Woman Cooking Eggs’; a still life echoes the crystalline imagery of Juan de Zurbaran; while a monk before a neon sign prays before a rendition of the Ecce Homo in Borja. Surreal, sinister and saturnine, Stark’s paintings pry into the imaginative nether-world of the dark.
Carolein Smit’s ceramic sculptures depict the characters and animals that inhabit the nocturnal chambers of the mind. In this exhibition are three bats, looming larger than life and executed with prickly fur and spiky sharp teeth. One hangs enveloped in its wings from a golden rococo console; two companions fly spreadeagled in the night, exhibitionists that they are. Accompanying them an animated skeleton from a medieval Danse Macabre walks beneath a sprinkling of stars – fantastical inhabitants of the nocturnal world brought to life in ceramic. Smit will simultaneously be exhibiting in ‘Les Flammes: L’Âge de la céramique’ at the Musée d’Art Moderne de Paris.
Suzanne Moxhay creates magical fictitious scenes by piecing together diverse imagery in photographic montages. Lighting is key to Moxhay’s works, be it the candlelight to which moths are instinctively drawn, or the moonlight that shines through gaps in a derelict gothic arch and through breeze-blown curtain into a silent domestic interior. Architectural decay and nostalgic patternings all speak of the passage of time, lending Moxhay’s images an air of the uncertain narratives that float in the quiet of the night.
Jon Braley’s paintings capture an ideal of nature through intense colour fields. Braley paints with pigment using his bare hands to create abstract landscapes like emotional memories, which he then encases in resin to suggest how both nature and its idealised memory are ever more distant from us. In this exhibition one large blue work echoes a moonlit sky as seen from within a forest: an intense experience of half-light and solitude that epitomises the magic of the night.