Darker Than Light
“The art of copying from nature as she really exists in the common walks of life” Walter Scott, 1816
This collection of works pays homage to the golden age of the Dutch Masters, a period spanning the 17th century during and after the Eighty Years War for Dutch Independence (1568-1648). At this time, artists started to explore the familiar and everyday rather than religious iconography. The detailed portrayal of the ordinary and the domesticity of life, food and nature became a primary focus.
To a large extent such celebration of the everyday has been turned on its head in our contemporary times, our relationship to food changing to one of seeking and honouring the extraordinary and exceptional. Vast quantities of fruit, vegetables and animal body parts are discarded daily due to our modern aesthetic preoccupation and fetishization of perfect-looking, Instagram-able food.
In a multicultural country such as Australia, a family’s food often points to cultural heritage and place. In the 17th century, prior to intensive farming, refrigeration and long-distance food transportation, communities ate what was locally available. Diet depended on the seasons and where a person lived. Families ate the animals they reared.
Connecting back to that history, some images in this collection challenge us as viewers, confronting and discomforting us with questions like: where did the animal come from? How was it treated? Did it need to be killed? We avoid and resist these questions in our strolling and scrolling of supermarket aisles, real and online.
Since first studying Fine Art Richard Nolan-Neylan has had a passion for the still life works of the Dutch Masters, in particular its moody aesthetic. The dark romanticism of the imagery in his work is a celebration of the humanity of the period. Throughout this collection darkness peels back to reveal detail, and slowly, adjusting to the dimness as when entering a darkened space, our eye seeks and finds the picture’s different elements, enabling what is ultimately a personal and intimate engagement with, and interpretation of, the images in front of us.
* The provenance of produce and animal welfare was an import consideration in the making of these images
Kangaroo head, skull and flower
Canson Edition Etching Rag, then lacquered
print 100cm x 66.5cm
framed 130cm x 95cm
This image references lambs’ heads on platters, oftern used in still life paintings in the period of the Dutch Masters. Millions of Kangaroos are culled every year and left to rot where they fall. This Kangaroo was shot by a farmer. The picture was captured in a dry creek bed near by where the kangaroo, and kangaroo skull were found.