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Where the Night, the Moon and Waters Meet: New Paintings by David Niec

exhibition information

Where the Night, the Moon and Waters Meet: New Paintings by David Niec
Dates: 24 July - 26 September 2015
Opening: 6 to 9 p.m. Friday July 24, a Gallery Night

David Niec and the Moon

By David Nash

     It rises in the East and follows the Sun to set in the West. For us, Northerners, the Moon waxes and wanes from right to left. As our nights become longer it rises higher, the longest and highest point in its arc in deep mid-winter. It is then when the Moon appears at its fullest.

     Through a lunar month, the Moon goes through a repertoire of phases from "'new" when we can barely see its shadow face to "'full"' when it is fully lit by the Sun as a bright white disc. This inert mass works with the far greater mass of the Sun to create an oscillating, rhythmic, gravitational pull that lifts and squeezes the Earth's sphere, causing tides so consistent they can be predicted years in advance.

      This general knowledge of the Moon is very different from our personal experience of it. Mostly we glimpse it only by chance as we go about our busy lives. Or rather, the Moon glimpses us. When that happens, I find I'm pulled into the greater moment of the heavens. The Moon is our threshold to Time and Space.

     David Niec is an artist immersed in the observation of this threshold. Employing physical as well as spiritual faculties, he places himself into the relentless streaming of nature. This experience is raw, direct and immediate, and when given form by making marks, it builds an intimate understanding and knowledge that can be shared.  The first step is just to be out there at night, and sense.  David wrote about his first genuinely momentous experience of the Moon in a letter to me:

      It was simple. Points of light became the most interesting thing. I was literally out in a dark space observing and then this bright light comes over the horizon. It caught my interest. I really remember my first experiences being this raw. I didn't yet have a sense about the Moon's patterns so when it came up, it was a surprise and a very fascinating one. Gradually, I became aware that the Moon's rises and sets followed a pattern around which my own working patterns and lifestyle could be organized.

     First the curiosity, then the action, and all that entails: The logistics of how to get it all where he needs to be at the right time. The night sky is a mighty subject. It requires a commitment equivalent to that of a hunter whose life revolves around his quarry. The hunter has to love his quarry without sentiment, learn its habits, lay in wait with all the material of the trap primed. David Niec is an artist/hunter. He lives like a trapper, most at home in the wood and marsh.

     I had a very good Fall. I really only wanted to paint.and paid close attention to each phase [of the Moon]. But Fall in general is very intense, leaving little rest time. It became almost painful to see the season go so fast.  It's here and it's gone. I just have to settle for having another shot at it next year.. It's almost winter now. Maybe snow over the weekend.

     I first met David when we worked together in a Masterclass in 1999. I was the supposed Master. Among the 12 younger artist participants, David was the most unusual--very quiet, and the only one whose habitat was not urban. He had come to the class mainly because of a realization that he was losing contact not just with artist peers, but with human discourse.  When he showed us his work, we were all in awe. Since then, he and I have kept in contact through correspondence and visits in the States and here in Wales.

     Over the years, my wife and I have acquired several of David's works. Among these pieces is a quite large oil. It presents a view into a wood after nightfall. During most hours, the painting seems to be a monochrome square of deep, dark blue. Then, at a certain, usually brief time of day, in a certain light, its true subject appears and I am taken deep into the interior of that wood. It feels like being glimpsed by the Moon.

     David Nash is one of Britain's leading Land Artists, a group that also includes such figures as Hamish Fulton, Richard Long and Andy Goldsworthy. Among the most monumental of Nash's works are permanent installations in parks and other public settings around the world. Nash's principal art media include fallen trees and trees that he reshapes during their growth stages. He lives in Wales.