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Phantasieblume Nachtlied (Norway)

Lookup NU author(s): Nick Fox


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‘Phantasieblume Nachtlied’ is a two-site exhibition of paintings, drawings, glass objects and video, giving international context to Fox's loose grouping of work, Phantasieblume. Ha Gamle prestegard (Norway) is one of the most well visited exhibition Venues in Norway, attracting 50 000 visitors per annum. The exhibition received local print and radio press, and was featured in a critical review by one of Norways leading Art critics, Sigrun Hodne as well as a critical text by Matthew Hearn. Supported by Newcastle University, the exhibition reveals Fox’s aesthetic exploration of material and image. Downstairs features existing and new work from his Phantasieblume project, while upstairs, Fox reveals an altogether more personal vision in a grouping of new and unseen work titled Nightsong, inspired by moonlight. Phantasieblume Nachtlied is Fox’s first solo exhibition in Norway, touring from Vane, Newcastle (2010) and the Centre for Recent Drawing, London (2009), with the addition of new, previously unseen glass works produced during his recent residency at the National Glass Centre, Sunderland. Fox will also be showing new video works made specifically for the space at Ha Gamle Presegart. Fox’s paintings, drawings and objects are informed by romantic idealisation, cultural artefact and social and subcultural codes. Historically, the austere morality codes of Victorian society forced courtship into a clandestine world of signs and symbols. Floriography, a coded form of language developed in which the act of giving and receiving flowers became loaded with secretive messages of longing from one lover to another. In 1884, Kate Greenaway published ‘Language of Flowers’, a common dictionary of codes that subsequently fell into decline. Fox is interested in how we communicate our desires in a contemporary context. Rather than merely resurrecting this forgotten language of the Fin de Siècle, Fox has found his own way of inverting the coded articulation of desire, playfully and subtly expressing a highly personal and symbolic pictorial language of concealment. The exhibition consists of a series of seductive drawings, mirrored paintings, intricately laboured objects and video created over the past three and a half years. Fox’s painted work is made by carefully crafting layered skins of acrylic paint on glass, the paint is then intricately cut through, creating elaborate, decorative objects that resemble the preciousness of handcrafted lace. Upon closer inspection, their fragile tendrils conceal an intoxicating and erotic charge – delicately observed erotic figurative drawings are interwoven with competing elements of decoration; nude figures and botanical imagery emerge from the sensual surfaces to create tantalising, elusive narratives of desire and courtship. On the walls downstairs, hang dense painted panels that show Fox’s fascination with the gaze either as active voyeur or as passive witness. Fox works on his mirror-like polished panels of paint for up to eighteen months, a period of time necessitated by the high production values and the multiple layering of imagery culled from pornography, Victorian flower painting, the Romantic, neoclassical and Vanitas painting traditions. There are literary precursors at play, in particular the Decadent writings of Joris-Karl Huysmans and Oscar Wilde giving rise to a keen sense both of the pleasures and the limits of double meanings in the construction of codes. Close to the paintings sits murmuring, a pool of paint that resembles a dark oozing oily stain of water around which sit a collection of sculpted glass objects. Murmuring is simultaneously reflected both in the pool, and his mirrored paintings, literally fusing a symbolic role of botanical imagery to his themes of desire, longing and loss. In the centre of the gallery sit Fox’s Phantasieblume Cabinets containing a collection of what, at first sight, appear to be intricately crafted vintage lace objects, industrially cut doilies or discarded rags, all tantalisingly held between layers of glass. As it becomes clear that the objects have been carefully cut from paint, the individual works reveal a devotion to labour in their process, prompting discussion about the subtle relationship between art and craft while still existing firmly within the fields of contemporary painting and drawing practice. Upstairs, the shadowy space contains the collection of work Nightsong, all shown here for the first time. Inspired by moonlight and lunar mythologies, Nightsong is a grouping of video works filmed during 2009 and 2010 (all completed 2011) and Echo, a constellation of 29 glass discs (2011) containing images of the artist’s body, with live sound. Of the video work presented, Obrestad Havn, Hå kommune 2010 (2011) has been made as a direct response to Fox’s recent visit to Hå gamle prestegard in 2010, and in this video instillation is paired with his earlier work, The Holy Island of Lindisfarne, Northumberland 2009 (2011). This grouping of works marks a clear break from Fox’s floriographic references, indicating a significantly more private process of physical and spiritual analysis, introspection, and evaluation. Nightsong offers unstable meanings and visualisatiuons to the bittersweet intensification of longing that comes as result of rejection and loss.

Publication metadata

Artist(s): Fox N

Publication type: Exhibition

Publication status: Published

Year: 2011

Number of Pieces: 37

Venue: Ha gamle prestegard

Location: Havegen 347, 4365 NAERBO

Source Publication Date: 16 April 2011-5 June 2011

Media of Output: Painting, drawing, Installation, film, glass.


Notes: Phantasieblume Nachtlied at Ha Gamle Prestegart provides an international platform to the series of work "Phantasieblume" and to the "Myth and Moonlight" Project, a collection of works made from glass and new video work resulting from my residency at the National Glass centre, Sunderland .