Night Lights, by Cob Gallery

Cob is pleased to present ‘Night Light’ – a group exhibition bringing together over 15 painters and mixed-media artists in a poetic exploration of the night: rich in mystery and symbolic potential, conjuring thoughts on the cosmos and the unknown, and prompting plunges into the abysm of the self.

Breaking away from the grand traditions of ‘plein air’ painting, Night Light explores contemporary approaches to paintings of the night that sees artists shape their work by the political and environmental concerns of our present moment, as well as the shared understanding of the night-time scene. Participating artists include Korean mixed-media artist Sung Hwa Kim; London-based surrealist artist Cece Philips; landscape painter Angela Lane; visual artist and photographer Lorena Lohr; and more. 

Cece Philips, tbt, 2023, Oil on canvas, 102 x 76 cm, 40 1_8 x 29 7_8 in © the artist courtesy of Cob Gallery

Connecting with precedents like that of the ‘nocturne’ – a musical term first used in relation to visual art by James Whistler in the 1870s – Night Light brings together contemporary depictions of the night in urban and non-urban environments. The mute glow of a train station, the plastic glare of a nightclub scene, the fluorescent cones of a car’s headlights replace the gas lamps, candles and firework displays of Whistler’s nocturnal cityscape. And if Whistler’s use of musical vocabulary – ‘symphony’, ‘harmony or ‘arrangement’ – was intended to privilege tone and composition over narrative content, then these new paintings take the form of similarly poetic responses to our contemporary experience of the dark, cultivating a ‘dreamy, pensive mood’ attuned to the anxieties of our own age. 

These explorations of the night-time in paint also point back beyond the 19th Century city, towards deeper art-historical traditions relating to the celestial bodies, the supernatural, and human spirituality: the idea of the starlit sky as a map to navigate both our exterior and interior worlds. In the works presented in Night Light, this relates in particular to a sense of the nocturnal scene as a moonscape whose contours describe emotional experiences that can be felt and seen, but evade other forms of articulation. 

Tim Wilson, Open Book, 2022, Signed and dated on back, Oil on paper mounted on linen stretched panel, 41.3 x 31.1 cm, 16 1_4 x 12 1_4 in © the artist courtesy of Cob Gallery

Victoria Williams & Cassie Beadle, Director & Curator of Cob said: ‘Almost every civilisation and religion has incorporated the moon into its belief system, looking up at the night sky and ascribing narrative characteristics to this strange moving object that continually waxes and wanes. An uncanny observer suspended in the vault above our heads, its presence acting as a reminder that we are ourselves just floating in a measureless space: that the points of the compass are mere conventions that soften our sense of cosmic homelessness.’

The mysterious rhythms of the moon have been contemplated in works stretching back to antiquity, tapping into the rich tradition of artist melancholics, of ‘lunatics’ and ‘moonstruck’ lovers. In Night Light, it is one among many focal points for the sense of difference characterised by the night, and channelled by these artists into a set of beautiful and thought-provoking images.

Seth Becker, Nocturne, 2021, Oil on panel, 25.4 x 33 cm, 10 x 13 in © the artist courtesy of Cob Gallery

ARTIST LINE-UP: Julian Adon Alexander, Seth Becker, Nicholas Bierk, Eliot Greenwald, Miho Ichise, Claudia Keep, Sung Hwa Kim, Lorena Lohr, Natalia González Martín, Alice Miller, Cece Philips, Francesco Pirazzi, Alexandra Rubenstein, Masamitsu Shigeta, Adreil Visoto, Tim Wilson, Angela Lane

ADDRESS: 205 Royal College Street, London, NW1 0SG
FINAL DAY: 25th March 2023

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