John-Michael Metelerkamp: Nocturnes

Deepest Darkest opens it’s first show of 2021, Nocturnes, a solo exhibition of paintings by John-Michael Metelerkamp. Opening on Saturday 20 February, the exhibition runs until 10 April. Metelerkamp was born in 1982 in Knysna. Having recently relocated to Cape Town, Nocturnes is his first solo exhibition in the city following multiple exhibitions across the country as well as presentations at numerous art fairs. Painted between 2018 to 2020, Metelerkamp’s Nocturnes is a collection of paintings of places and people in Knysna through that period. In his project statement, Metelerkamp writes: “I have always been frustrated with the manner in which Knysna and other so called ‘idyllic’ towns in South Africa have been painted. I wanted to express rather the grit I had become familiar with, the center of town as it had become with its seemingly boring buildings and structures, the acts and players of daily rituals often discarded as mundane. Experimentation is a huge part of my process. I try not to think until I am standing in front of the canvas, paintbrush in hand. Forcing thought opens up possibilities of a journey through the painting. Colours dictate colours and forms dictate forms. George Condo said “Don’t step back until you think you have something to look at’’. I adopt this practice. I get close to the painting. I want to be in the painting.” In his essay on Nocturnes, writer and art commentator Ashraf Jamal notes: “The suite of works – portraits and urban scenes – eschews the photographic record in favour of an immersive experience. One senses the artist’s life, the throb and thrum of human and elemental energy, the consuming silence and darkness. But most of all, it is the light that breaks through, flecked, scattered, or pooled, which, finally, reassures and calms us. Light is what we stumble upon, what momentarily holds us. In Metelerkamp’s case, the colour palette is strange. His is an empurpled, violet, greenly orange world which appears, to me at least, as utterly natural. If his take on light which is remarkable, then, so is his approach to paint. The density of its application is immediately evident. One senses a man who, in the moment of painting, is searching for an intangible yet distinctive moment when something is revealed. …Looking at Metelerkamp’s gloaming suite with its sensation not only of night but of twilight – worlds between worlds – I cannot forget that they were largely painted in 2020, a year more introspective than any other, more confounded, more searching. And what strikes me as I look at these paintings, wrought from the darkest time in living memory, is the artist’s sincerity.” Deepest Darkest

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