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By Sharne Wolff
Themes of death and decay in the natural world have long occupied the work of painter, Nicholas Bowers. In Ephemera, with the assistance of macro photography and electron microscopes, the artist has left the wider landscape and moved in for a closer look at the transitory lives of insects and flowers. Each of these works has been painted on paper using thin layers of oil paint to achieve the detail required.
At first glance, these meticulously painted pictures look like the pages from a book of scientific illustration but then you realise that something isn’t right. White Amaryllis flowers are pictured withered and brown, and once industrious insects lie slowly disintegrating. Tiny legs are taut and frozen while the wings of butterflies and moths lay delicate and lifeless. The artist has transformed these diminutive creatures, once dismissed, trodden on or swiped at, into potent symbols of mortality. At the same time, by painting them in death, Bowers creates an emotional connection with the viewer and elevates their importance as objects of beauty and essential elements for ecological balance.
For centuries artists have used powerful metaphors drawn from the natural world to epitomise ideas of the impermanence of life. The late Australian art critic, Robert Hughes, once famously said, “A Gustave Courbet portrait of a trout has more death in it than Rubens could get in a whole Crucifixion.”
Until December 2
MiCK Gallery, Paddington
Pic: Nicholas Blowers, Grasshopper I oil on paper 90 x 130 cm Courtesy the artist and MiCK Gallery.
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