Galerie D'Este is pleased to present the works of Cynthia Dinan-Mitchell for a second solo show entitled Lueur de minuit / Midnight Glow. At first the works may appear deceptively decorative, due to their ornamental arrangements, yet as we pay close attention, the amalgams of symbols and art historical references begin to play off each other. One cannot escape the allusion to Dutch vanitas paintings. Like Golden Age Dutch still life painters, Dinan-Mitchell has a similar visual vocabulary that also includes skulls, fruits, birds, flowers and symbols of time passing, as in Pink Petals (2017). And, like these Dutch masters, Dinan-Mitchell also makes use of these symbols to emphasize life’s ephemeral quality. Another precept of vanitas painting followed by Dinan-Mitchell, is her representation of clusters of objects that are incongruent with one another. In Dinan-Mitchell’s works, exotic birds befriend electrical wires and retro desk lamps meet rams’ skulls and radio microphones, just as in 17th-century Dutch paintings, flower bouquets are made up of blooms that would not have flourished at the same season. Thus, in both Dinan-Mitchell’s work and Dutch vanitas, the juxtaposition of the objects create idealized compositions that allude to man’s intervention in the natural order of things.
There is no doubt that with their art historical visual references and the particular orchestration of these various symbols together, these works provide intellectual food for thought. But what is admirable first and foremost is their material quality. The still lifes seem to rise out of a sea of darkness, illuminated like the wondrous discoveries that they are. Be it an electrical or oil lamp, the luminous globes draw us in and directs our gaze towards the objects they irradiate. These works demand attention and in exchange, offer time to ponder upon these eclectic connections. They emanate a sense of calm, as if time was slowing down and one could take a deep breath and simply enjoy the sinuous folds of the flowers’ petals, or the multicolour plumage of the birds of paradise. There, amidst the nebulous space, one can perceive life, death and rebirth. And in more sober terms, one can be reminded both at once of the beautiful yet ephemeral quality of the season’s blooms.
- Julie Boivin, PhD, art historian