Loosely taking its title from the first canto of John Shade’ s poem in Nabokov’s 1962 novel Pale Fire, the titular work in the exhibition, cymbals of sleep uncurtain the night, continues McAllister’s ongoing engagement with painting as both transportive portal and decorative artifice. The section to which the title refers recounts the crash of a bird as it flies into the window of Shade’s room – briefly shattering the illusion of the warm interior projected onto
the snowy winter night. McAllister’s work lives here, in the interplay between the illusionistic and the tangible.
The artist beckons us to look through the window at the scene beyond, but we are always reminded of the paned glass that frames it. McAllister revels in this classic characteristic of painting. Other works by the artist provide the traditional “window,” while cymbals of sleep uncurtain the night plays with and complicates the all encompassing visual effect of 19th and early 20th century panorama painting. Typical panorama presents the illusion of an environment as a continuous canvas that fills all the corners and crevices of the viewer’s vision, but McAllister removes the work from the wall and breaks it up into eight conjoined panels. Instead of a single moment – a landscape at dusk – McAllister permeates our peripheral vision with a sunset that unfolds temporally as our eyes move from left to right, from electric pink to dusky navy.
What we see, then, is not a sunset, but better. Better because it enfolds the fleeting nature of the earth’s rotation around the sun in a form that is solid and lasting. The inherent
melancholy of time passing and the inevitability of our mortality are removed. Only wonder remains.