AboutIf we study Japanese art, we discover a man who is undeniably wise, philosophical and intelligent, who spends his time - doing what? Studying the distance from the earth to the moon? No! Studying the politics of Bismarck? No! He studies... A single blade of grass. But this blade of grass leads him to draw all the plants then the season, the grand spectacle of landscapes... That is how he spends his life, and life is too short to do everything. So come, isn't what we are taught by these simple Japanese, who live in nature as if they themselves were flowers, almost a true religion? And one cannot study Japanese art, it seems to me, without becoming merrier and happier, and we should turn back to nature in spite of our education and our work in a conventional world.
Vincent van Gogh to Theo van Gogh, 14th September 1888
âBorrowed Light' indicates a significant development in Simon Averill's work since his last solo show âMinutiae' held at Goldfish in 2007. This previous exhibition, constituted an attempt to get closer to nature mainly through analysis of the inanimate, found and discarded, often gathered whilst walking. As I said in my catalogue introduction at the time Averill's focus is on the overlooked, disregarded,
and his elevation of it to a celebration of the things around us that help make up the whole...
This collection of work also enables the viewer to look through the eyes of an artist who is very much in touch with the world around him, but it ups the ante by aiming to capture the most elusive and animated of things: light. As Leonardo Da Vinci stated âLook at light and admire its beauty. Close your eyes, and then look again: what you saw is no longer there; and what you will see later is not yet'. This artistic manifestation implies a sense of mortal allegory. To capture and contain light is to defy the ephemeral.
Averill seems to preserve the simplest and most ordinary of experiences and turn them into flat, contemplative shrines that suggest that we should not take a moment for granted, for such humble beauty is fleeting and transitory. Averill's quiet, enlightened approach seems so at odds with the bustle of the 21st Century, but these are not paintings about the temporary nature of our times, they are paintings that make permanent the fleetingness of existence. From the most minute to the most humble of experiences.
Averill's respect for his subject is maintained technically through the application of his medium. The works are built in a multitude of layers, which creates extraordinary depth, translucence and a vitreous quality of surface; it is as if the works are illuminated from within. It is impossible to capture these qualities in reproduction, they become revealed only when the work is seen in the flesh and you are able to get up close.
Averill is an artist who demonstrates an acute affinity with his surroundings, a close observer of the natural world who translates this love and understanding into exquisite paintings that contain an intense intimacy without ever becoming illustrative or pastiche.
He fulfils an aspirational role for the 21st Century artist. It would do us no harm as a society, to develop such acute understanding and primal intimacy with the natural world. What could be more pertinent than trying to redress that balance at this time?
13th Century, Zen master Dogen Zenji claimed that enlightenment is intimacy with all things. This is an overriding consideration when looking at Averill's expanding oeuvre.