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Nóttin Lýst - The Night Enlightened

Themes of the exhibition, from ancient sagas to intimate views

words by Clizia Macchi

After the winter spirits series and a short, much needed parenthesis working on the series inspired by Italo Calvino’s novel Invisible Cities, it  has been a very natural progression to continue working in what I feel like calling “the realm of Night”.

It might not make sense for many, but for inhabitants of a nordic country winter is strictly associated with darkness: in some places the sun never rises, and when it finally does, the daylight consists in an endless twilight, as we transition between dawn to dusk, without really having a peak of light at midday. 

The shadows are always long on the horizon, and seeing the night sky is a jaw-dropping moment every time the weather is good. 

natural landscape with sea, rocks and a snowy mountain backdrop with sunset.
Mount Esja on the backdrop of Faxaflói bay on a winter evening

Iceland is indeed among these countries although, I dare say, we are quite lucky to have several hours of daylight every day of the winter, as it could be none for months like in other more northern regions.

When I got the response from Gallerí Grótta, I did not have to think much about the theme. However, unlike previous times, I did make a lot of drafts and studies before actually starting to paint on canvas. 

I already had a few paintings ready and I wanted to incorporate them into something that had a little bit of a broader narrative. 

blue abstract paintings on paper, placed on a white table
Drafts and sketches for Nóttin Lýst

During the past summer I found myself browsing again through stories from Greek mythology, and got really curious about the primordial gods: very little information was available and even less episodes saw them as protagonists.

I’m talking about these deities that were born together with the world itself, self generated most of the times and that also often generated their kin alone. The line of gods we commonly know starts with them, so in my opinion they deserved more attention.

Four divinities are strictly related to the night, or darkness in general: Erebos (the darkness), Nyx (the night), Chaos (the origin of everything) and Tartaros (the darkest place under the earth). 

Taking a look at Nordic gods, we find Nótt and her horse Hrímfaxi, them too only just mentioned without any particular story associated with them (as far as my research went, at least).

detail of a painting of a horse and female figure with sunset on the background
C. Macchi "Nótt", oil on canvas, 70x90 cm, 2024 (detail)

Both Nótt and her Hellenic counterpart Nyx were described wearing a long dark cape, that would cover the sky as they walked or rode across the earth at dusk, bringing the night behind them. 

In my paintings I did not try to represent each single divinity exactly as the description goes - but I rather let memories and feelings brought on the surface by reading about the characters mix and blend on the canvas.

Following this way, the nordic goddess Nótt found herself wearing a greek looking war helmet and an arm amputation worth of the most famous classical statues from the ancient world. 

The same happens to Chaos: mainly described as "the void", I preferred to use another description, “where everything came from”, making him give birth to life on earth through his head or his heart, like a galaxy in expansion. 

Tartaros was one of my favourites to develop: both described as a divinity and physical place on earth, these two descriptions eventually merged with one another, creating a character with elements of depths and void and, it too, not fully formed. 

The fact that they are not fully formed is a common trait between all of them, stemming from the fact that they are primordial gods, in the best of cases generating themselves, so none of their shapes or proportions are too defined nor they need to be.

Night landscape with roofs and trees and the starry sky as seen from out of a window
Night view from my family house in Tuscany, November 2024

After many months working on this, however, I felt the need to bring back the atmosphere in a more familiar environment and to explore something a little different. This feeling first came to mind while trying to capture the visual meaning of the phrase a window on the night.

This thought comes from my personal fascination of watching the night landscape from any of my parents house's windows, a place that feels as safe as it can be, and where a lot of the ideas that I am still developing today were born, precisely while admiring the calm darkness before me.

Drawn in the fabric of the night is a small installation of wood and fabric placed next to some of the paintings: it was made to resemble the night sky (or landscape) as if we were looking out of a window. The type of fabric used wanted to portray both the atmosphere of the night with its calming deep blue colour, as well as the sense of wellbeing felt when drifting off to sleep.

Blue fabric folded with a blue frame around it.
C. Macchi, "Seascape" from the installation "Drawn in the fabric of the night"

Nóttin Lýst - The Night Enlightened is the last of five exhibitions in which I took part in Iceland in the past two years, and for all of which I am extremely grateful.

Going forward I will focus more on creating rather than exhibiting, perhaps finding the time to closely look into all the projects that have been sitting at the studio incomplete for the past few years.

Hopefully it won't take me another six years to be ready for the next show.

Clizia Macchi

Nóttin Lýst - The Night Enlightened 

31st May - 21st June 2024

Gallerí Grótta - Eiðistorg, 170 Reykjavík

open Monday to Thursday from 10 am to 6:30 pm, and on Fridays from 10am to 5pm

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