Daniel Oxley – Dark Wood
Excerpt from catalogue, by Cameron Skene
“If you’re going through hell, keep going” – Winston Churchill[…]
The state of spiritual suspension is reinforced by Oxley’s recent work: vessels hung from the top of the picture plane, combined with a surface reassembled from disparate painterly strategies, marks, textures and forms. Caves and outcroppings, for instance, become a formal device as well as supporting metaphors for this place of pause. The overall interiority of the painter’s landscapes is suggestive of the formally abrupt and alien settings of renaissance painters like Mantegna.
Psychomachia (2014-15) is a large-scale work on canvas, which in title references an allegorical poem from the Latin poet Prudentius, one that pits vice versus virtue. Centrally located is a grotto, traditionally a place of contemplation and transformation. Assembling themselves in the picture plane are the building blocks of an acquired personal iconography in a scramble of disjointed moments of painterly reference: solid blocks of disparate form that magnetically cling to one another; a small peripheral seascape is placed to the right, fleetingly nestled as a possible psychic escape from the goings-on of the anguished assemblage of self. A miserably judgmental but compellingly scumbled sun hovers above.
In one recent large-scale oil on canvas, Broken Ground (2015-16), (along with a companion paper work, Vagabond Cave ), is a compositional reworking of Goya’s Vagabonds Resting in a Cave (1800), where an isolated group of people seeking refuge are nestled in a cave overlooking the sea. Simply denoted in paint and pared down to an abrupt compositional contrast of light and dark, The sea appears as a horizontal crack in existence – the only way out, as well as someplace to seek refuge from. The idea of this nether-state of spiritual transition is pared down to paint. For Oxley, painting is a state of anguish, transition and judgment. The act of painting, like all states of spiritual flux, is an urgent matter of getting through this one to