Work About Contact Press
Eassy by Amy Hale, written to accompany The Polar Night at Arusha Gallery, Bruton The Polar Night is that period of mid-winter when the arctic regions are bathed in darkness for many weeks at a time. True polar night is only achieved at the poles, when the land sees no sun for months, with sunrise only appearing at the Spring Equinox in the North and spiraling into the height of the sky at midsummer. For most inhabited arctic areas, the days from November to January dwell in a strange twilight; the sun only briefly appears over the horizon, never fully illuminating the land. For most humans, the experience of the polar night is quite rare, only known among arctic populations. However, people from all over the world desire to immerse themselves in the fullness and novelty of inescapable darkness, so winter visitations to the arctic are common. Yet the people for whom the “dark season” is an annual reality, develop ways to survive and thrive, cultivating customs of warmth and light to persevere through the months long night. For many, the day of the Winter Solstice, the height of winter, is the peak of darkness yet it also represents a swift pivot into hope, fueled by the knowledge that as the days grow longer, warmth will return with the greening of the earth. The Solstice is often considered the moment when the dark season starts to give way, however this is where Fiona Finnegan has us start our journey, as we step out into the extended threshold of returning light. Leading to up to the Solstice, as the daylight wains, many turn inward and embrace the shadows, knowing that celebrations will soon herald the return of the sun and the turning of the year. Yet Finnegan asks us to pause even further, to linger and broaden our experience of this moment, to let time move more slowly and not to rush impulsively into the light. The paintings of Polar Night compel us to savor the experience of twilight, to embrace liminality when things look strange and otherworldly, to sit peacefully with the cold and the quiet. In this tightly conceived exhibition, Finnegan invites us into the protracted polar Blue Hour, the time beloved by photographers that normally occurs on a clear evening just as the sun sinks below the horizon. During the polar night this becomes a soft, dusky midday, lasting sometimes for several hours, creating a rich, vibrant blue that brings a lucid intensity to the landscape. The magical, muted cobalts, purples, turquoises and ultramarines of the Polar Night are delicate and gentle, presenting a counterpoint to the extremes of the season which are associated with visions, madness, and isolation. Fiona Finnegan is no stranger to the eerie and ethereal. She hails from the borders of Northern Ireland, in an area dotted with ancient cairns and tombs, where striking, almost menacing, wild goats roam the countryside. Finnegan credits the area with instilling in her an instinct for the peculiar, where the real and the imaginary sit side by side, and dreams and reality have fuzzy boundaries. Finnegan noted that the combination of political tensions with the history of local supernatural legends combined to produce a sense of heightened awareness of the magic in the landscape. Her body of work captures visions that feel illusory, spectral, perhaps something you were not meant to see, or a moment of revelation caught in time. Finnegan was drawn to the theme of the extended midwinter by her love of long nights and her own nocturnal meanderings. She says that cold weather and winter brings out the blues both literally and emotionally, but Finnegan is not afraid of the dark. If anything, she turns away from the light, as most of her work is bathed in shadow, favoring the off kilter, the indirect, the delicious suggestion of a mystery. In the paintings of the Polar Night, the moon is an apparition, and an entity, a gem like spirit providing respite, energy and succor in the darkness. Women’s faces and hands merge with and are superimposed over the land and sky, providing a cosmic, feminine dimension where scales and intentions are unclear and magnetic, hinting at cosmic conjurings. The Living Mountain (2022) suggests a woman in profile, reminiscent of an antique cut paper silhouette or a spirit portrait. The woman emerges from tree covered hills, perhaps shrouded in fog, as the top of her head fades further into light blue mist. Is she just a dreamlike reflection or the animating spirit of the earth? Perhaps both. The Infinite Sadness (2022), shows another silhouette of a woman, a shadow emerging over the landscape, nearly eclipsing the moon which shines like a luminous pearl almost where her eye would be. Although the title implies a deep permeating sadness, the figure looks strangely serene and contemplative as the still water reflects the moonlight. Many of these works operate on two visual scales. On the one hand, the images of women here seem to function in the role of creatrix, merging with the land and shaping the whirlings of the heavens. Dana’s Hands (2022) appear to be working with star stuff as one might with clay. The Saint of Whispers (2022) is the darkest of the pieces dominated by black and greys, showing two hands descending from the sky over the black outline of a house providing a hint of soft, warming lamplight. This piece provides a visual and temporal contrast to the glowing blue pieces illuminated by the full moon, hinting at the dark sky one experiences at the new moon, which is so very powerful in its absence. There is a glowing halo above the house, reminiscent of the aurora borealis, providing a sanctifying presence, with these celestial hands perhaps conjuring protection for those within. Yet, there is still the possibility that the motives of these hands are somewhat sinister. However, Moonblight (2022), the title of which was taken from an old, forgotten book, gives us a key to the personal scale of the works, as the hands in the air cradling the moon are distinctly in reflection, perhaps seen through the glass window of an airplane in the clear night sky, a single beam of light shining through slender fingertips like a gently held wand. When these works are viewed through this lens, we can reframe the silhouettes of women at an intimate scale, reflected through a window or a mirror, and then superimposed upon the landscape, showing the dance between macrocosm and microcosm. Perhaps Finnegan is gently calling us to see in our own reflections our relationship with all things, stars, sky and land. Finnegan has said that when she gazes out into a clear night, she feels her own connection to “the little part of the universe that is attainable”, and she finds it comforting and reliable. She believes that we all come from the stars, and in the clear blue heavens of the depth of winter, when we can pause and reflect, we can see out into other worlds and galaxies, places we have all been before, places to which we may return. A twilight sky filled with cerulean dreams. Amy Hale has a PhD in Folklore and Mythology from UCLA. Her research and writing ranges from contemporary Cornwall to modern Pagan and occult subcultures in United States and the United Kingdom and modern esoteric and occult artists.