Antiphon

Clare Carswell

Debate is surely redundant in front of this, the necessity of painting emphatic and luminous. In the works of Nikola Irmer the painter’s art is revealed as alive and burning as the beacon of enquiry it can be. Surely there needs be an inquiry now into the how and why of these stiff limbs and beaks, the charnel cases, the bleached head count, so long it can’t now be counted? They have stood witness all this time and now we are witnesses too, can be jury if we wish, may need to be if the destruction is not to continue.

The wept clean sockets and skulls have bided their time for this moment, could not have been more patient. They may be timely and bony transmitters from the past that now can signal to us that we must pause and take stock, question the cult of the cull and ask whether the journey from science to poetry justified their incarceration.

It was happenstance that began it this time, a chance find, the bag at the end of a day’s speculative hunt. It’s what artists do, trawl, alert and watchful, until if lucky a hunch is vindicated. It was unexpected and not especially welcomed, she saw the scale of the task ahead and was still courageous enough to take the challenge. When the work directs so strongly there is the possibility of denial of course. The requirements of market or the reassurance of repetition may close the ears or turn the blind eye. But that is a gamble, the moment may not be revisited at will, and spurned, the muse can depart leaving the virtuosic decline of certainty. In this case, three years later there is instead humanity and reverence and a gathering momentum.

She sees and paints the spark and light is cast in dark places. There is a sense of new life being wrought, beseeched. The anonymous skill and hope of the taxidermist has been rewarded and together they have brought about the renaissance. Finally it is in the service of art and not science that they are recast. In our gaze we share her scrutiny, her vision, her time spent viewing and reviewing. It is a newer lens than could have been imagined when they were selected and placed unceremoniously in cabinets to peer blind for a century. At what point did they become superfluous? Why are there so many when so few would have done as well?

It is in the looking, the eye of the beholder, theirs and ours, that the salvaging can occur. The reprise is in the insistence of good painting and the pinning of us by those unseeing eyes from the canvas. The Byzantines knew of it, da Vinci too. We are helpless in front of it, as they were. It is reward for the time spent, the risks taken, the love given, reflected homage. 

The artist can do so much, the rest is for us to do.

Clare Carswell- after first seeing these paintings in Nikola Irmer’s studio in Berlin, 19 August 2011.

Copyright Clare Carswell 2011