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Aurora | Nicholas Jones

Nicholas Jones

CRANE KALMAN GALLERY LTD

Aurora


Aurora Nicholas Jones 2 March – 13 April 2017

CRANE KALMAN GALLERY LTD 178 Brompton Road London SW3 1HQ Tel: 020 7584 7566 www.cranekalman.com 1


Painting the Aurora Landscape, abstraction, colour and light have long been the dominant themes of my painting. Inspired by the countryside around our Somerset home, by visits to the Lake District and Scotland and dreams of places further afield, I have sought to evoke the world of nature, of hills, mountains, water, skies, trees, and above all, light. Over time these ‘abstracted landscapes’ slowly became more simplified - increasingly pure celebrations of colour and light, and as they did so I found myself being drawn to the empty landscapes of the North and to the Arctic. The strange and mesmerizing phenomenon of the Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights crept into my consciousness and dreams.i In the aurora these four main themes of my work seemed to come together in an irresistible way. And

Nellim (1) Torassieppi (2)

so in October 2014 I made the first of three trips to Finnish Lapland in the hope of seeing the aurora for myself. Within minutes of our stepping out into the icy arctic air at Ivalo airport a strong auroral display appeared overhead and lasted some hours. I took a number of photographs, but on my return from Finland I found it very hard to relate these digital images to my recollection of the experience. It felt almost as if I had not been fully ‘present’. Although I saw other gentler displays of the aurora before travelling home it felt like I had experienced only the beginning of an introduction.

Aurora Borealis, Inari to Nellim Road (969), Finland, 14 October 2014

I found the landscapes of Northern Finland staggeringly lovely. They felt peculiarly familiar; almost as if they were the place I had been dreaming of and painting for many years: a world of water, trees and sky, silent and empty, bathed in the purest of lights. But nothing could have prepared me for the beauty of the Arctic night. As Fridtjof Nansen, the great polar explorer, wrote: ‘Nothing more wonderfully beautiful can exist than the Arctic night. It is dreamland, painted in the imagination’s most delicate Nellim

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tints: it is colour etherealized. One shade melts into the other, so that you cannot tell where one ends and the other begins, and yet they are all there. No forms – it is all faint, dreamy colour music, a far-away, longdrawn-out melody on muted strings.’ ii After five months experimenting in the studio with ways of evoking the Torassieppi

aurora on canvas, but with only limited success, I returned to Finland. The polar night was over but the snow still lay deep on the ground. The aurora danced gracefully overhead each night. As I stood beneath a beautiful auroral corona one night I recalled a description that I had read in the National Geographic that now seemed beautifully apt, that it was ‘like looking up into the heart of a flower of glorious light whose petals rippled in a breeze that could not be felt—a breath from beyond this planet.’ iii Writing of seeing the aurora in the Antarctic, Captain Robert Scott wrote: ‘It is impossible to witness such a beautiful phenomenon without a sense of

Aurora, Lake Inari, Finland, 25 March 2015

awe and yet this sentiment is not inspired by its brilliancy but rather by its delicacy in light and colour, its transparency, and above all by its tremulous evanescence of form. There is no glittering splendour to dazzle the eye, as has been too often described; rather the appeal is to the imagination by the suggestion of something wholly spiritual…’ iv It is extraordinarily difficult to describe adequately the experience of seeing the aurora in words. Barry Lopez notes that ‘it is unusual in the literature of exploration to find a strictly consistent reaction, but virtually everyone who wrote down his thoughts about the aurora described, first, the inadequacy of his language and, second, a pervasive and stilling spiritual presence.’ v It also seems that there are remarkably few paintings that convincingly capture the otherworldly beauty of the aurora. The recent development of the digital camera has led to a proliferation of photographs of the aurora.

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The camera, however, tends not capture the aurora as seen by the naked eye. DSLR cameras are much more sensitive to colour at low light levels and so photographs of the aurora often seem rather technicolour in comparison with the exquisitely delicate colours seen by the human eye. The long exposure times necessary mean that the fine detail in the aurora often gets blurred. Time-lapse videos are typically 50-250 times faster than in real life and lose the subtlety and solemnity of the aurora’s movement. Learning to make sense of what my camera recorded in

Aurora, Lake Inari, Finland, 25 March 2015

relation to what my eyes saw has helped me to interpret other photographs of the aurora, and to use them to gain a fuller understanding of the kind of forms and colours it can take. Seeing the aurora is a remarkable experience which has a profound effect on the viewer. As Barry Lopez again notes, ‘the most remarkable effect [auroras] seem to have is to draw a viewer emotionally up and out of himself, because they throw the sky into a third dimension, on such a vast scale, in such a beautiful way, that they make the emotion of self-pity impossible.’ vi The challenges for a painter trying to evoke the aurora are manifold: not only are its otherworldly qualities of light and colour to be captured, but also its slow, graceful, solemn movements, its exquisitely tremulous delicacy of form and the sheer vastness of its scale. It is a challenge that has captivated me and it is my hope that these paintings will convey something of the aurora’s mesmerizing beauty and the quiet awe that is felt by those who are privileged to witness it. Nicholas Jones January 2017

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‘I was very excited to make acquaintance with the polar lights, which I believed should be painted in pastel shades. However, after having seen the first aurora, I realized that it had to be oil paints that would best reproduce these fantastic phenomena. That I, having been brave enough to undertake the reproduction of these apparently unreal visions, was on my knees, spiritually speaking, the first time I saw them, was nothing to be ashamed of; nor that my first attempts to paint them were merely confused daubs, which the scientists (and myself first of all) rejected as completely useless. Only little by little did I learn to reproduce these hovering, dancing revelations; only little by little did I realize that in all the arbitrariness, there were still laws to be obeyed even by these wild, intemperate phenomena.’ vii Harald Moltke Harald Moltke was a Danish artist who joined two expeditions to Iceland and Finland between 1898 -1901 to make paintings of the aurora for the Danish Meteorological Institute.

Aurora and Silver Birch, 2016 Oil on canvas 91.4 x 91.4 cm

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Water


Aurora and Shoreline, Lake Inari, Finland, 2016 Oil on canvas 152.7 x 183.3 cm

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Aurora, Autumn Twilight, 2015-16 Oil on canvas 137.4 x 137.4 cm

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Aurora and Shoreline, Paatsjoki Bridge, Finland, 2016 Oil on canvas 50.8 x 61.2 cm

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Red Aurora and Fire, Paatsjoki Bridge, Finland, 2016 Oil on canvas 763 x 915 x 25 cm

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Aurora and Stars, Nellim - Midnight, 2016 Oil on canvas 51.0 x 61.1 cm

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Aurora Reflected, Nellim, Finland, 2016 Oil on canvas 183.4 x 152.9 cm

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Aurora Reflected, Mountain Water, 2016 Oil on canvas 30.8 x 38.2 cm

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Aurora Reflected, Ice and Water, 2016 Oil on canvas 152.9 x 183.4 cm

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Double Aurora, Paatsjoki Bridge, Finland, 2016 Oil on canvas 106.8 x 132.1 cm

'Later in the evening Hansen came down to give notice of what really was a remarkable appearance of aurora borealis. The deck was brightly illuminated by it, and reflections of its light played all over the ice. The whole sky was ablaze with it, but it was brightest in the south; high up in that direction glowed waving masses of fire. Later still Hansen came again to say that now it was quite extraordinary. No words can depict the glory that met our eyes. The glowing fire-masses had divided into glistening, many coloured bands, which were writhing and twisting across the sky both in the south and north. The rays sparkled with the purest, most crystalline rainbow colours, chiefly violet-red or carmine and the clearest green. Most frequently the rays of the arch were red at the ends, and changed higher up into sparkling green, which quite at the top turned darker and went over into blue or violet before disappearing in the blue of the sky; or the rays in one and the same arch might change from clear red to clear green, coming and going as if driven by a storm. It was an endless phantasmagoria of sparking colour surpassing anything that one can dream.' viii Fridtjof Nansen, ‘Farthest North', 1897 21


Aurora and Crescent Moon, Paatsjoki Shoreline, Finland, 2016 Oil on canvas 30.7 x 38.2 cm

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Auroral Arch, Paatsjoki Bridge, Finland, 2015-16 Oil on canvas 76.4 x 91.5 cm

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Ice


Aurora Reflected, Thin Ice, 2015-16 Oil on canvas 152.9 x 183.4 cm

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Aurora Borealis in the North, 2015-16 Oil on canvas 106.7 x 130.2 cm

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Aurora Over Ice Fields, 2014-15 Oil on canvas 51 x 61.2 cm Private collection

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Faint Aurora, Midnight, 2015-16 Oil on canvas 51.2 x 61.2 cm

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Aurora Reflected, Mist, 2015-16 Oil on canvas 30.6 x 38.3 cm

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Aurora and Cloud, Lake Inari, Finland, 2016 Oil on canvas 91.5 x 91.3 cm

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Auroral Storm, Lake Inari, Finland, 2016 Oil on canvas 61 x 76.3 cm

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Aurora and Forest, Nellim, Finland, 2016 Oil on canvas 50.8 x 61.1 cm

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Auroral Veil - Thin Ice, Lake Inari, Finland, 2015-16 Oil on canvas 61.2 x 76.7 cm

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Snow


Aurora Borealis, Torassieppi, Finland, 2016 Oil on canvas 137.4 x 168.2 cm

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Auroral Arch and Moon, Torassieppi, Finland, 2016 Oil on canvas 30.7 x 38.3 cm

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Aurora Above Trees, 2015-16 Oil on canvas 30.7 x 38.3 cm Private collection

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Auroral Arc and Moon, Nellim, Finland, 2016 Oil on canvas 61 x 76.3 cm

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Polar Lights, Lapland, 2016 Oil on canvas 915 x 914 x 23 cm

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Aurora and Moon, Torassieppi, Finland, 2016 Oil on canvas 50.9 x 61.3 cm

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Auroral Storm and Crescent Moon, 2016 Oil on canvas 50.8 x 61.2 cm

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‘The sky is like an enormous cupola, blue at the zenith, shading down into green, and then into lilac and violet at the edges. Over the ice-fields there are cold violet-blue shadows, with lighter pink tints where a ridge here and there catches the last reflection of the vanished day. Up in the blue of the cupola shine the stars, speaking peace, as they always do, those unchanging friends. In the south stands a large red-yellow moon, encircled by a yellow ring and light golden clouds floating on the blue background. Presently the aurora borealis shakes over the vault of heaven its veil of glittering silver – changing now to yellow, now to green, now to red. It spreads, it contracts again, in restless change; next it breaks into waving, many-folded bands of shining silver, over which shoot billows of glittering rays, and then the glory vanishes. Presently it shimmers in tongues of flame over the very zenith, and then again it shoots a bright ray right up from the horizon, until the whole melts away in the moonlight, and it is as though one heard the sigh of a departing spirit. And all the time this utter, stillness, impressive as the symphony of infinitude.' ix Fridtjof Nansen, ‘Farthest North', 1897

Twilight Aurora, Lake Inari, Finland, 2015-16 Oil on canvas 91.6 x 76.4 cm

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Auroral Arch, Torassieppi, Finland, 2016 Oil on canvas 61.1 x 76.4 cm

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A Sudden Brightening, 2015 Oil on Canvas 137.4 x 137.4 cm Private collection

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White Aurora, Nellim, Finland, 2016 Oil on canvas 61 x 76.3 cm

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Northern Lights over Nellim, Finland, 2016 Oil on canvas 61 x 76.7 cm

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Aurora, Lake Inari, Finland, 2015-16 Oil on board 22.9 x 22.9 cm

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Aurora Borealis, Torassieppi (from the Lake), 2016 Oil on canvas 50.9 x 61.2 cm

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Aurora over Lake Inari, Nellim, Finland, 2016 Oil on canvas 50.8 x 61.1 cm

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Forest


Aurora Borealis Over Higher Ground, 2015-16 Oil on canvas 132.5 x 132.5 cm

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Red and Green Aurora with Full Moon, 2015 Oil on canvas 91.6 x 76.4 cm Private collection

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Aurora and Forest Edge, Nellim, Finland, 2016 Oil on canvas 51.1 x 61.3 cm

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Aurora and Full Moon Over Mountains, 2015-16 Oil on canvas 61 x 76.4 cm

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Luminous Aurora, Forest Edge, 2015-16 Oil on canvas 30.4 x 38.2 cm

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Auroral Crown, 2016 Oil on canvas diameter 121.8 cm

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Aurora and Moonlit Clouds, 2016 Oil on canvas 91.5 x 91.5 cm

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Aurora and Stars, Zenith, 2016 Oil on canvas 91.4 x 91.4 cm

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Aurora and Silver Birch, 2016 Oil on canvas on board 22.9 x 22.9 cm

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Silver Aurora and Yellow Moon, 2015-16 Oil on canvas 38.1 x 30.6 cm

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Wilderness Aurora with Cloud, 2016 Oil on canvas 76.4 x 91.4 cm

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Aurora and Silver Birch, 2016 Oil on canvas 91.4 x 91.4 cm

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Pink Aurora and Dead Spruce Trees, 2016 Oil on canvas 30.6 x 30.6 cm

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Dreams


Dream: Arctic Lights, 2015 Oil on canvas 30.5 x 38.3 cm

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Dream: Aurora Among Stars, 2014-15 Oil on canvas 61.2 x 76.2 cm

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Dream: Aurora at Dusk and Dawn, 2015-16 Oil on canvas 137.5 x 168 cm

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Dream: Aurora Reflected and Mountains, 2016-16 Oil on canvas on board 22.9 x 22.9 cm

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Dream: Aurora Reflected, Still Water, 2015-16 Oil on canvas 61 x 76.3 cm

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Dream: Auroral Corona, 2016 Oil on canvas 91.7 x 153 cm

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Dream: Floating Out Into Infinity, 2015 Oil on card on board 17.6 x 21.3 cm

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Dream: Aurora and Arctic Ocean, 2015 Oil & polyflake on canvas on board 22.9 x 46.3 cm

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Dream: Auroral Corona, 2016 Oil on canvas, 91.7 x 153 cm


Shooting Star, Dusk, Autumn, 2015-16 Oil on canvas 50.8 x 61.2 cm

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Biography 1965

Born Bristol

1997

Gordon Hepworth Fine Art, Exeter

1972-83

Clifton College, Bristol

1998

1983-87

Trained Bristol Polytechnic, BA (Hons) Fine Art.

‘Nicholas Jones & Janet Watson’ Crane Kalman Gallery, London

1987-89

Worked in stained-glass

1999

Six Chapel Row, Bath

1990

Started painting career

1999

Nature in Art, Wallsworth Hall, Gloucester

2014

First visit to Nellim, Finnish Lapland (October)

1999

20th Century British Art Fair, RCA, London

2015

Second visit to Nellim (March)

1999

2016

First visit to Torassieppi, Finnish Lapland, (March)

‘Silence in Painting’, Crane Kalman Gallery, London

2000

Napier Gallery, Jersey

2000

Art First, 9 Cork Street, London

Solo Exhibitions:

2001

Art 2001, Business Design Centre, London

1991

Unit 6, Temple Meads Industrial Estate, Bristol

2001

ARCO, Madrid

1992

Coopers Gallery, Bristol

2001

Glynebourne

2000

Crane Kalman Gallery, London

2001

The Discerning Eye, The Mall Galleries, London

2002

Crane Kalman Gallery, London

2002

Art 2002, Business Design Centre, London

2003

Six Chapel Row, Bath

2003

Art 2003, Business Design Centre, London

2004

‘Travelling Light’, Crane Kalman Gallery, London

2003

2005

‘Travelling Light’, Chelsea Art Gallery, Palo Alto, California, USA

'Against the Trend', Crane Kalman Gallery, London

2003

2006

‘Traces in the Air’, Crane Kalman Gallery, London

20/21 British Art Fair, Commomwealth Institute, London

2008

‘Grace Notes’, Crane Kalman Gallery, London

2003

Art Basel-Miami, South Beach, Florida

2014

‘Light’, Crane Kalman Gallery, London

2003

Riverview Art Gallery, Enniskillen, Northern Ireland.

2004

Art 2004, Business Design Centre, London

2004

‘British Landscape Painting in the Twentieth Century’, Crane Kalman Gallery, London

Group Exhibitions: 1984

The Studio Gallery, Bristol

1987

The Knapp Gallery, London

2005

Art 2005, Business Design Centre, London

1988

Pelter/Sands, Bristol

2006

Art 2006, Business Design Centre, London

1988

Royal West of England Academy, Bristol

2011

1990

Brewhouse Open, Taunton

‘Paintings by Nicholas Jones with sculptures by Tom Stogdon’, Crane Kalman Gallery, London

1991

Praxis Gallery, Bristol

2011

1991

St George’s Crypt Gallery, Bristol

20/21 British Art Fair, Royal College of Art, London

1991

Midlands Contemporary Art, Birmingham

2012-17

London Art Fair, Islington, London

1992

Plymouth Arts Centre

1994

London Contemporary Art Fair

Prizes:

1994

Manchester Contemporary Art Fair

1990

1994-95

Contemporary Art Society, Royal Festival Hall, London

1996

‘Young Blood’ Crane Kalman Gallery, London

Corporate & Museum Collections:

1996

Schoolhouse Gallery, Bath

Brown Brothers Harriman Ltd, London EC2

1996

Contemporary Art Society, Royal Festival Hall, London

Lloyds TSB Group Plc, London EC3

1997

Schoolhouse Gallery, Bath

South West Arts Fine Art Project Award

Nature in Art, Wallsworth Hall, Gloucester

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Nicholas Jones standing on a frozen Lake Inari under the aurora, 25 March 2015.

Endnotes I first became aware of the aurora through seeing time lapse footage in the BBC’s ‘Frozen Planet’ series.

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ii

Fridtjof Nansen, Furthest North’, 1898

iii

National Geographic, November 2001

iv

R.F.Scott, ‘The Last Expedition’, Vintage 2012

v

Barry Lopez, ‘Arctic Dreams’, Vintage 2001

vi

Barry Lopez, ‘Arctic Dreams’, Vintage 2001

vii

Harald Moltke, ‘Livsrejsen’, 19368

viii

Fridtjof Nansen, Furthest North’, 1898

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Fridtjof Nansen, Furthest North’, 1898

Photographic credits All artwork (other than page 49) photographed by Alan Russell, Zed Photography, Bristol.

CRANE KALMAN GALLERY LTD 178 Brompton Road London SW3 1HQ Tel: 020 7584 7566 www.cranekalman.com 92

Nicholas Jones, Aurora Exhibition  
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