Barnard is pleased to present a solo exhibition in the form of a nine-panel painting installation entitled Nemora, by emerging South African painter Jaco van Schalkwyk, known for his painterly prowess and carefully curated projects.
Since the conception of his 2015 solo exhibition Eden and followed by Arcadia at the 2016 Joburg Art Fair, Johannesburg, Van Schalkwyk has been concerned with the idea of the exotic and the symbolism of forests and islands. Exploring beyond the surface of these places, the artist challenges our idea of ‘Utopia’ or ‘Paradise’ and questions the western notion that paradise is found in the beauty of exotic landscapes and / or ‘the other’. In Nemora, the monochromatic panels in their cinematic format depict a winter landscape of dead trees in the higher Mt. Brocken Forest of the Harz, Germany where acid rain in the form of snow and fog caused trees to perish in the 1980’s as a result of excessive industrial activities in the area.
Reminiscent of Romantic landscape painting, Van Schalkwyk’s works use metaphor and symbolism to ascribe moral significance to the growth and decomposition of natural objects. Nemora could be read as a direct reference to Caspar David Friedrich’s The Abbey in the Oakwood (1809 – 10). Van Schalkwyk pays homage to the iconography of this master of landscape painting while simultaneously transcending the ideals of Romanticism. The resulting contemporary vistas speak of man’s abuse of the natural world and the threat of climate change. Where romanticism celebrated the idea of nature as both refuge and dream, Van Schalkwyk reveals that this very nature is being neglected and abused – it is no longer a haven or a ‘Garden of Eden’.