Display Cases in the Great Hall: Exhibition Archive
THE LETTER, THE DECREE, AND THE SHIPS
29 March to 15 May 2016
Paintings and Drawings by David Fertig
Painting with a delicate yet fierce imagination, David Fertig explores the real and imagined events of the Napoleonic Wars, placing intimate moments from history into the forefront of our view. His paintings tell the unfolding story of lovers who part, one for battle, one for expectant hope, as a war begins, rages and continues toward the inevitable.
Fertig’s paintings bridge worlds of representation and abstraction, recalling the philosophy of Nicolas de Staël’s “entre deux.” Misty scenes are viewed through a clouded lens, and figures blur as if emerging from memory after reading a loosely held letter. A sheaf of pages from a decree, and petals from an overblown rose fall onto the table. The gesture of a hand is fraught with emotion, delicately captured in grey and pink and a still life is animated by words suggesting a rousing declaration of War. Steamy clouds, waves, and splashes of salt water hit the prow of a ship, giving viewers a synesthetic experience of the ocean, the creaking masts, and dried salt on the decks. Fertig’s work also depicts shadowy ruins and still burning hulls full of smoke and white-hot flames. Pastels and drawings capture fleeting moments on the beach: duels, beached dories, schooners listing at anchor. Continuing a narrative of shipwreck, four figures wade toward us from the water onto the beach. Fertig’s evocative ambiguity allows viewers to wonder whether they are emerging from the sea, four dismounted horsemen, or simply the crew, miraculously surviving the evening’s disaster.
Fertig came of age in the 1960s, and was influenced by New York school abstract expressionists, and by the figurative movement within post-war painting. Debt to the painter Nicolas de Staël can be seen in his Ship of the Line: Minotaur (reproduced here on the verso) which features short brushstrokes like those visible in de Staël’s La Ciotat, or Le Lavandou. Fertig’s representational paintings recall the influence of his mentor, New York painter Robert Kulicke, or painter and printmaker Robert Andrew Parker.
CASE ONE: The Letter, Decree, Ruins of the Abbey and other oil paintings on canvas.
CASE TWO: Ships, Duels, and Battles. Painting, pastels, drawings on various supports.
All Paintings Courtesy of the Artist and Paul Thiebaud Gallery, San Francisco
Curated by Lisa A. Banner
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