Night is falling and the slow dissolve of substance merges into an inexorable darkness. The tint of the moon's glow sharpens the dusky hues against the starry citadels. It is a time to let go, for the mind to slacken and the body to fall into a peaceful rest. But for those who stay immersed in the dark dead hours, when the thin layer of lucid wakefulness blisters and cracks, the night journeys can begin. The imagination is unleashed, giving way - fantastical stories and myths blossom, nightmarish visions fill the eyes, and a space emerges where waking dreams and irrational senses can be nursed and nourished.
'One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.' Carl Jung understood how the dark or dimming light can ignite the senses. And nocturnal thoughts can create a labyrinth of twisting, conflicting emotions of fear, solitude, awe, loss, longing, horror, grief, desire, ecstasy. Benign thoughts can turn to hallucinatory navigations, mixing the real and unreal.
In After Dark there are no soft, lyrical Whistlerian nocturnes, no gentle meditative visions of the darkened sky. Instead there are alluring tree forms that merge with human bodies, there are empty landscapes imbued with beautiful solace, there are macabre skulls and skeletons that come to life and strange creatures that rise from the mists and vapours.
These spectral stories are deeply entwined with their artistic forebears who all shared the desire to reveal their inner workings, from the wonders of William Blake's esoteric Godly imaginings, to Goya's mental demons roused by witnessing the horrors of war, to Munch's night terrors fed by his years of spiritualistic exploration. So, darken your room, shut the door, open the window and let the blackness in. You will be in good company.
- Simon Grant
Featured WriterSimon Grant is a London-based curator, writer, co-editor of Picpus magazine and former editor of Tate Etc. magazine. His most recent exhibition is Not Without My Ghosts: The Artist as Medium which is currently touring to UK venues. Previous shows include Paul Nash. Sunflower Rises at the Fondation Vincent van Gogh Arles (2018) and Georgiana Houghton: Spirit Drawings at the Courtauld Gallery, London (2016).