David Ligare: New Paintings
April 12th - May 12th 2012
Artist’s Statement

It has been said that the Roman poet Virgil invented the evening because he used it to such lasting effect in his pastoral poems, The Eclogues. This threshold between day and night is often referred to as “the golden hour.” I love the radical beauty of this late afternoon light with its attendant shadows because, despite its brightness, there is a melancholic edge to it, a reminder of mortality. Always low and at a right angle to the viewer, my positioning of sunlight maximizes form and presents the subject as half-light, half shadow. This balance of opposites, for me, is the essence of Greco-Roman Classicism.

When I first began working with the altar-like space that I have used now for twenty-five years, I wanted to create paintings that function as essays on wholeness in which all questions about the sources of light, its reflections, and the exact time of day are answered. Objects in this light are intensely beautiful. I make no apologies for that. In The Laws, Plato argues for a nobility of depiction. For me this involves deeply respecting the integrity of the thing seen and the integration and interactions of all of the elements of the picture.

Recently I have been interested in a subject that has been wholly overlooked by modern scholars and historians: aparchai and primitiae. These Greek and Roman “first-fruit” offerings of vegetables, fruit, wheat, and other items were placed on shrines as gifts of thanks to the gods for successful harvests, hunts, and other undertakings. After the rites were performed, these gifts were sometimes consumed by birds or animals. Painted examples of such scenes have been found in Pompeii and Herculaneum, prompting me to depict birds in some of my new works and thus linking them more closely to antiquity.

For most of my life I have lived within view of the ocean, so it feels natural to use this setting for my still lifes. Whether as background or foreground, there is a timelessness and universality about the sea. For this exhibition, and by way of contrast, I have chosen to augment the still lifes with larger and more sweeping seascapes.

Representation such as mine seeks to connect the viewer not just to the beauty and meaning of the objects and atmospheres depicted but to the idea of fidelity itself. The use of history, like the sea, connects us to all of the continents of thought and shores of expectation.