The Night Garden
A photography exhibition by David Williams

‘What happens in the night garden? When society’s reach retreats from the shadows and the cultivators have retired to their beds, does not something beautiful transpire under the guise of darkness? Are there not rare flowers that open their petals to the light of the moon?’

The photographic work of David Williams has long engaged with the paradoxical movements of a sensuality relegated to the shadows. Here is splendour that incites and disturbs: a difficult beauty which is there but not-quite seen, not quite felt, not yet. Whether a series of black and white portraits of male friends (Hesitation, Part 1) or the lush colour-saturated images of Mill Garden or Sunflower, Williams’ work calls forth the anxieties that accompany the attractions of the unseen, the forbidden or the fearsome. The friends in Hesitation are always as if in mid-flight, their beauty captured briefly before they leave the frame. Similarly, the series Sunflowers and Mill Garden evoke the arbitrary distinctions of ‘nature, ‘the natural’ and the social; the colours bleed, the images blur, the thin lines barely holding a wild cultivation.

The Night Garden represents a departure from Williams’ previous work on gardens. These flowers are sharp-edged in their distinction - standing out against the midnight black - and their blooms radiate depth and colour. Evocative of the chiaroscuro found in Jan Vermeer’s paintings (1632 – 1675), these photographs become luminescent, as light plays off the darkness to add volume and depth.

Vermeer lived during a time when the night was considered a separate country: a place and time of ghosts, fairies, the indigent and the repressed. The evening’s lack of illumination afforded liberty for the nocturnal pursuits of these beings. Yet as indicated by Williams' work, while rationality and artificial light may now banish darkness, the gardens of the night bloom and tryst amongst us still.

Elisabeth Seaton


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