Nailya Alexander Gallery is pleased to present Tree of Life, on view online Monday 29 June — Friday 31 July 2020. This group exhibition includes work by Denis Brihat (b. 1928, Paris), Albarrán Cabrera (b. 1969, Spain), Ingar Krauss (b. 1965, East Berlin), Sumner Wells Hatch (b. 1984, New Hampshire), Nicholas Hughes (b. 1963, Liverpool), Ann Rhoney (b. 1953, Niagara Falls), Pentti Sammallahti (b. 1950, Helsinki), George Tice (b. 1938, Newark), and Alexey Titarenko (b. 1962, St. Petersburg). The exhibition also includes a new artist that we are excited to welcome to our gallery, Lucretia Moroni (b. 1960, Milan).
There are few symbols as pervasive across different religions, philosophies, and mythologies as the tree. For thousands of years, all around the world, trees have been seen as the embodiment of holiness, knowledge, and interconnectedness; above all, they have been seen as symbols of life, growth, and rebirth. In the ancient Celtic tradition, trees were understood to be both gateways to the spiritual world and forces of harmony in the natural world, with the branches and roots often depicted as interlacing to represent the cycle of life. The many worlds of Norse mythology are connected by a massive tree that is the very center of the cosmos; and in the pagan traditions of central Europe, trees were even holier than temples, and were the sites of sacred cult practices and rituals. In Islam, the tree is not only a spiritual concept but also an architectural motif, with trees appearing as a pattern on the walls of mosques as a representation of the potential for spiritual growth through prayer; while in Judiasm, the tree of life is often used as a metaphor to describe the Torah itself.
Our exhibition celebrates the timeless symbolism of the tree through the work of ten contemporary artists. Their images illustrate the power of the tree to elevate the human spirit, and to remind us of the rich and renewing nature of life. In some images, such as George Tice’s masterful platinum/platinum print of an oak tree, Denis Brihat’s prints of pine trees and larches, and Nicholas Hughes’ c-print from the series In Darkness Visible, the tree and the surrounding greenery fill the frame, impressing upon the viewer the wealth and power of nature. In Brihat’s image, his unique process of engraving on the surface of the print gives a three-dimensional effect to the branches and needles of the flora.
For both Albarrán Cabrera and Lucretia Moroni, the use of gold evokes its association with divinity, and its historical use in the representation of icons and in religious manuscripts. Albarrán Cabrera’s image from the series The Mouth of Krishna, printed on delicate Japanese gampi paper with a backing of gold leaf, shows a solitary tree, starkly graceful and bright with color against a nondescript wall. Moroni’s palladium prints are printed directly onto palladium leaf and 22-karat gold leaf; the result is a rich, jewel-like work of art with a fine craquelure that is at once earthy and elegant.
Alexey Titarenko frames a solitary tree on a city block in the center of a whirlwind of passers-by and vehicles, elevating an everyday scene to a moment of awe and grace, and crowning its branches with a halo of gold. Sumner Wells Hatch depicts his tree at sunrise, the light shining through heavy fog and throwing its age-old branches into stark relief. Ann Rhoney shows a group of trees, set back at a distance, the low sun throwing their trunks into long shadows across a grassy park; while Ingar Krauss captures a more somber moment in his image of a tree rising above three crooked headstones, its leaves scattered around their graves.
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