Nigel Swift | Genesis

8 September - 11 October 2020

How do you depict the beginning of the universe? How does an artist portray a time before art? The book of Genesis is perhaps most commonly rendered with imagery of Adam and Eve: in seminal works such as Masaccio’s frescoes and Dürer’s paintings, the first couple is shown either howling about their demise or paired under a tree, their nakedness gingerly covered by foliage. But these new monotypes, pastels, and paintings by Nigel Swift are inspired by something even earlier: the days before the advent of the first man and woman. With this exhibition, Nigel has taken a more cerebral, abstracted approach to this question of illustrating ‘The Beginning’.


In these works, Nigel looks to the initial five days of creation. First, the earth went from being ‘formless and empty’, with darkness ‘over the surface of the deep’, to then containing the ‘vault between the waters’ (the sky), and the ‘lights in the vault of the sky’ (the sun and the moon). These are the immortal beings on which Nigel focuses – in addition to, occasionally, the vegetation created on the third day and the birds created on the fifth. As was the case with the collections that Nigel has previously presented at Eames Fine Art, these landscapes are all imagined. But in this show, Nigel’s diverse group of atmospheric scenes stems from the few words of the endlessly theorised and mythologised first chapter of Genesis. Nigel has found this a liberating theme to work with, since, unlike later Biblical scenes of Adam and Eve, “there are no visual references to constrain imagination”. It is, instead, “a limitless landscape to explore”.