Simon MacEwan — all that is solid melts into air


Simon MacEwan, Watcher I, 2012, watercolour on paper, 56 x 76cm

Primal fear meets post-industrial anxiety in Simon MacEwan’s exhibition all that is solid melts into air. Drawing inspiration from the void of Kazimir Malevich’s Black Square, MacEwan seeks to reinstate clean dread into the dialogue of contemporary visual arts. Yet, in this exercise, the artist alludes to specific historical events and phenomena, rather than wholly abstracted concepts. The unfathomable capacity of nuclear power is referenced by MacEwan in his exquisite painting of the molten mixture of materials left behind after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.

As this exhibition illustrates, specificity and intricate detail are amongst MacEwan’s calling cards, revealing his refined skills as both an analytical artist and a gifted craftsman. Meticulously rendered owls survey the viewer, their blank golden eyes resisting the viewer’s returned gaze. A map of the moon’s hidden face charts a land we will never see. A strange beguiling crystal grows under the ruined Chernobyl reactor. Exploring the way in which the uncanny intersects with the uncertainty of late-capitalism, these paintings and sculptures suggest that while we no longer believe in monsters, we may still be afraid of the dark.