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RONAN DAY-LEWIS : And Then The Moonlight Showed It To Me, 2020




RONAN DAY-LEWIS And Then The Moonlight Showed It To Me, 2020 Oil pastel on fabric over panel 6 x 6 inches Exhibited in WELCOME May 29 - June 27, 2021 Tomato Mouse, Brooklyn RONAN DAY-LEWIS 04/15/20 The biblical story of the fall naturally developed into an armature for this body of work because to me, this old universal narrative is also one that is intensely personal. One interpretation of it is that the fallen angel revolted against God because he wanted to love from a distance, on his own terms. It is a story of separation, one that I think we all experience; the pain and exhilaration as we attain the once forbidden fruits of adulthood and spiral away from childhood, a cloistered state of unity and powerlessness in which many of us were inseparable from our parents and families. There is a reason, I think, that the images of the snake, the apple, and the garden are so potent and ubiquitous in our collective consciousness. In this moment of my life, I sometimes feel that the story of the fall is the only one I can tell. Yet even though I’ve left my personal Eden, my work functions as a way for me to return to it as a voyeur, a spectator-- and ultimately to realize its artificiality. It lets me walk through the garden and look at the snake in the grass not with fear, but with curiosity, even empathy. The softness of these fabric creatures invites the viewer to touch them lovingly like beanie toys, while their forms carry a poised menace as symbols of temptation and lurking danger. They twist and plunge in and out of the grass which permeates the floorboards as if playing hide and seek, the intent of their movements suspended somewhere between play and invasion. In parallel to their meaning as biblical symbols, they also act as vessels of my personal memories of childhood wonder -- I was transfixed by snakes as a kid and would seek them out and draw them joyously. Each of the objects populating my installation are enclosed in a fabric that suggests a domestic interior -- one that could have been derived from a couch, another from a pair of curtains, another from a child’s pajamas. These textiles which are stretched taut around the panels then metamorphose into the skin of the snakes, forming a sort of cosmic membrane that wraps around, clothes, and lovingly contains. Finally, this membrane expands out from the central triptych until it embraces all of these seemingly disparate elements, gathering them into a new, imperfect unity. I think of this unity through color and form as a hopeful gesture; a way of suggesting that we may all be fallen, but we are united in our fall. I like to think of colors as narrative threads to be woven through the entire body of work, spilling out of one painting and into the next in a kind of osmosis of feeling. There’s even joy in the fall. The angel hovers pre-fall on the left panel of the central triptych in a serene stasis, and then is depicted fallen on the right panel; dark blood wells up and trickles down his back from deep gouges in his jutting shoulder blades where his wings were torn out. He has woken to find himself expelled from the luminous green pastoral setting which once contained him, and now hunches shivering in the same landscape transformed by the coming of night. He stares achingly at an x-ray of his childhood home, a brilliant orange snake revealed in the attic by a piercing ray of moonlight. The story told by the work is set on a stage, a sort of constructed domestic room which, when you enter it, gives the dreamlike sensation that you have shrunk and stepped inside a doll house; or that a doll house has grown awkwardly big so that you might look inside it. The seams of the illusion are plainly visible, where the white walls of the half-room come to an end and the eye can move past this threshold to the dark wood of the shed in which the set is constructed. The blatant make-believe of the space is informed by the falsity of the story it contains; there never was an Eden, and the snakes are filled with beans.

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painting | oil pastel | fabric


6.00 x 6.00 x 1.50 in | 15.24 x 15.24 x 3.81 cm

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Tomato Mouse

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Tomato Mouse

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