On the back wall of Darkness into Light at Millennium Gallery, sits a giant abstract painting by Fiona Rae. The sizeable canvas is awash with dull tones in grey, black and white; splashes of thin pastel colours wind across the work; angles of shapes jut out and collide; forms appear and disappear; it’s chaotic. Rae’s piece sits in the “darkness” half of this exhibition where art is split into two rooms and designated as either evoking light or darkness.
There is something brooding and sinister about Rae’s frantic collage. It looks like a life spiralling out of control, unable to find balance in a row of catastrophes. Why it creates this sensation is a harder question to answer, especially since it isn’t too dissimilar to Gillian Ayres’s stripes and swirls in the “light” half of the show. That is the wonder of this presentation; it demonstrates how art can make us feel, and make us feel very different things. Sometimes, the reason for that feeling appears to be more obvious. In “darkness”, the works depict beasts, bomb stores and soldiers marching in battle. Meanwhile, in “light” we find friends reclining in hay bales, dining tables adorned with flowers and families swimming.
Really, it is the careful clues the artists weave into their works that tell the full story. It is R.B. Kitaj’s blue face in his self-portrait that tells us he is depressed; Lynn Chadwick’s use of heavy metal that reveals his winged female can’t possibly fly, and Kenneth Armitage’s empty figure that nods to the end of humanity. Even HaYoung Kim’s Internal Sequence I with its rainbow colours and cartoon shapes references a confusing modern age where we create dazzling curated versions of ourselves to promote online. In the “light” room, the soft pink shade in Anne Redpath’s Window in Menton creates a cosy sensation as if the sun is setting, whilst Euan Uglow’s line of nudes holding towels and heading to the bathroom reminds of the warm, refreshing rush of a morning shower.