The paintings of Nicholas Down at Gallery 238, Dorking, July 2003
Down has a deep-rooted interest in the capacity of art to explore the world of the sub-conscious, and mediate the spiritual mysteries of life. Born in Uganda, he qualified with distinction in medicine in London, and has painted since he was in his teens. His scholarly studies in the history of art give him the tools to paint with conviction and skill while his study of abstract painting at Brunel University offered an approach to suit his purpose, connecting a physician’s interest in the mind with artistic expression. For many years, Down spent time in Scotland, where he discovered in the quality of light “a perfect foil for an exploration of the mystical.”
The link he forges between direct observation and abstract expression is a hallmark of his work, and his technical mastery coupled with felicitous improvisation enables him to realise a rare intensity of depth and meaning: in his own words a fusion of landscape and mindscape. In the richly sensuous blends of colour there is a present sense of vastness, of sky, of light, but always also of what cannot be expressed in words. It is as if the artist is reaching out to paint what is unseen, but almost unattainable, as Plato’s chained men sat watching the shadows on the wall of the cave.
Yet the brilliance of each manifestation connects directly with our simple response of delight and wonder at a vision which both reveals and transcends the natural world-its skies, its colour, its dimensions, its emotions- evoking what we sense must be beyond it.
In Down’s extravagant yet precise harmony of hues one instinctively reads the spiritual, a revelation of the infinite and unknown-that which, as T.S Eliot put it, has been ‘ lost, and found, and lost again and again.’ Each painting is like a window out of this world, liberating the mind through what is familiar, towards a mystical harmony that is something more than a dream.
Jenny De Soutter, July 2003