As if peering through a gap in the trees this art work focuses on the relationship between light and dark, quarry and hunter. The colour and form of the red figure references Uccello’s practice within the late Gothic tradition and reminds us that red is the colour of fairytales, representing blood (virginity, violence, death).
Gallery of Mantle details and studio documentation
The story behind Mantle
Paolo di Dono, called Uccello (1397–1475):
The Hunt in the Forest (c.1465-1470)
tempera and oil, with traces of gold, on panel; 177cm x 73.3cm
The Hunt in the Forest is held in the collections of the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.
The cloaked figure in Mantle is gazeless. In Uccello’s painting the deer and pursuers are turned away from the viewer towards the deepest darkness of the forest. The painting captures a moment of action as though it is recording a real event, a role superseded centuries later by photography. The greyhounds and deer stopped in mid leap, the horses stalled, the hunters frozen with spears in hand. They stand out so much against the greenness of the grass and the foliage of the trees that they look as though they could be cut out, as if against a green screen. I wondered about Uccello’s intention in relation to fact, fantasy and symbolism.
The most popular understanding of The Hunt in the Forest is that it is an allegory on the pursuit of love. Other historians believe the painting to be of an actual hunt conducted by the Italian nobleman Lorenzo de’Medici. If true, this makes it one of the world’s earliest genre paintings. Other scholars claim that it illustrates an unknown novella, and yet others see it as no more than an exercise in mathematical perspective. We can place The Hunt in the Forest against numerous ‘backgrounds’ – in this context the green screen opens up the possibilities for limitless encounters.
I made a rudimentary mock-up of this green screen idea as part of my working process. The absence of shadows in The Hunt in the Forest was incongruous once the figures were isolated, so I gave Mantle a strong shadow, as if lit from behind by the moon. Are we looking into the work, or is Mantle the artist behind the image, looking at us within the forest?
Mantle asks us to question the role and intentions of the figure that we are looking at in relation to this moment.
Mantle was first shown in the exhibition Quarry at the Brocket Gallery, London in 2016.
More works from Quarry
The relics and ghosts of long ago are brought together here as if in a wild dream of nature. Starting from the verticals of Uccello’s trees and dotted lines he cut into the wood I wanted to present a landscape of fragments that offers a framework for a narrative.
The dogs in south London are running. One of the big ones slows down as it passes me and I step back as its nose swerves into my crotch, waving my arms as though that would make any difference. If it were really hungry it would just eat me but I get a face full of hot meaty air and it’s a lucky day.
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“And this is the sign for asleep,” says Alison, closing her index fingers and thumbs together in front of her eyes. “Go to sleep now my darling.”
She smooths out the duvet cover with her hands, uncreasing the printed astronaut suit, flattening the stars in their cotton void, repositioning the blue Earth from sliding off the side of the bed. She kisses Bill’s hair, feeling his fragile skull millimetres away from her lips. “Night night.”
“Night night Mummy,” he says.
There was something wrong with the sea. The waves were oily and green and forest-filled, like the kelp had been ripped from its leathery footholds by a far away storm and carried here by the currents. A thick tangle of tentacles and skeins spread across the water holding bulging sacs that popped open as they reached the surface and spewed hundreds of bugs onto the undulating skin.