WINTER, 2020

The project

One of my favourite paintings at the National Gallery is Avercamp’s A Winter Scene with Skaters near a Castle, a small perfect circular painting of snow and ice, of skating and other pleasures made possible by winter weather during “the little ice age”. I love this painting. I even made a film at the National Gallery that features it. Looking at this painting now, it’s difficult not to be reminded of forest fires, European settlement and the death of upwards of 50 million indigenous people in the Americas, of how the innocent pleasures depicted in Avercamp’s masterpiece are somehow connected to the disasters that befell the Indians after their fatal encounter with Europeans. This is not to reduce these beautiful depictions of how nature’s sublime winter device can sculpt, with ice and snow, new and extraordinary chiaroscuro form. Snow coats reality in a fresh layer of strangeness, I read somewhere. And winter is mysterious and its depictions can be breathtaking. But the thought of all that death brought on through European settlement of the Americas is hard to shake.