Lightbox is pleased to present "Possum Hunting" by Nicholas Burry with accompanying text by Anique Jayasinghe, showing until November 7th and curated by Melina Payne.
Artist Nicholas Burry explains:
"Possum Hunting" is an ‘imagined’ self portrait which attempts to capture a feeling of my own childhood memories and perhaps a misplaced nostalgia. Memories of forming precocious militias with friends and family. Setting out to hunt and kill possums, which in the narrative became this vague existential threat, only ever glimpsed. Equipped with homemade bows of green wood that would bend and never return to their original shape or snap outright.
But it seems in hindsight, the objective was only the fantasy (and I'm thankful we never actually caught anything). To me there's a tension in the scene, the character, too old for the game, the mood, a little too serious. Aspects of this work were painted using a photographic reference from a camping trip I went on when I was about 18. While other components were painted from imagination. I think on that level the work is accurate, in the way that as we repeat memories to ourselves, they begin to distort. Borders and space begin to dissolve until it is only an unspecific setting which the principal actors/events inhabit. These memories seem to Myths."
In response, Anique Jayasinghe writes:
How do you remember your younger self?
Is that how you saw yourself then?
Burry’s reflective portrait of his eighteen-year-old-self prods at these questions of self-perception and memory with a hint of humour and nostalgia. Pictured centrally, the heroic figure looks back at us, bow hoisted upon shoulder and coat collar flared in the wind, as if beckoning us to join the hunt.
We know this game of make-believe. The scenery of our adventures may have been different to these hazy Canterbury plains, but the rules of conjuring are universal. Perhaps even primal.
Possum Hunting recalls childhood fantasies through Burry’s early experiences of faux hunts with siblings clutching makeshift bows. Viewers are lured into recollecting our forays into imagining more of our physical boundedness - where the stairs were once a treacherous climb through a mountainous valley and that cardboard box was a portal through time.
Our missions into the wild unknown were as romantic and earnest as this figure’s expression, and yet simultaneously, the artwork belies this with tongue-in-cheek hindsight. As Burry reflects, “…the objective was only the fantasy (and I'm thankful we never actually caught anything).” The work further interrogates whether all such supposed ‘childish’ fantasy is behind us. We are reminded of how we all, to varying degrees and outcomes, mythologise about who we were, are and will be.
This mutability of identity and memory is rendered aptly with Burry’s use of medium. The combination of gestural oil stick and paint with utilitarian builder’s paper reacts to desaturate colours and steep the overall composition in a foggy flux. Our piecing together of amorphous memories long past, parallels the disjointed borders and roughly torn edges framing the moment in question.
And with all this in mind, I wonder;
How do we reconcile memories of younger selves with who we are now?