Daniel MacCarthy | Ship of Fools

3 February - 4 March 2023
These are not nocturnes in the traditional romantic sense, here Samuel Palmer’s bucolic reclining figures are blinded by the spotlight of modernity.
MacCarthy’s paintings portray nettles glowing in headlights, figures toiling by torch light, man and nature within the eerie aspect of the crepuscule. These are not nocturnes in the traditional romantic sense, here Samuel Palmer’s bucolic reclining figures are blinded by the spotlight of modernity.  Metaphor and allegory have always been part of the language in Daniel MacCarthy’s paintings. MacCarthy’s semiotic language, depicting nettles and brambles, electric light and shovels, boats and parasols, symbolise hope and anxiety, entropy, the climate crisis and our relationship to our natural surroundings. Often this language becomes obscure, the metaphor being felt more than understood. “Weeds have always struck me as being analogous for the tenacity of nature and in that I see a redemptive quality, a glimpse of a hopeful future, even if man-made societies are in ruins. So too there is an aspect to these ‘unwanted’ plants that speaks to a duality inherent within all things. They bring to mind pain and neglect, as well as summer and renewal.”
The exhibition title Ship of Fools refers to Plato’s allegory for bad governance and is a nod to the Hieronymus Bosch painting of the same name. It addresses a sense that the least qualified people are always in charge. And yet is this the natural order of things? Has it always been so? Certainly, the Bosch painting would suggest as much.
This political and philosophical back drop sits somewhere to one side of works that are as much about a love of riverbanks and warm summer nights as the societal schism in our dealings with the natural world and the consequent emotional fallout. 
MacCarthy studied at the Royal Drawing School in London and is a recipient of the Sidney Nolan Trust Resident Artist Award. His work is in the collections of Stella McCartney, London; Dumfries House, Scotland; The Peninsula Hotel, London (selected by Peter Marino); The Moritz-Heyman Collection, Tuscany; The Branca Collection in Milan. He has exhibited with Liliya Art Gallery, London; Hastings Contemporary; Galera San Soda, Milan.