David Irvine Abell
(Bsc hons Botany, PGCE Ed)
60 Berwyn Street
7th Feb. 2019
To whom it may concern:
I have known Danny May for over 20 years. I value him as a friend, artist and a great conversationalist capable of exploring philosophical ideas with intellectual rigour and and open-hearted candour. Certain conversational themes have developed over the years dominated by discussions around art, religion, consciousness and the place that human beings occupy within Nature. We certainly don’t agree on all these issues. My self-identification as a Christian atheist has been an issue of intense scrutiny and while Danny maintains a sympathy with Rousseau’s notion of the natural goodness of man, I have a tendency to take a nihilistic stance, in which the only defences against the amoral, howling void are culture and the centrality of love and compassion.
We have a shared fascination with the myth of the Fall as a metaphor for our estrangement from the rest of nature and with the evolutionary development of human consciousness, represented in mythic form as the expulsion of man from Garden. The increasingly secular nature of modern Western society has I think added other layers to this estrangement. The increasingly generalised acceptance of Nietzsche’s pronouncement of the ‘death of god’ and the blurring of the definitions of consciousness to include, at the very least apes and dolphins, have further chipped away at notions of human exceptionalism.
Popular culture attempts to fill this god-shaped hole with a pan-cultural filler concocted of an amalgam of borrowings from paganism, Buddhism and vague notions of spirituality. Nietzsche’s hopes of an enlightened ‘ubermensh’ that might lead us away from the void of nihilism towards the sun-lit pastures of a new godless Eden have turned into the giddy narcissism of alt-right popularism. Those of us with roots in the environmental movement of the late ‘60’s’, hippies who once hoped that a rising tide of hope would lift us to a new and enlightened relationship with nature, have found ourselves washed-up on a high-tide line of plastic junk, confronting not only the death of god but also the death of the natural world and our own failure of stewardship and responsibility for the dire and apparent irredeemable mess we’ve made of things. The myth of the fall has never seemed more relevant.
When hope and meaning are in short supply, art provides a channel through which to engage with the world. I think Danny’s work and practice offers an alternative and more optimistic view of the world. Here there is analysis but also a necessary humour. Resonances from a craft-based past and a deep respect for landscape and setting draw the viewer in and encourage meditation and reflection which is perhaps the best we can offer in these godless and benighted times.
February 5th 2019