Ignis Fatuus (False Fire), WHATIFTHEWORLD Gallery.


Those–dying then,
Knew where they went–
They went to God’s Right Hand–
That Hand is amputated now

And God cannot be found–
The abdication of Belief
Makes the Behavior small–

Better an ignis fatuus–
Than no illume at all–

- Emily Dickinson, Poem 1551


The artist has titled the exhibition after a phrase that appears in a poem by Emily Dickinson, ‘ignis fatuus’, translated as ‘false fire’ or ‘foolish fire’ and which in scientific terms (so beloved by Dickinson in her poetry) refers to the eerie light or wisps that are sometimes seen over marshy or boggy land from afar – a product of gases emanating from organic material decomposing.  This in turn is sometimes metaphorically used to connote a deceptive or implausible goal.

Indeed a strange, unearthly light does seem to emanate from Ruby Swinney’s work, in part due to her technique of painting with translucent medium on tracing paper but also, I would suggest, due to her subject matter itself: making the quotidian and everyday more magical and strange through unexpected juxtaposition, elongation of figures and creating a realm that sees the world of the human intersect with a creeping reclamation by nature [...] 

-  Andrew Lamprecht, 


See full text here 





Photography: Hayden Phipps
Solo Show 
25 May - 01 July 2017
WHATIFTHEWORLD Gallery
Cape Town 




Mystery of Faith, 2017. Oil on tracing paper, 290 x 270 cm









Prosaic Ritual Of Youth, 2017. Oil on tracing paper, 220 x 185 cm.













Ignis Fatuus (False Fire), 2017
Tracing paper, perspex mirror, styrophome, painted silk plants, projectors, 5 point mix sound installation.
Site-specific installation.


Click here to view installation