Ignis Fatuus

WHATIFTHEWORLD Gallery
Cape Town

25 May 2017 - 01 July 2017

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


Ignis Fatuus

Text by Andrew Lamprecht


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 [...]

         See full text here


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