Scott McFarland Night Ship
Toronto-based photographer Scott McFarland presents Night Ship, a series of four large-scale photographic images of an abandoned, three-masted barque ship. Using images taken during winter nights in early 2020 and throughout the winter of 2021, the artist’s work exemplifies his signature approach of layering multiple exposures to create hyperrealistic works of exquisite detail.
Shipwrecks and tragedies at sea loomed large for Romantic painters such as J.M.W. Turner and Caspar David Friedrich, their depictions a solemn reminder that nature would always have the upper hand when challenged by mankind’s hubris and attempts at mastery. Considering works like Friedrich’s The Sea of Ice (1823) as imagined contexts, McFarland takes a local landmark vessel into a distant, isolated landscape resembling the Arctic. The artist’s narrative surrounding the shipwreck is also imaginary, manifesting a myriad of possible explanations for its demise. The ship’s mysterious presence in the icy shoal invokes the spectre of disaster inherent to expeditions at sea.
Each of the ship’s four sides—bow, stern, port, and starboard—appear in the four works. The vessel’s deteriorating condition is perceptible under the cover of night, showing the decay resulting from shifting climate, time, and incineration. A dark sky and barely visible horizon obscure the vastness of the surrounding space, blurring the ship’s distinction from its surrounding environmental elements. The only relic of human activity in the landscape, the ruin is reminiscent of 20th-century photographs depicting Captain Robert Falcon Scott’s vessel, the Terra Nova, during the British Antarctic expedition of 1910–13.
In Night Ship, McFarland attempts to capture the mood and psychological considerations of moments in prolonged isolation that permeated at the time the images were taken. Though the ship sits abandoned, contemplated by the viewer in its icy solitude, it also conjures a history of life at sea and a crew risking their lives, withdrawn from civilization. The shipwreck remains a powerful allegory, just as it was in the art of the 19th and 20th centuries.
Presented by Blouin Division
Scott McFarland lives and works in Toronto, Canada. His works are included in public collections such as the MoMA, J. Paul Getty Museum, National Gallery of Canada, SFMoMA, Walker Art Center, and Victoria & Albert Museum. Major surveys were presented at the National Gallery of Canada (2009) and Vancouver Art Gallery (2009). In 2014 the Art Gallery of Ontario exhibited McFarland’s solo exhibition Snow, Shacks, Streets, Shrubs. More recently his series Lens Cleaning was included in David Campany’s touring exhibition A Handful of Dust (2019–21).