‘Primera Luz’ captures the powerful image of the wisteria, which permeates both Eastern and Western culture. In Japan the Fuji Musume, or ‘Wisteria Maiden’, is a set of traditional dances which are also commemorated in paintings and sold as good luck charms for marriages. In European history, the long life of this beautiful plant has bestowed it the symbolic meaning of immortality.
In Nick Jeffrey’s stunning and evocative new diptych ‘Primera Luz: First Light’, the image of the wisteria, painted on gold and gesso panels, mixes with a variety of butterflies superimposed in 3D relief on Perspex rods.
Not only is the visual impact of Jeffrey’s fusion of these ethereal creatures and the vine in blossom breathtaking, the symbolism is both poignant and unquestionable. The endurance of the wisteria – a plant on whose vine European families, as a tradition throughout history, have marked the ages of generations passing – underlines the temporality of the butterfly’s brief life.
Equally, the many butterflies – a selection which Jeffrey has carefully collected over the last 3-4 years – glimmer and burn against the aged vine of the flowering plant as if attempting to outdo its longevity with the blazing colours of their wings.
‘Primera Luz’ is arguably one of Jeffrey’s most impactful works and its visual power is matched in the scale of the painting. It comprises two panels, each measuring 127cm (h) x 98 cm (w) x 15 (d) and is framed in Perspex to protect the butterflies.
There is a sense in this particular work, that Jeffrey has carried an echo of history into the painting and, while still working within his celebrated and recognisable medium, is further adding ancient artistic traditions to his catalogue.
This undercurrent is by no means coincidental; ‘Primera Luz’ is greatly influenced by Jeffrey’s visit to Japan. In 2000 he had the privilege of viewing the artistic treasures of different Japanese masters. Later he made an especial trip to the Guimet Museum in Paris to see the complete range of silkscreen panels from the Shinto shrine, Kompira-San. This is a shrine that holds a collection of paintings, prints and hand painted gold leaf screens which has only been open for public viewing twice in the last 100 years.
With this reflection on Japanese tradition and Jeffrey’s unique way of mounting and preparing butterflies in the artwork, Primera Luz displays a timeless identity.