the paintings

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In The Absence of Horses is a series of one hundred small encaustic paintings based on images of horses. The series evolved out of a single initial image - a black horse rolling on it’s back after a long ride, hooves akimbo. So little a part of most peoples daily lives, horses retain an iconic and ubiquitous presence in the media. In many ways horses have all but disappeared from our culture except as emblematic entities inhabiting the contemporary psyche.

Where are the horses really? Still used in cattle ranching and in policing - a holdover role, now almost purely symbolic, horses are largely relegated to sports and entertainment roles in Western societies. They are in the rodeo, in circuses, in horse shows, at the races, on television, in movies, in songs, in poems - and in art. From Homer to Remington to Bruce Nauman and Maurizio Cattelan’s, The Ballad of Trotsky, a beautiful taxidermed horse slung from the ceiling which recently sold at Sotheby's for $2 million. The Kentucky Derby is always front page news - think, “Smarty Jones, the little horse that could”. Tony Soprano loved a horse.

This body of work is informed by the writings of the late American philosopher, poet and animal trainer Vicki Hearne, who speculated on the moral life of domestic animals, their lives in concert with humans and her profound belief that pets possess courage, wisdom and intellect. The title, In the Absence of Horses is taken from the title of a book and a poem by the late Ms Hearne. The poem touches on love and loss and the power of language and concludes with the line, “Here, in the grass, are horses.”

Tim Schouten - December 2004