Nicholas Crombach is interested in the complex interactions between humans and animals. Using sporting and hunting as markers of longstanding traditions of both adversarial and collaborative relationships between humans and animals, Crombach examines the cultural significance and the complex issues percolating domestication and domination, play and survival in the 21st century.
Crombach combines references to mythology via a striking aesthetic, creating works which revel in their contradictions and contrasts. Notably, the artist draws from the myth of Diana and Actaeon, which provides a poignant framework for this new series. In Ovid’s tale Actaeon, a hunter and grandson of King Cadmus, is in the forest with his dogs when he spies Artemis (Diana), the venerated goddess of the hunt, in her bath attended by her nymphs. Diana’s nymphs try to cover her modesty as the goddess feels violated by Actaoen’s brash curiosity. Diana splashes water upon Actaeon, robbing him from his ability to speak and turning him from a mortal man into a stag who flees into the forest only to be hunted down and killed by his own dogs. The hunter becomes the hunted.
Crombach’s Fetch (2018) refers to the mythology of Diana and Actaeon in its last tragic hour, but the classical story of metamorphoses is presented as a game of fetch in the local park. Crombach creates a hybrid between the art historical imagery from paintings of hounds hunting stags with the flashy colours and synthetic materials and colours of modern day dog chew toys. The sculpture is displayed alongside a variety of chew toys that act as an index for the sculptures interpretation, some transformed into porcelain that have been marked with the aristocratic hunting motifs found on antique English pottery. Here, the assembly of works create a tension created by the juxtaposition of a traditional visual culture associated with aristocracy with the collapse of the hunt-as-institution, and the disruption in function that the chew toys as decoys convey.