The following response by Barry Kehoe was commissioned by the artists on the NCAD Masters Fine Art and Masters Art in the Digital World (MFA/ADW) during their graduate show that took place in June 2014.
“…distance ceases to be distance and to be blue when we arrive in it. The far becomes the near and they are not the same place” (Rebecca Solnit, The Blue of Distance)
In what could either be “marketing speak” hubris, or more hopefully, an example of sardonic wit, the overarching title chosen for the graduate shows in NCAD is “see the future.” In our contemporary moment of failed, teleological, utopian ideologies this statement and invitation seems to be terribly ironic. However, if it is possible to embrace the statement with a suspension of disbelief, evading the hollow marketing strategy, it presents a more intriguing opportunity to find a position in relation to the possibility of a future through experiencing the art objects of the present exhibition that are born from a specific, sited perspective that is both social and personal.
To see the future is to take a position in the present and look outward toward a distant horizon. It is an unattainable horizon, for in the journey to breach that distance the very thing that is called the future becomes pushed further ahead to another distant place that is ever approaching but never arrived at. As is so often the case in human experience, the perspective upon the horizon that holds the elusive future becomes reduced to a single point, an aperture contingent with a single goal. The future becomes that beacon of light in a field of darkness, the source of light that carries all of human hope. That beacon of light is a strange and untameable beast. To take a position in relation to that horizon, the elusive future, that very real limit of human perspective, is also to establish a point of origin from where to begin a journey. This point of origin, this place of beginning, like a site at the centre from which to navigate a maze must be found before a journey into the unknown can begin. With the image of a blue rabbit as an unlikely starting point we are already late and in a terrible hurry, but unlike Alice in wonderland who awoke in the light and descended down the rabbit hole we are awoken in the darkness and begin deep within the rabbit hole seeking a path to that elusive light of the future, through the maze of the present.
In the darkness of an inner world, in the womb of the underworld, is born the life that through observance brings the universe into existence. This is where the search for the future begins, in a darkened room in the core of an exhibition, at the centre of a maze of cubicles in the abandoned bureaucratic infrastructure of Emmet House on Thomas Street, a building that has fallen out of usefulness, abandoned in the wake of the economic progress of the city around it. Here, in the abandoned spaces of past failures, the future, like an elusive mythical beast, stalks the reawakened spaces of the labyrinthine exhibition. It is like the entity decrying the future world in W.B. Yeats’ poem The Second Coming:
“What rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born.”
Irene Whyte 2014
Deep in the heart of the building, between the ground and second floor in a windowless and darkened space, Irene Whyte has presented a projection that is neither wholly in the room where the observer stands beside the mini projector nor completely sited in another space observed through a pane of glass in another darkened chamber. This inner room, beyond the glass, cannot be accessed. The door handle lies upon the floor. Any attempt to get closer, to try and clarify what is being observed is frustratingly thwarted. The projected image is like an obstetric sonogram pulsating moving within its confinement. It is also reflected back by the glass, enlarged and diffused it fills the opposite wall immersing the observer. It is an image of high contrast, abstracted and mirrored in itself. The imagination gives this compressed reflected image form. It could be a body, perhaps a face, and arms, reflected, merging, growing and shrinking. It appears as an organ pulsating suspended in space. The sound emitting from the mini projector is like dripping water echoing in a cavernous space. The sense is one of frustration and claustrophobia but the echoing sound defies the logic of the small box-like space. The projection through the glass and its reflection create multiple barriers and horizons, inaccessible and at the same time uncontained. The compartment will not allow the resolution of a single point of perspective. This inner womb becomes a metaphor for the unknown, the site before a point of origin. The chambers that open up from the cavern of this pulsating organ are like the elements of a body, a living entity or a brain full of thoughts experiences and feelings each contained separately in the frame of bureaucratic utility that is Emmet house. Each space of exhibition revealing a diversity of experience and perspective, each door opening like a new aperture through which a new vista and a new horizon presents itself.
Ann Marie Webb 2014
Moving into the next chamber, with a vista out onto Thomas Street, Ann Marie Webb’s paintings are large and physical. They are unframed and so present their edges as the limits of the organic line where the edge of the canvas sits upon the wall. As the eye reads across the works the movement of the marks present central zones of space within in the painting. There is an illusion of depth, like looking into the centre of a vortex or the eye of a storm. The place of refuge for the eye in the maelstrom is challenged by a smaller work called Nocturne where this central zone in dominated by a solid dark mark flattening the central zone of refuge. Calmer than the surrounding movement its darkness seems to threaten. It is hard to find the idea of the horizontal or the horizon in these painting with the frenetic movement of the marks. The contrast between the flatness of the dark mark in Nocturn and the depth into which it is possible to peer without finding that limit or edge of perspective is unsettling.
Jane Locke 2014
Progressing to an antechamber there is an office dominated by archival information and artefacts presenting evidence of past events. These artefacts illustrate a body of experience accumulated through the immersive art practice of Jane Locke. The evidence is presented of three specific art projects where she became imbedded in the infrastructure of large institutions with an overarching title The Cloud of Unknowing. Surprisingly this is the location of the blue rabbit. There is a peculiar familiarity about the presentation of the space. The installation has re-imagined the office space as an office, but not a normal office. It would be a peculiar and strange thing to find a blue rabbit in an average office space. Like an anthropologist on an in depth study Jane Locke has been sneaking into the public or shared spaces in offices and laboratories after hours. She has been observing the people there and in return observing their observance of her activities, while making her interventions, ephemeral artworks, performances as she gathers and collates the information of her interruptions of the institutional experience. She appears as a central piece of this artwork and invites the visitor to a lecture where the accumulated experiences of several of her investigations become imaginatively destabilized in a narrative where plants physically sigh, rabbits turn blue, barristers whose gowns billow in the wind are strangely connected to dark molecules as they vanish down mysterious tunnels under the city and scientists are irrevocably transformed by their own experiments. Divining the difference between truth and fiction becomes impossible. With the theatrics of her performance comes a suspension of disbelief. Her engagement with the institutional performativity in the various sites of investigation pushes that suspension into a willingness to believe. The thought that it could be possible to witness plants visibly sighing when they change their energy cycle was beautiful and completely untrue. With so much disappointment in the truth, the desire to embrace the fantasy is overwhelming.
Margot Galvin 2014
Emerging out onto the corridor in pursuit of the elusive presence of the future it is the past that looms into sight again in the work of Margot Galvin. Beautifully rendered prints on metal and botanical style drawings of organic tendrils, like the tangles of bladder rack that wash up along a shore line, are infused with post-industrial landscapes. She quotes the philosopher Edward Casey in her artist statement referencing origins and the importance of location and geographic specificity in how we understand our place in the world. Interestingly she emphasizes this idea of origin by presenting her works beside spot lit, nest like structures that reflect the structure of the large drawings. The idea of home is explored through the nostalgia of decayed industrial sites. Places are recognisable as abandoned industrial sites but they are not named or specifically located. The images are gathered through a process of walking. The act of walking through a city is a demonstration of what Edmund Husserl calls “a total organism.” Paul Connerton puts it nicely in his book How Modernity Forgets: “Walking is at once an act of organic self-unification, and an act which builds up for me a coherent environment….for Husserl the activity of walking precipitates the authentic integration of the subject.” This is an example of how the locating of origin as an historic marker is necessary to conceive of or to envision the possibility of the future. By locating a coherent narrative in the past that traces a journey to the present, it becomes possible to imagine the future as a continuation of that tracing. There is a danger however that the pursuit of the nostalgic source of origin could create an emotional trap where, stuck somewhere in the past, it becomes impossible to see beyond the horizon of the decaying structures that we have come crashing down around obscuring the horizon of the future with the debris of the present.
Aileen Drohan 2014
The impossible measurement of time becomes central in the work of Aileen Drohan. Her work in the exhibition is developed from performances involving CCTV footage that is streamed and accessible on the internet. By placing herself intentionally in the images she is actively creating a situation that interferes with the automated gathering of observational data. Through the process of making and gathering the records of her interferences she has discovered something peculiar about the spatialisation of time, the scientific recording of time in precise units of measurement. The problem with time is one of relativity. Henri-Louis Bergson (1859 –1941) redefined the modern conceptions of time, space, and causality in his theory of “Duration.” For Bergson, time as it is experienced cannot be measured by science or mathematics. In looking at the experience of time versus the recording of time he states: “We give a mechanical explanation of a fact and then substitute the explanation for the fact itself.” What becomes fascinating in the artist’s photo stills and the systemic recording of the world through surveillance is how it reveals that each camera and data recording device are not synchronized. Each one records time differently with incorrect hours, days, dates. As an attempt at representing reality or recoding a truthful interpretation of the world the system is flawed. In the video work that presents a bank of images from a non-descript set of motorway traffic cameras she has removed the specific data of the time codes, unconcerned in this instance with this documentation, she allows the time-lapse footage to play out, simply revealing a world of strange phenomena. As rain descends and cars drive by during the night only the glow of the lights are visible like spectres moving through the darkness. Silent and eerie this strange behaviour is being recorded and broadcast continually by an automated system. Why and for whom? The CCTV presents an immanence of an ever present, a timeless, ahistorical place where the idea of a future is perhaps unknowable if not impossible.
John Murphy 2014
John Murphy presents two video works. In one he has taken footage during the course of moving through a deserted street at night and in the other he shows static video images of an empty house, revealing the world through video devoid of the human presence. However he uses sound tracks to create a tension between presence and absence. A confessional narrative with ambient music plays over a car driving through the city at night, creating a dramatic story full of menace and the tragedy of a very human story of loss. The empty domestic interior is like a Marie Celeste, uncanny in the moment of sudden abandonment. The evidence of life and the humans that inhabit it are still present as traces. He overplays the sound of a Christmas morning creating a harrowing tension between the still spaces and the frenetic sounds of Christmas parcels being unwrapped. There is something unbearable in the contrast between the presence and absence. There is the constant reminder, that somewhere in the future, all things that have an origin inevitably will have an end. This is something that is unbearable in the mind of the living being.
Denis Kelly 2014
Denis Kelly’s work in the corner room at the back of the building are a mixture between paintings and small sculptural objects developed from a fascination with dead spaces found in the architecture of a building such as locations under stairs or acute angles, what Germans refer to as dead corners. He explores these spaces and the geometric shapes they produce to examine the tensions created by opposing and contradictory elements – figure/ground, control/chance, construction/destruction, and revelation/concealment. These dead spaces reveal something of the inevitable unpredictable elements of an architectural structure. These elements of waste or surplus occur where other elements designed with a particular utility such as a staircase or supporting pillar come together for practical reasons and the result is a space that serves no purpose and cannot be practically utilized. To explore these elements through painting exposes the tensions found between the intentional and the unintentional. The planning and the execution of any project that inevitably falls under the influence of chance. The paintings that at first look like quiet geometric and rational exercises reveal incidental bleeds of paint that come due to the influence of the supports, raw pieces of wood, found objects that are in themselves surplus elements of a building’s construction. The installation of the work incorporates an awareness of the elements of the cable trunking and electrical sockets on the walls even the windows look out onto the upper stories of adjacent buildings that reflect the shapes in the paintings particularly when the sharp sunlight casts rigid diagonal shadows across the grey plaster of the building next door. In such minimal and rigidly geometric work every element holds a significance no matter how miniscule, from colour to form and substance. As in the spaces of habitation where we locate ourselves, the more aware we are of the intricacies of the horizon and the limits of perception the better equipped we are to plot our onward journey and our escape from the labyrinth of the present.
Lesley-Ann O’Connell 2014
Lesley-Ann O’Connell’s paintings offer up a very different experience. These works also explore something of the interiors of rooms and buildings, they are views onto contained spaces abstracted but with depth and unintelligible perspective. They are the opposite of the rationality explored in Denis Kelly’s work. The durational aspect of observing, translating and abstracting is a process towards realising an essence of that experience of space. There is an expression of the aura or presence of that space. It is perhaps linked to the uncanny but not completely, as the sensation that a spatial awareness gives need not be discomforting. It can even be reassuring to know the dimensions of a space and experience the familiar behaviour of the air in a container where it is possible to be alone within a reflexive self-presence. It’s a space where even the air pressure of the room behaves and is felt in a familiar way, when alone within the particular set of dimensions. The paintings feel domestic in a peculiar way and are inhabited by the solitary gaze of the viewer. One work in particular may help the cause of seeking out this strange beast called the future, that elusive inhabitant of the labyrinth of exhibition. The work titled Old Time/New Time highlights the durational awareness within the paintings where present and past coalesce. There is a feeling of delayed time in the painting, a distilled period that is renewed on every viewing. It presents our first clue towards the artefact of the future.
Caroline Patten 2014
Caroline Patten presented a series of paintings that explore relationships between marks, ground and the flattening of space. In particular the title of a work called Courtesans reveals the marks as characters or personalities that playfully interact in the limbo of an undefined word of blank untreated canvas. Curiously these personalities also manifest themselves as two small three dimensional figures. These paintings are full of interactive entities gathered at some colourful occasion and spread out to fill the space of the canvass. It is an imagined regal space placing the viewer in a timeless position that pushes the notion of the temporal away from the future and conjures up thoughts of the past, thus confusing the immediate perspective of the present. There is no horizon within the works, the space the characters inhabit though undefined allows no perspective to a distant limit. It is an unknown location.
Atoosa Pour Hosseini 2014
Atoosa Pour Hosseini’s work Last Phase (2014) explores the horizon of a sea scape, the distant blue where sky and sea meet and the limitations of being one thing are another, sea or sky become confused by the diffusion of light. It is a video work where a small dark figure half submerged vanishes into a light-drenched ocean as the camera submerges and re-emerges from the claustrophobic waters. Importantly we get a glimpse of a coast line just for a second, a distant set of bleached hills far, far away. Formally the work plays with our ability to define this horizon as it is projected onto a translucent cloth so the image appears twice in two different scales, once on the cloth and again on the wall behind. There is also another textile, a dark cloth normally used for binding two pieces of textile together that interferes with the larger image on the back wall. This cloth creates another horizon line, an interference with the image that can be seen through the nearer projected image. The smaller piece of translucent cloth that first catches the projected image also has a thick grey bar across the top of the cloth keeping it rigid that also forms another horizon. The projection itself is creating its own shadows and so forms more horizon lines. The room becomes a series of horizons brought to life by the shadows that the projection generates. The ability to form a single point of perspective becomes troubled. The scene feels quite melancholic and the disappearance of the character is a narrative that is as unresolved as the attempt to define a true horizon. To sum up this peculiarity of distance and horizon it’s helpful to quote Rebecca Solnit who describes this blue of distance in her book A Field Guide to Getting Lost:
“…the blue at the horizon, the blue of land that seems to be dissolving into the sky, is a deeper, dreamier, melancholy blue, the blue at the farthest reaches of the places where you see for miles, the blue of distance. This light that does not touch us, does not travel the whole distance, the light that gets lost, gives us the beauty of the world, so much of which is in the colour blue.”
Chloe Brenan 2014
Ascending to the next floor via the staircase, a transitional space, brings the visitor to the highest limits of the exhibition and to the work of Chloe Brenan. An obsessional action of perforating paper with a pin has resulted in a series of words half indented and half embossed that are barely perceptible until a hard light is shone across the surface. The hard shadows produced reveal the subtle marks. The paper upon which the words have been punctured, lit from above, create dark waves of black shadows under the pages. Each aperture is a hole, a porous access point for light. The nature of light and the reception of that light becomes evident when we experience the peculiar effect of the pinhole camera. The world of image is an inverted one and yet through our optical receptors we rearrange that perspective to suit our own human perspective. The pinhole camera reveals how much we manipulate the phenomenon of light, translating it to suit a universe of a human dimension. Negative and positive images of a transitional space, a heavily decorated hallway are pinned to the adjacent wall stepping the viewer’s eyes down toward a floor projection, filmed through camera-obscura, of footage from a pinhole camera. It is a descent, resembling the process of vision itself, which takes the viewer from the pinhole aperture to the transitional space of a hallway to the projection of what looks almost like an eye, a blurred image with a dark centre and a lighter corona. The perforated paper upon close inspection looks almost like the pores of human skin, a reminder of how porous we are as beings. We experience light as it flows through our bodies, enters our eyes, is absorbed and reflected by our skin, in a state of constant ebb and flow. Chloe Brenan’s work emphasizes the essential power of our porous nature. The apertures that perforate the human body, defy the limitations of the hermetic or solipsistic consciousness, creating a possibility for the transition and translation of the phenomenon of light into the experience of a being fully integrated into a greater cosmos of infinite possibility.
Ulla Juske 2014
Ulla Juske has installed a small cabinet of curiosities, a collection of tiny imagined worlds trapped in little boxes. Viewed through magnifying lenses, the Lilliputian worlds expand to fill the field of vision. They are compact, claustrophobic spaces, a metaphoric model for the building in which the entire exhibition stands. She has constructed a shelving system to display each little camera that sits in the centre of the room that coincidentally echoes the collection of asymmetric windows of the building across the street. She has kept the institutional colour scheme of the original office a deep sea green that adds to the atmosphere of a museum of curiosities. Like tales of mythology and fables the dark green lends a sense of gravity to the tales that have all come from the real world. There is a strange tension in the tales for which these little worlds have been constructed. They are accompanied by beautiful illustrated pages with descriptive captions that line the wall of the room. These wild tales of weird and wonderful stories were all gathered from internet news feeds giving power to the adage that: “the truth is often stranger than fiction.” They are a collection of the freak stories that accompany the serious news feeds that appear on digests on various media websites. The really weird thing is that they are regarded as news items of equal value to the serious business of war, crime and politics. By taking these fringe items, illustrating them and displaying them like a collection of Grimm’s fairy tales, the absurdity of how the media relates information and the validity of that information is revealed as a spectacle that calls all news media into question. Quite often the internet is considered an expansive and open source for engaging with the world through a virtual interface but the artwork of Ulla Juske makes clear how very small the picture of the world is we see through the lens of the internet.
Ann Jenkinson 2014
The paintings of Ann Jenkinson mix figuration and abstraction, the collection of works on show form a curious group, some with identifiable elements and others that appear only as movements of colour completely devoid of figuration. The mixture of movement and stillness makes for an awkward tension. The works are presented under the title: “Displacement” and she quotes German painter Magnus Plessen who writes about this abstraction in painting that moves away from figuration but does not completely abandon representation. He calls this “a layer beyond.” In this idea of perceptive layers, and layers of experience and understanding, even in layers of paint, the horizon we have to deal with is something that is beyond. It is removed, other, distant, a place that is not quite known. This is perhaps what displacement means when formally looking at a methodology that is not quite located in one type of painting practice or another but also the life experience of the painter is imbedded in the work. The paintings are also an expression of the experience that the painter has had with humanitarian displacement. Years of working in the developing world has brought a very tangible experience of what is meant by the term displacement. There is a very striking painting of what appears to be stretched tarpaulin or tents in a dull, muddy, morning light. The image is not populated by figures and as a result has a quality of stillness. It evokes the displacement of people in faraway places that are ravaged by the catastrophe of war or famine, living in fear and stalked by the threat of violence and annihilation. The painter who has experienced the calamity of displacement, by finding themselves in these troubled locations, is also a displaced entity. The works in the exhibition draw very much from this past experience of the displacement of entire populations in troubled zones all over the developing world, an experience that seems to be destined to repeat, and repeat, and repeat. The repetition of violence and social injustice, as experienced in the developing world, seems destined to continue into the future and stands as a contrast to the stillness of the layers of paint showing these trapped moments, structured from accumulated time and experience. Perhaps only these paintings can offer a way out of this cycle and give a glimpse of a future somewhere “beyond” fear and violence.
Patrick Curran 2014
Patrick Curran paints scenes from the street, episodes from a damaged history, narratives of trauma and misplaced inspiration. The supports for his paintings are recycled book covers clued and stitched together to form canvases. The images erupt like illustrations or imagined images that could be conjured from a story in a book, with a strange mixture of Wild West cowboys that tower like ghosts over scenes of anti-social behaviour and emergency workers and police going about their duties helping distressed and collapsed people. There are peculiar tensions here between the romantic notions of the American wild west, that place in the late twentieth century imagination that mixed the anarchic concept of freedom with uncivilised levels of social violence, and the contemporary streets of Ireland that are supposedly free and civilised but become the locations of a violence that is very far from the romantic notion of the cowboy. In the exhibition, a small children’s desk has been placed in the centre of a large room, surrounded by these images painted on the book covers. It eerily creates a presence or rather an absence. Many of the books could be instructional or educational. A wise teacher once said: “If you want to live other lives read books.” The installation points towards a site of pedagogy, a place of learning where books are the source of knowledge as well as imaginative escape. Books evoke worlds of their own, worlds that are never completely like the world of Pat Curran’s paintings, worlds that never have to cope with real violence. Civilisation that is founded on knowledge and learning is unwinding in Curran’s paintings as the book covers become sites for these images, the pages no longer accessible, the knowledge lost. What can the future hold for a world plagued by these images of violence where the book, the route to learning and transformation, has itself become denuded of its educational capacity, hollowed out, reduced to nothing more than a collection of covers that act as sites for a contemporary romance with the spectacle of street violence?
Therese Maher has produced a beautiful series of prints following the anthropomorphic tale of Rat a character who has a very violent demise. After a series of scenes he is rushed on a gurney to some form of a medical operation where eventually he appears as a dissected corpse as if a part of a biology experiment. The world of Rat illustrates a dark world where human catastrophe and tragedy are played out in a jaundiced “wind in the willows.” These adventure of Ratty and his chums are not as pleasant as mucking about in boats along the riverbank. The urban protagonist of these illustrations is a beast, a foul manifestation of the human beast in an animal form. Using animals to depict a human story is an ancient practice and can be an effective way of portraying subjects that are taboo, subjects that would be unacceptable if the central protagonist was a human being. The use of anthropomorphism reveals, through the imagination, the liberating transformative property of the animal. Allowing the beast within to manifest itself can be an empowering experience. As the future begins to manifest itself through the transformation of the present, the exhibition becomes the liminal space. It exists on the cusp of that transformation toward either light or darkness, toward the beast or the beautiful.
Sylvia Callan explores the curious patterns made by an exploding balloon. She creates a tautological tension by projecting the event upon a similar balloon suspended in a small dark chamber. For what seems like an eternity a flame dances below a balloon until it finally explodes sending debris flying in all directions, moving in slow motion. It floats across the surface of the suspended balloon, gracefully dancing in a movement that is an expression of causality. Eventually the loop returns the form of the balloon so it can repeat its destruction again, and again and again. There is an expectation that is known about cause and effect. This expectation is a type of foresight. There are predictable patterns that develop from specific actions and yet there is the chaos of the unpredictable that can erupt at any given moment creating unexpected variations. It is an ancient philosophical question of whether the universe is determined or random. If the future could be extrapolated excluding all variables then foresight could be possible. The beast that is the future could be known, but unlike a looping video the universe may not be readable like the tea leaves at the bottom of a cup. In another room we are presented with just this conundrum. The way tea leaves settle in the bottom of a cup may be seen as the random distribution of elements, dried organic leaves that become rehydrated by freshly boiled water, swept into a flurry by the pouring out of the kettle and finally coming to rest at the bottom of the cup. With a statistical probability it may be possible to predict these patterns to a degree, however quantum physics has revealed that the behaviour and result of any controlled experiment is tainted by the act of observation. So what of an ability to see the future in the tea leaves? Can we predict with prescient clarity the events or outcomes of a day by observing the tea leaves in a person’s cup. Sylvia Callan presents several variations in cups distributed across the floor of a room. It appears like a scientific experiment, full of repetition with a video playing on a small monitor gives us the perspective of a tea cup with tea leaves from below. Tea is where people turn for a moment of pause. Drinking tea is a calming ritual in times of trauma. As a device for determining the course of the universe can it be trusted? Perhaps it is better not to know the future, no matter how much desire there is to face down the elusive beast, especially through something as miniscule and random as the dregs of tea leaves at the bottom of a tea cup.
Eventually the staircase provides the conduit to the ground floor and the last space of exposure the last location to search for the fugitive figure, the intangible beast. A maquette stands at the base of the stairs, it is the work of Paul Terry. A larger version stands in the courtyard of the art college like a giant mechano kit. The sculpture is a structure of two rectilinear frames connected by transverse tensile chords of two different colours that form a tunnel linking the two separate forms. The space between these rigid constructions becomes annexed by the chords that look like the demonstration of a wormhole, an inter-dimensional conduit in space, a model of an “Einstein-Rosen Bridge” that offers the theoretical possibility to travel great distances through time and space. It could be a tantalising visualisation of a scientific promise to transform the universe and improve it for the human inhabitants. A possibility of seeing the future or returning to the past to perhaps create an alternative present, though very seductive, is fraught with danger. As with the gift of foresight there is always the curse of coming to know things that are better left unknown. If the future exists perhaps it cannot be changed and all the horrible things that will come to pass, the tragedy, terror and death that resides there is best left in the future. A bridge to be crossed at a later date.
Raine Hozier Byrne 2014
An end of year graduate art exhibition carries with it the expectation of the artist who have been working towards this moment. The exhibition is an example of a future past as it has been worked towards over the past years of study, but even with this goal in sight over the period of research the outcome is not always predictable. Raine Hozier Byrne’s paintings have come from the trauma of personal loss and were a complete departure from her inquiry of study as she was coming to terms with the death of her parents. Her large scale paintings explore loss and the personal grief that she has experienced. A large diptych in the hall way splits a landscape showing a lake and distant mountains. The dominant hue is blue, the colour of distance and those far away shores of longing. There is an evident gap as the waters of the lake beside the shoreline in the foreground are disturbed and ripple out into both of the paintings from the gaping void in between. The texture of the work is also rippled by the infusion of issue paper onto the surface of the canvas. Tissues, very like those that absorbed the tears of sadness and loss, become part of the fabric of a therapeutic working through of an inner necessity. The void that separates the two canvasses is a space that awaits all who seek the future. It is the unknowable beast that all that live must face.
Elizabeth Archbold 2014
Across the hallway the large ground floor room of Emmet house is dominated by paintings. In the first space at the front of the building is the work of Elizabeth Archbold. Her paintings emerge as meditations on the process of making paintings, making new observations or continuing a process that comes from a previous painting. She strikingly has limited her palette of colours to those employed by Eugene Delacroix after Peter Paul Rubens in modelling the transparent surface of water drops. This limitation imposed upon the work by the artist creates a formal tension in the paintings controlling the various permutations that are possible with using a simplified colour palette of green, yellow, white and red. The catalyst for the constant reinvention and improvisation must then come in the artist’s manipulation of these limitations. Each new permutation of the painting process that explores the limited colour vocabulary forms new horizons and new perspectives, taking the works as markers in a journey toward an exploration of form and gesture through the most personal of intuitive choices. This way of working, through a process of limitation, is concerned with developing a way of making over a period of time where the work develops through outcomes from present choices that are always rooted in the future.
Darina Meagher 2014
The paintings of Darina Meagher on the other hand are looking for ways of making that do not emerge from previous histories of painting. Turning toward the internet as a point of origin she seeks to make images inspired by non-painting sources, attempting to counter what she sees as the perfection of the technological image by reproducing an essence of these images through the imperfection of the brush stroke made by the human hand. She uses the idea of the internet search engine to explore the apparently endless streams of image and text that the internet provides. She terms this endless stream of image and data as the “debris of other peoples’ lives.” It is possible to imagine that a search for the top 10 emotions in the top 10 cities of the world would produce an endless stream of ideas, experiences, stories and locations but curiously, it returns a result that is a lot more limited than expected. The internet is a very flawed viewer onto the world and has an exceptionally limited scope and variety. The blue of distance, the spatial and temporal horizon that fuels longing, desire and imagination is flattened on an LCD screen with limited perspective. Statistically the largest amount of internet media content is generated in specific centres of the western world and so the stories and locations tend to be quite limited. Also the internet search engines work off algorithms that for various contingencies limit the search results. It is far from being a free system and is certainly less random than might be believed. The paintings that result from these internet explorations have the possibility of breaking that limitation of the search image by distilling it through a more intimate human experience that stems from the reality of an unbounded human consciousness frustrated with the view of the world through the tiny aperture provided by the internet.
Joan Coen 2014
The paintings of Joan Coen also explore image with a limited vocabulary. She brings a heightened level of emotion to the way she uses paint, channelling an emotive energy drawn from the subject that she is working with. In this case she presents an array of small paintings, each a meditation on the same object altering the brush strokes and hues. Each painting is a spatialized counter in a durational exploration with a singular focus. By working through this repetition the specific nature of the object ceases to be important when the viewer is presented with a multiplicity of views to choose from. Each nuance and alteration, as the eye moves from one work to the next, highlights the power of paint as a medium through which to meditate and engage with the experience of the object. The multiple reproduction of the same painting also reveals how the unique action of the brush stroke and colour choice produces a sense of the aura in an artwork. Each action is a unique action no matter how often it is repeated. The paintings are an analogue expression of a focused activity. They become the indexical markers of time spent in communication with an observed object. The presence of that objet is palpable, felt through the artist’s manipulation of the pigment on the support. It is interesting to compare this idea of painting as the evidence of a performative action when turning to the next work in the large ground floor space of Emmet House
Paola Catizone 2014
Past the paintings a collection of elegant white dresses hang upon a rail, curiously one of them has been stained black. There are large sheets of paper on the floor, one of them has a mound of dark pigment placed in the centre of its expansive white field. An image of a woman is projected upon the wall behind the paper sheets. She is dressed in one of the white gowns. In the video she walks barefoot onto the paper and begins to manipulate the mound of dark pigment pushing it all over the surface of the paper, her clothing touching the entire surface, every inch of her body, off the pigment. She is painting with her body and simultaneously painting onto her body exploring the entire surface of the body with the pigment. This performance by Paola Catizone stems from a dance of exploration where the skin as the outer bodily boundary, makes contact with another surface. It playfully explores the somatic limitations of the body. It is also a celebration of the body itself. For the performer it is an exercise in the centring of the self in the body, exploring the extremities and limits of the form, the phenomenological horizon through the physical sense of touch. With this in mind it is extraordinary then to attend a live performance of this dance. Witnessing the performance of the body in space is an entirely different experience. The sound of the movement, the physical weight of the body as it orientates and gesticulates through various position. In the flesh the body doesn’t appear as limited as in the video. In three dimensions the relationship between the bodies of the spectators actively witnessing the event come into play. The audience becomes another entity in the action of the performer. There is an energy in the performance, in the inter-relationship of the participant and performer that cannot be captured in the video. In particular, towards the end of the performance, when the protagonist is darkened from head to toe and bounces momentarily upon her toes sending plumes of dark pigment dust into the air obscuring her own form from view. This obfuscation strangely broke the seal of limitation that was present in the video document. The dark dust billowed out and, even though in tiny quantities, settled on all the surfaces in the vicinity and upon the spectators too. The body had extended itself out beyond its limits through a process of accretion and redistribution of matter shared with the inhabited space of the performance. Stepping off the paper at the end of the performance, the virginal white clad body, now darkened from head to foot, the performer slinks off down a corridor and out of view. She has become a metaphor for that obscure conflicted beast of the future. An uncertain beast composed both of light and of darkness.
Liam Gough 2014
In the back corner room Liam Gough has created a museum display of his drawings of found objects. Each object takes on a great significance empowered by the mode of display. The sombre lighting and the podium plinths elevate the drawings to the status of precious objects. The extraordinary element is that the textual objects that these drawings were made from are found objects. Each diary or notebook has been lost, abandoned or simply discarded. In a form of forensic or archaeological investigation Liam Gough has rendered drawings of these notebooks, writing pads and diaries as technical documents, noting every crease, ripple and shadow on the surface of the objects. Significantly the text that appears on the surface of the objects has been drawn as an outline. This makes the hollowed out text difficult to read but it also transforms the text itself into a visual object outside of the normal system of language symbols. The letters and words become shapes silhouettes divorced from the normal role as a habitation for a meaning. Extraordinarily they have become absolute visual documents, renderings of lost objects divorced from their informative purpose. The information that could be gleaned from the legible text has been supplanted by beautiful drawings that are drenched in the melancholy of the lost.
Luz Estrada 2014
At the back of the room a metal shutter is glowing, curiously it draws the spectator around the corner. It is the reflected light from an array of light boxes each one containing an image of a performance of a portrait. Luz Estrada has taken images from pornography and popular media, all appropriated from online blogs, to explore multiple identities born from the fetish of appearance. Some images are ridiculous, others disturbing. They show an in-camera effect where the artist unsuccessfully moulds herself into an image that she is projecting onto herself. The artist’s body becomes the support and the medium of the artwork. The array of light boxes encapsulates each image/performance as an entity, an event of tortured frustration. The artist’s body cannot ever be fully melded with the image. The inability of the fetish image to encapsulate the actuality of the living human body is revealed in all its inadequacies. The process of turning the artist’s body into an image of another body becomes a failed attempt to fetishize the body as an image. The erotic is displaced by the incongruity of the two entities forced to exist as an unconformable single entity in a new two dimensional document. The disturbance of expectation, that is, the rational need to recognise either the body or the image, denies the satisfaction of truly knowing where the viewer stands in relation to the object. The doppelgangers and shape shifters presented in these works are beasts of flesh and light. Both irreconcilable and yet conjoined in seductively back lit boxes, the images radiate attractive colours and hues that are both compelling and repellent. The artist herself remains recognisable throughout each incarnation, never truly relinquishing her identity as a body. This highlights the lack of libido in the dead fetish image that she shares the frame with. If anything these works by Luz Estrada indicate that the future of the human body and the fetishized image of that body will continue to be a relationship fraught with irreconcilable inadequacies.
The journey through the maze has concluded and the beast of the future has yet to be found but there have been many clues as to the possible form the beast may inhabit, clues derived purely from the experience of the labyrinthine space of the exhibition. Like any puzzle the exhibition has provided dead ends, confusions, lost moments of and necessary u-turns. But there were also opportunities to peek around unknown corners, to look over the horizon, to discover new paths, to imagine possibilities that lie beyond in the unattainable distance. The future is always uncertain but the most intriguing disclosure in this regard was by the artists themselves when talking about their work. They were all curious about the next development, where their work was taking them and how they were going to progress. Each and every one of them had their gaze firmly focused upon that horizon, that distant place so full of possibility. They were all looking at the future.
Barry Kehoe June 2014