The environmental quality of the West of Ireland informs the Viscqueux and Surfacing series of works. The objects, photographs and paintings are steeped in disappearing imagery, exposing the fragility of the life in these regions, from farming and food production to the scarring of post-boom Ireland.
Lake Inchequin in County Clare and Ballycastle in Co Mayo served as sites for this research. Between 2003 and 2008 the accumulation of detritus and algal growth was recorded. This algae is a residue of the eutrophication that slowly de-oxygenates the water in rivers and lakes in the region and gave the paintings their title, Viscaux- slimy, a form of matter that was full of potential as a conceptualisation of the ‘dark side’ of Irish landscape. The word signifies the problematic relationship between history, landscape and identity being enacted in the West today.
Solids, Sartre reasons, are like tools; they can be taken up and put down again, having served their purpose. But the slimy, in the form of the gagging suction of a leechlike past that will not release its grip, seems to contain its own form of possessiveness. It is, he writes, “the revenge of the In-itself.”[i]
The paintings were made in tandem with the objects and photographs in the Surfacing series. Using dark, pigmented gesso boards as a surface, the photographs are transcribed and rendered monochromatically. The subject matter hovers between abstraction and reality producing an uncanny conflation between physical experience and illusion. In his writing on the relationship between photography and painting, Gerhard Richter has said that the photograph ‘provokes horror and the painting- with the same motif- something more like grief.’[ii] Underpinning this work was the idea that painting could disrupt the photographic image and prompt a degree of reflexivity on the part of the viewer. In the past landscape may have evoked a terror of the infinite, the sublime. Now, given the world’s current environmental course, it provides something akin to a terror of loss.
[i] Collins, Tim. “Catalytic Aesthetics,” Artful Ecologies, Art, Nature, Environment Conference, (Falmouth: RANE research Cluster, UC Falmouth 2006) 26
[i] Rosalind E. Krauss and Yves-Allain Bois, The Destiny of the Informe. Formless: A users Guide (New York: Zone Books, 1997), 238.
[ii] Gerhard Richter. “Conversation with Jan Thorn Prikker concerning the cycle 18 October 1977 1989”, The Daily Practice of Painting Writings 1962-1993. (London: Thames and Hudson, 1995) 189.