Sternview Gallery at Nash 19

This survey exhibition of photographic objects by Roseanne Lynch traces her practice from 2010 to present. It is an elucidation of her visual vocabularies and strategies, and her critical concerns regarding photography as a medium. Visual thoughtfulness and attention to materials come together with considerations of structure and form. Works centre on constructions with elements combined in the darkroom and studio. Equally important is an attentiveness to architectural details and visual investigations of environments. Vital are transitions between light and dark; where sculptural forms appear in tonal fields conforming to her framing and spatial arrangements. From photograms and assemblies to particulars of buildings, Roseanne generates new photographic objects with the compelling question: what would that look like as a photograph?

Opening address by Fiona Kearney, Director Lewis Glucksman Gallery, UCC.

One of the first things that might strike you about the exhibition are the heightened oppositions: light and dark, white and black, figure and architecture, single and multiple, the speed of light and the slowness of looking, particularly when we might be unsure exactly what we are looking at. This is unusual for the medium of photography which generally yields up its subject matter quickly.
At various points during my conversation with Roseanne yesterday, she mentioned the idea of inarticulation – and while we are often subdued before the work of art, it is true that the nuanced beauty in this room resists language in a way that makes it challenging for someone invited to speak about the work.

However, the curatorial orbit that swivels the viewer around the Sternview space is very considered and provides a kind of silent direction and comfort. We are supposed to be here, looking,
Perhaps, inevitably, we gravitate towards the known.

The enchanting photograph Galatea, and another opposition – the eternal battle between good and evil. This picture of the Medici Fountain in Paris, depicts the lovers Acis and Galatea, in a moment of bliss, that is soon to be interrupted by the watching presence of the Giant Polyphemus.
In photography, we are always on the outside looking in, peering like the giant into someone else’s existence. Even if it is our own image that we are looking at.

I am not sure how many selfies have been taken at the Medici Fountain, but what is certain is that we live in an age of immediate imagery. Pictures can be shared globally in seconds, and we have quickly become used to the idea of scrolling through images on a screen, so that the idea of an actual photo album has already become quaint, something of the recent past.

Although the artist delves back into the history of the medium, there is no nostalgia in this exhibition, rather a more philosophical questioning about the nature of photography itself. And while the works recall early photography where exposure times meant that sculpture and architecture were favoured subjects (because it didn’t move and create a blur) Roseanne’s images also capture the experimentation and possibility that surrounded the new medium which is akin to the excitement of the digital discussion today.

This elision of the old and the new is another opposition in the exhibition. Are we looking at an ipad, or a sheet of paper, the newest technology or one of the oldest.

In fact, Roseanne invites us to look at the simplest of things, the very materials of photography – the prints, the aluminium, the filters,that usually remain in service of the image, present but unseen. She reveals them only to pull away our focus, so that we get lost in looking, our attention seduced by the velvety tones, inky blacks and hazy brightness of these photographic abstractions. We stand still but our eye cannot settle, it follows the shimmer and shadow, but there is rarely one point of perspective to anchor our vision.

Photography has an indexical link to the world. It points and says look at this, look I was here. In Roseanne’s work the light pierces our vision, confounds us in its darkness. We are blinded to representation and as when we encounter an abstract painting, we have to relearn our way of seeing, and understand the image in a
different way.

Untitled Macba
This image of a lightfitting in a museum in Barcelona, is a beautiful summation of the multiple themes at play in Roseanne’s work. It is a digital pigment on an ancient material. Its subject is a thing to be seen, a thing that allows us to see, and a thing that disappears in its own abstraction.

Perhaps, because of the Paris connection, or because of the monochrome world of much of his writing, Roseanne’s work remind me of Beckett’s later prose where his narrators, somehow go on, no matter how tenuous their existence, voices in the dark that are being pushed to the edge of being so that it becomes almost impossible to distinguish between figure and ground or what Beckett referred to as that ‘white speck
lost in whiteness’. It is hard to imagine a better descriptor for the MACBA print.

But while Roseanne, and Padraig and Claire, have generously created the work and an environment in which we might pleasurably get lost. The artist knows where she is going and her next steps, take her on a residency to the Centre Culturel Irlandais in Paris.

So perhaps, we can conclude by looking at the Maquette image, the scaffolding of a future monument, the possibility of what is yet to come…
And wish the artist bon voyage.

Sternview Gallery at Nash19, Princes Street, Cork

July 7th-August 30th 2014

Fiona Kearney, Director Gucksman Gallery UCC.

Pádraig Spillane