It was a real privilege to have artist Cormac O’Leary open our two September solo exhibitions, Fractured Edge by Breda Burns and Blurred Visions by Ian Wieczoreck.
Cormac very kindly agreed to send us a copy of his address from the opening and we are delighted to publish it here.
Its something we should be doing more often, so hopefully this will be a regular blog feature.
It takes a special set of survival skills to negotiate the art world from the periphery, far from the perceived centres of cultural innovation and influence, not only are there geographical divides to cross, there are also cultural maps to navigate, languages to learn, phrases to recite. For the rural Irish artist the gulf between getting your work seen and appreciated and having it languish in obscurity can be difficult to bridge. The internet has shrunk our world to a virtual village, exposing all artists to the same deluge of visual imagery whether your operating in Ballina, Beijing or Berlin. So how do artists survive and process this new world order?
Ian and Breda are both Mayo based artists who have managed to absorb much contemporary influences while also engaging in traditional methods, they have both worked from rural outposts but engage in the cultural life of their locality and the wider art world. They are both committed activists and contributors to the creative community of Mayo and the west. Breda researches, produces and broadcasts an arts-show on Westport radio and Ian has written extensively on the arts as well as curating many exhibitions. They both combine the individualism of the serious artist with the generous outlook of those engaged in advancing and aiding art in the country. They have both exhibited internationally and both have been awarded residencies in Ireland and Europe, both have growing reputations and their work is exhibited widely. Both artists engage in figurative and landscape motifs but bring them to different and original conclusions.
BREDA - FRACTURED EDGE
Breda Burns describes herself as an audio visual artist, using a variety of media both contemporary and traditional , investigating her surroundings, questioning, exploring and observing. Ongoing themes are returned to over time, and often across multi disciplinary projects. She lives in Clew Bay, a coastal area with a tidal topography that seeps into her work, which often portrays a lone figure dissolving into the environment - or reflected in the mirrored sea. These are images from her 'back door' where the individual artist confronts the vastness of sea and shore and relates the turbulent outer world to a more intimate inner world. There is a centered calm in the eye of the storm. The Mayo coast is the furthest westerly fringe of old Europe, politics and culture matter here, but must also be subject to the vagaries of the weather and the sea. as Seamus Heaney told us. We are not outside nature but made of it
To quote Breda ; 'Seeing, understanding, listening, speaking, engaging, challenging, playing, destroying, reconstructing, standing back, letting go and starting over are all part of the artistic endeavour, both as a solitary and collaborative process. The artist stands in these rapidly changing times inside and outside the tribe, both states mirroring the other.'
Breda has a varied and energetic creative output, ranging over sculpture, performance, installation, photography and film. as well as exploring various mixed media and painting techniques. There is a sense of physical immersion in her work, like the swimmer diving headlong into a deep stormy sea, she seems to fearlessly take on the big spaces of her homeland and internalise that journey, expressing its unsettling motion and stillness in images that are both focused and warped by movement. The self, both physical and spiritual is somehow weighted between the extremes of this place -it is an ongoing narrative the artist returns to again and again over the years. In the 'Fractured Edge' painting the canvas extends into a sculpted block of shoreline. Skies boil and darken in storm fronts, opening out to panoramic spaces, the sea is omnipresent. Light shifts from photograph to painting surface and back again, reflecting the shifting atmospherics of an elemental terrain, a country exposed to the full force of nature, surviving against the odds.
The fractured edge of Mayo, Ireland and Europe all share a long history, just as the human body accumulates its own physical history of scars and indentations. The artist also experienced a painful injury and a fall from that same fraught edge while exploring the Mayo coast. Her hand was injured and that hand is the fractured shadow we see here in these works. This of course is a distressing injury for anyone but particularly an artist, but it is a testimony to Breda's strength and courage that she is back fighting fit and creating imagery by hand again !
IAN - BLURRED IMAGES
Ian Wiezcorek has been exhibiting his paintings for several years now. Having been a committed art reviewer and cultural commentator for some time, he turned to a maker and producer of his own paintings with intensity and commitment. In the last few years He has built up a solid career exhibiting nationally and internationally , recently included in the Lanzarote Art Festival. These recent works explore often obscure and 'low resolution 'imagery taken from the internet. To quote Ian ;
'Stripped of specific context, the images transcend their original documentary intentions and assume a more malleable subjective significance.'
There is something recognisable yet oddly unsettling about such images. We have already grown familiar with the blindfolded hostages about to be executed live in front of a world audience - how strange that such a horrific medieval nightmare should become familiar as celebrities and commercials , it is a stark anomaly in the world of google, which aspired to shared knowledge and positive experiences. But despite technological advances, humans in all their erratic unpredictable natures, with their capacities for violence and mayhem, cant be controlled. War and terrorism in all its forms, state sanctioned or subversive rage on , the only difference now is that it has more media outlets. There's no editor anymore, no-ones in control and no-ones responsible. Maybe the artist is the 'last editor', able to sift and decipher the telling image from all the flood of imagery out there. To quote Leonard Cohen 'The blizzard of the world has crossed the threshold and its overturned the order of the soul.'
There is an ominous precedence here - we are gradually becoming unshockable as these images degrade our humanity, becoming just another jaded image to flick over. In an era of wall building and caged families images that seem bland and benign may in fact be subversive and startling. Are the fraught figures caught on camera scaling boundaries escaping or breaking in, or they desperate refugees or threatening intruders? They hang suspended between freedom and imprisonment, captured in motion by the all seeing eye of privatised security that now polices the borders of our exclusive world. They hang like questions in the grey static air, asking us how desperate do you have to be to climb that fence and drop into the unknown on the other side.
The faces of the missing also strike an ambiguous note. They could be on the run or kidnapped, in hiding or victims of tragedy, either way they are a ghostly presence, haunting our shared sense of community. Their very normality is somehow made transcendent by the mystery of their fate. (Somebodies daughter, somebodies son.)
The series of burning cars are immediately familiar from daily news reports, yet without explanation we are left wondering are these accidents or results of deliberate damage. Cars are usually targeted in riots, or bombed by subversives. New cars are icons of commerce, status symbols for a 'healthy' economy. Their burning is a signal of social distress, a breakdown in the reliable order, a disruption.
Ian's paintings are rendered with great skill and sensitivity with echoes of classical and modernist compositions- we are drawn to the familiar narrative, only to have our certainties and preconceptions challenged and undermined, like all the best art more questions are being asked than answered.
I highly recommend this show by two original and formidable talents, return and view it again, you'll keep finding something new to question and wonder about.
Cormac O'Leary Sept 19