Image: Build Your Own Horizon / Kinsale 2019, A3 printed card

Sarah Iremonger uses a multidisciplinary approach of found, created and adapted images, including photographs, murals, painting, drawing, badges, cards, digital media, video and neon in her work.  Based in Kinsale, Co. Cork, Ireland, early work is embedded in the romantic and modernist traditions, with epic implications.

Later and recent works, include site-specific projects, which explore ideas of representation and how, as a hangover of the romantic tradition, representation perpetuates a scenario of our separation from the world around us, the nature verses culture dichotomy, but what if nature is culture and vise versa? By focusing on appropriation and adaptation of available material, this work is best described as a series of thought experiments through painting. By placing subject matter and personal artistic expression in the background, visual signifiers become hidden in a forest of post-representational camouflage.


Early work
The early work, paintings from the 1990’s, focused on depicting representations of space and light on a flat surface, using walls, windows and doorways to create space within the picture plane. Interested in how the illusion of space could be created on and beyond a flat surface through layers of luminous dark oil colours on canvas and acrylic on paper.
 
The conceptualization of my practice in 1998, changed the way I approached my central concern the quandary of painting 1999-2003, work became more research based and explored how context shapes meaning. I became fasinated with the idea of representation as subject matter instead of a means. I developed a multidisciplinary approach to create installations and exhibitions, exploring the way site affects meaning. For example in the exhibition The Top Half of the Hero at the Triskel Arts Centre, Cork in 2002, images of the gallery space and the hidden office spaces were reproduced and included as part of the exhibition in the form of drawn murals and photographs. This created a dislocation of space and meaning, creating a heightened awareness of the site.


Recent work
Vessels
2019-21 'Not to perpetuate the ideology of separation' Edward Said

The vessels used in this work come from different countries; these include North America, Thailand, Iran, Turkey, Pakistan, Syria and Sudan. Some are thousands of years old, some hundreds. They have been reduced to transparent silhouettes, superimposed one on top of the other and painted as transparent colour separation films, like a Venn diagram.
 
The possibility of a post-representational or a post-romantic art-form fascinates me, for example by using diagrams, images that interact with the world rather than representing it. Here I have painted this work from the perspective of colour as transparent refracted light. The framework holding this light, resembles a Venn diagram, which uses a self-directed concept that 'generates the thing to be done' (credit for this phrase goes to Catherine Harty). The vessels have been chosen because of their multi-time, multi-national implications.

Work from this series can be seen as part of the online exhibitions 'The Time of Our Lives' 2020 and 'New & Recent Work' 2021 with Oliver Sears Gallery.


Build Your Own Horizon is a public participation project, created as part of the Bealtaine Artist in Residence program at Uillinn, West Cork Arts Centre, Skibbereen, Cork in association with Cork County Council, May 2020 (postponed until 2022 due to the pandemic). This project involves a drawing workshop where participants draw the horizons through the windows from each of the floors at Uillinn. Uillinn is situated in the center of Skibbereen town, a contemporary building rising up four floors, providing panoramic views of the town on several levels. This project explores the idea of the horizon as constantly shifting and ephemeral, depending on the perspective or situation of the viewer. The drawings will be reproduced as cardboard cut-out horizons, installed in the main gallery and then taken home.

2014 has seen a return to painting through the development of a collaborative project Horizons with poet Derek Mahon. This project involves a completed prose piece, which was been published as part of the collection ‘Olympia and the Internetwith The Gallery Press 2017 and exhibited as part of 'Press Play' at Oliver Sears Gallery, Dublin in 2019.
 
The watercolours and drawings in this project are based on a variety of images sourced from original photographs and drawings, as well as found online images and art history. They have been painted in the style of camouflage and layered to create a fragmented confusion of abstract shapes. Images include photographs of Cork Harbour and Skellig Michael, as well as found online images of Star Wars and nature camouflages, and the works of painters James Arthur O'Connor and Mondrian.
 
These works investigate the identity of place, including that of a spiritual historical site, and how this identity has been co-opted or displaced for mass media and corporate gain. Their style references early 20th century abstract art with a digital twist. By placing the agency of subject matter and personal artistic signature and expression in the background, the visual landscape signifiers become hidden in a forest of post-representational camouflage.

 
Earlier work
Solipsism Series was exhibited at Macroom Town Hall, Co. Cork 2013 as part of ‘World View of an Oyster’ exhibition curated for Cork County Council, and shown at the Royal Hibernian Gallery, Dublin 2014. The works consist of digitally manipulated images of nineteenth century maritime paintings of Cork Harbour by Cobh artist George Mounsey Wheatly Atkinson. They are printed and mounted on dibond. By removing the subject matter of the paintings, for example the ships, offers the opportunity for a different interpretation of the paintings and collapses the subject/object duality of the paintings.
 
Landscape Unions include the Desert, Mountain and River Unions. Desert Union was exhibited as part of 'Worlds End' project at The Guesthouse, Cork 2011. It consisted of a multimedia installation using photography, video, text, lights and smoke. This line of thinking came about through a residency at The Broken Hill Art Exchange, NSW, Australia in May 2011, and the work of Austrian / Australian nineteenth century artist Eugen von Guérard, it explores the positioning of power in relation to nature, and how this is influenced by historical colonial perspectives about landscape. Here nature attempts to fight back, acquire its own agency and rights through the idea of forming landscape unions.

The Travels of Eugen von Guérard shown at allerArt, Austria 2011 and Sirius Arts Centre, Co. Cork 2012, looked at how the work of nineteenth century Austrian / Australian artist Eugen von Guérard exported a specific European colonial vision of landscape to Australia. This work explores the idea of the artwork as an ephemeral object imbued with meaning, and shows how our ideas about nature are a construct of specific cultural perspectives. Using found objects, photography, text and a painted mural to confound fiction and fact, past and present, exploring the nature of our understanding of images of landscape.

Different materials such as video, neon, drawn and painted murals, printed media, and photographs have helped me explore the relationship between perception and meaning. The Hunting Box Party 2005-2011 was shown at the Crawford Art Gallery, Cork in 2005, the Knoll Gallery, Vienna, Austria 2010, the Knoll Gallery, Budapest, Hungary 2011 and The Armory Gallery, Sydney Olympic Stadium, Australia 2011. Using video, painted murals, badges and greeting cards to explore the idea of the artwork as an ephemeral object of imbued meaning. This work and the Landscape Unions 2011 use politics as a context within which to make artwork. These works are critical of an anthropocentric view of nature.
 
In the exhibition I thought I dreamed of you 2009-10 at the West Cork Arts Centre, a painted mural and faked documentation of the same mural installed upside down in the gallery are exhibited together. The documentation took the form of drawing on a photograph of the exhibition space, suggesting a slippage and dislocation of space and time, fact and fiction. Consisting of photography, video, neon, drawing, wall painting and badges, this exhibition explored how we understand our reality. Can we be sure it even exists? Is it just a dream, a series of thoughts? I thought I dreamed of you explored the idea of fragmented realities presenting a sort of post-modern possibility. The title of the exhibition is a give-away I thought I dreamed of you explores the idea of ‘I’ as a thinking presence, while ‘dreamed’ questions the nature of reality suggesting it is imagined and constantly in flux, and ‘you’ is experienced in terms of an existential quandary of the other, questioning how we understand ourselves through others and the world around us.

Sarah Iremonger 2021