Build Your Own Horizon / Kinsale 2019

I have used a multidisciplinary approach to making work since the late 1990's including found, created and adapted images, painting, wall painting, drawing, digital media, video and neon.  Born in 1965, based in Co. Cork, Ireland, my early work is embedded in the romantic and modernist traditions with epic implications, which I soon became disillusioned with.


Early work
The early work, paintings from the 1990’s, focused on depicting representations of space and light, using walls, windows and doorways to create space within the picture plane. I was 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 board, and acrylic on paper.
 
The conceptualization of my practice in 1998, with completion of an MA in Fine Art at Winchester School of Art in Barcelona, changed the way I approached my central concern at the time the quandary of painting, which explores how context shapes meaning.

Since then I have used 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
2019-20, was exhibited online as part of 'The Time of Our Lives' with Oliver Sears Gallery, Dublin. 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 and superimposed one on top of the other.

The possibility of the idea of a post-representational art form fascinates me. To this end I have painted this work from the perspective of the colour as transparent light. The framework holding this light, the vessels have been chosen because of their multi-time, multi-national implications.

Build Your Own Horizon/Uillinn is a public participation project, created as part of the Bealtaine Artist in Residence program at Uillinn, West Cork Arts Centre, in association with Cork County Council, May 2020 (posponed until 2021). This project involves a drawing workshop where participants will draw the horizons through the windows from each of the floors at Uillinn West Cork Arts Centre. 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 / situation of the viewer. The drawings will be reproduced as cut out horizons for the public to cut out, install in the main gallery and then take home.

2014-20 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 has 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 are based on a variety of images sourced from original photographs, found online images and images from art history. They have been transformed to appear like camouflage and layered to create a fragmented confusion of abstract shapes. Images such as the entrance to Cork Harbour, Skellig Michael, nature-camouflages, Star Wars and the works of Irish nineteenth century painter James Arthur O'Connor.
 
These paintings investigate the separation between humans and nature, and explore romanticisms failure to address this, by placing the agency of subject matter and personal artistic signature in the background, so that visual landscape signifiers are 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 part of which was 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, and 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 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 2020