Monday, July 23, 2012

Another View of Helene

Another View of Helene
Fiona Larkin
28th of April - 10th of June
Butler Gallery, Kilkenny 

Review by Darren Caffrey

Gallery visitor in the corridor outside (Reviewers Own)
There is no obvious danger but the question of who protects us looms large. Connection made through the use of artistic controls, Larkin offers herself to a force, perhaps even her very own deity. Yellows can be spotted everywhere, as miscellaneous shapes hidden within a book, as a mistaken mark set within a frame, in the photographs of everyday living and in the remains of this seemingly ordinary life. In some ways this show provides us with the result of an examination, less so it might be said of this review… but read on. If you were liking to begin in spite rather than service then I would say that the worst is surely the best place to begin. That way you will quickly depart from such a disposition and enter into what is the true spirit of her visual expression.

How Things Are Connected, Drawing on newsprint, graphite & ink, 30 x 21cm, 2011

A Spectrum of Vulnerable Material, T-shits, cardboard & pins, 50x81x81cm, 2012

So, t-shirts stand as witness to the disembowelment of their text, once magnificent hues reflect the memories of a holiday now perhaps lost to memory alone. Five or perhaps seven differing shades all exhibit only what is missing; the cut-out letters left to fall amongst one another, propped upon a wooden shelf, as though somehow deprived of natural form or integrity. It no longer may be read ‘Lanzarote’ but just maybe ‘L’ or ‘z’ remain. In any case the distance has apparently been felt as too much to wear: each shirt sourced from charity shops in the Dublin area; yet as the evidence of a globe in all of its circular glory is pinched and folded, the message we read seems based more on the trend than the activity of self expression. In this sense the punch of both colour and caption appear bound and gagged, effectively dead upon arrival, nothing added and in this instance, nothing gained.

Ever Expanding Horizon, Installation detail: Series of photographs (glimpsed) on wooden shelf, Dimensions variable, 2009 - ongoing

Through a series of actions Larkin attempts to weave herself into the unknown narrative of an unknown agitation. It is here that true characterisation veers further into the realms of the impossible, all sense of revelation becoming submerged by swathes and swatches of gold, primrose and JCB. Indeed the exhibition as a whole begins, only to distract. The first tease is a digital print-out which abruptly renders an imagined estimation of Helene, alongside a yellow wall-text which reads ‘Another View of Helene’. For the sake of context, Helene is a very real object which orbits with the many billion other celestial bodies; but creativity being what it is, it is never pure, there is always another view.

Another View of Helene (Making Contact), Gilcee Print with watercolour.  Image courtesy NASA Images, 38 x 29cm, 2012

In this opening work, Helene receives added illustration by way of watercolour and of course the colour of that water is yellow. The hand which has put colour to this NASA sourced image appears then to ask the touching question, who on earth is Helene? It might be said that the mystery resists any broad significance but let us continue in hopes that we might follow Larkin wherever it is that she has extended outside of herself and toward us, indeed toward all who also serve the story through which they are followed.

The lay-out of the gallery imposes direction to the end that one room follows the next. The last of which leaves you sitting on a bench in the dark, facing the light from a projected moving image of a woman’s hand as she seeks to reposition some of the various components which have threaded the spine of the show until now. Effectively shouldering the quest of the viewer to untangle their own apparent deceits, each work seeks to provide ways by which to interpret artistic and indeed theologian presumptions, notably the belief in the other as distinct from the wild savagery of the self. But who again is Helene?

De Ne Pouvoir Etre Seul (translation: Not to be Able to be Alone), Video, sound, Duration:3mins20secs, Variable, 2011

In this video, there is a photograph, the same one from the exhibition flyer, in which a female appears with her back to us, choosing instead to view artworks hanging within frames on a wall which is itself evidently not so well preserved. The figure of this image bears a non-descript yellow marking on her back and it is this as the source image which plays host to a series of photographs, each one positioned and quickly withdrawn only to be replaced by the next; and each bearing a loose relation to the yellow marking, primarily as a result of its dominant colour. Through a range of references drawn from antiquity to the modern day, a narrator implicates the viewer from the photograph to be the follower of a set of variously attributable facts which in turn stem from the stories derived from the colour yellow, be it ‘Naples’ or ‘Happy Daze’ ™ (Crown Paints).

In another video work, Larkin has set a simple scene wherein a log cabin stands in partial silhouette against a body of water lined by trees. The artist appears to move from behind the camera and walk into shot, entering the frame through which she had been viewing. Away from the tools of control, she is shown as who she is, a fact not least enhanced by the amount of time she spends standing still, knowingly centre of stage. From this point she appears to look out into a vastness that is alien to her. After a shuffle and one last look she leaves the centre of the screen, merging deeper into the silhouette and out of shot completely, but not before glancing back to show us one last time who she is. Unburdened by the loss of creative control or the cause for readable expression, she manages simply to be. In this act she proves the search meaningless after all, expression and identity as weighty as they are, all of this is blown aside by her humility in the face of distance.

(Getting Closer to) Centre Stage, Video, action, paper screen, wooden bracket/shelf, Duration:2mins50secs, Screen 53x44.4cm, 2011

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