My work is an investigation into the physicality of being in an urban environment and how nature and the natural world is perceived through this lens. In a time of rapid change to climate and eco-systems worldwide, I investigate my local ‘habitat’ of Cork City – at the urban cycle of construction and demolition and at the seasonal cycle of growth of flora and fauna within this. Through direct engagement with this work, I hope to create a space for philosophical engagement between a duality of the man-made and nature, and of our role within this.
The work consists primarily of oil and acrylic paintings on clear-primed wood panels. The simplified appearance of the buildings in my paintings is informed by the idealised rendering of architectural models. This treatment includes the use of clear openings instead of windows or doors. By depicting the buildings as porous structures, I hope to give a greater sense of space and depth, highlight the mobility of the embodied individual in an environment and to re-stage this experience in the viewing of the paintings. Although the structures are based on ‘real’ buildings observed in my local urban environment, the chosen treatment is intended to highlight the fact that they are man-made conceptions, thus encouraging the viewer to consider their meaning rather than bringing to mind a specific place. The ‘natural’ is represented by plant forms such as bindweed, nettles and thistles, which are pervasive in both urban and rural environments.
I have an interest in the emotive and transcendent possibilities of colour. The philosopher Immanuel Kant spoke of how contemplating the beautiful allows ‘free-play’ in the mind through our intellectual faculties and sense of perception. In my work I am looking at how, using colour, line and form, I can direct the attention of the viewer at the work, in a way that allows for the ‘intentionality’ or directed attention necessary for phenomenological experience.
This on-going body of work includes diptychs and triptychs, which can be presented in multiple formats. Most recently the work included a birch plywood structural piece which investigated the possibilities of a floor-based free-standing painting that could be physically navigated by the viewer. The intention was that the form of the piece replicate an organic growing shape- the geometrically cut panels representative of the built environment, while the circular organisation of the panels call to mind a growing plant form. Each clear-primed panel is painted in oil and acrylic, featuring scenes of parts of buildings interwoven with plants in a state of growth and tumbling apart. This exploration of extended forms in painting is an attempt to mirror the constant reforming of the urban landscape – which undergoes a constant cycle of construction and dereliction, alongside the seasonal cycle of plant forms, that grow opportunistically throughout. It is also intended that the multiple formats of these pieces re-stage, for the viewer, the experience of moving through the city, approaching the same buildings and landscapes from different view points, and thus the experience being different each time.