I was invited around Christmas time by curator, Ana Ospina to express interest in an upcoming group exhibition in the Blue House Gallery in Schull for May 2019. Her curatorial vision for the exhibition was for the selection of works to incapsulate an alternative view of West Cork as seen by the locals, not the usual bucolic, pretty landscapes.
Last Summer I had a brief foray with photographing disused hotels in the West Cork area and ended up taking my research down another path instead. After hearing from Ana, just having finished my Masters studies, this miniscule bit of research in its infant stages popped back into my mind and I felt in my gut it could bring me some fresh ideas for making work in 2019. I wrote a proposal and Ana accepted.
I dug up the photos of a recently closed down (10 years approx) hotel in Bantry Bay from the previous summer and got to some online research of disused hotels in the areas near the bays of west Cork. I honed in on Owenahincha, finding an interesting article about the history of the place as a very popular holiday destination in the 1970’s and 80’s, tantalisingly titled: “Bedraggled Owenahincha- What happened our Vegas?” by Tommy Baker from the Irish Examiner February 2013. I needed to take a trip there next.
The place was a little desolate. The hotel had been refurbished however and it wasn’t even Spring yet, not quite as hopeless a scene as I had imagined. I saw neat rows of empty mobile homes and an interesting but decaying blocky, modernist hotel on a hill overlooking the sand dunes from the main strip. A walk down to the beach also yielded some interesting architecture as I came across some Modernist – style beach houses and a curious bricked-up toilet block with an antennae that still had its LADIES sign in relief on the bricks.
Back in the studios, I began to make drawings from this photographic research with a view to make a full series. A few nice drawings emerged but I needed more field research, an important element of my practice that I often take for granted. Things emerge so naturally out of regular drives around remote areas of the county for me.
Taking more road trips on the brightest days in Early Spring to gather research for this series of works led me to hone in on the run-down structures at the edges of the many rural towns that I passed through. These structures are either shut down and disused or closed for the season during the Spring months. They were no longer serving a function for the locals and struck a contrast to the new architectures that were full of life and the shiny signage in the areas.
These obsolete elements, hand-me-downs from recent pasts are expressed through my charcoal drawings and polaroid photography in Alternative Views. Remote vistas that are devoid of current human activity but nonetheless can claim a presence of their own. Grey, isolated, mundane spaces and structures becoming ravaged by nature serve as a reminder to me of the temporality of my own existence evoking an uncanny sense of past human activity which hangs quietly in the air. More about the instant analogue narratives and drawings in a future post..
Alternative Views opens at 6pm on Friday 17th May 2019 in the Blue House Gallery Schull and runs until the 29th May 2019.