Far From Me           
Seth Armstrong [US], Sebastian Boulter [FI],
Colin Martin [IE], Carol Anne McGowan [IE],
Rebecca Partridge [UK], curated by David O’Kane
16 January 2016—27 February 2016

›Far From Me‹ is a group exhibition of five painters I have encountered over the past decade who are connected by ideas of distance as a unifying theme. Distance is evinced in the paintings in various ways and may be considered in terms of voyeurism, estrangement, romanticism, abjection, obsolescence, desire, nostalgia, and internal/external experience. [These ideas are generated by the placement artwork by these five artists within the same context rather than asking the artists to produce new work responding to that theme.] 

Seth Armstrong’s voyeuristic tableaus are represented by small intimate paintings in this show, but the preoccupation in this branch of his visual research remains the same as in his larger compositions. The paintings are reminiscent of Edward Hopper’s depictions of psychological estrangement from the other in spite of physical proximity. We gaze into the realms of other worlds and inevitably concoct a mood, narrative or association with each of them. However, unlike L.B. Jefferies, James Stewart’s character in Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window, we cannot reach any dramatic conclusion, rather the glowing possibilities continue to dance beyond the panes of glass that divide these other worlds from our own. We are alone in a crowd, a phenomenon that speaks to the contemporary alienation of the city and one that seems to have become more acute since Hopper. The paintings balance physical proximity with emotional and psychological distance, a gap that can only be bridged through imagination.

Like Armstrong, an integral part of Sebastian Boulter’s visual playground is also the city. However, rather than offering glimpses of other individual’s lives, Boulter’s paintings hone in on the willfully discarded leavings of city life. These abject remnants are as much a part of what Walter Benjamin referred to as the traces we leave behind in the process of living[1] as any premeditated creative work. Indeed the plastic wrapping depicted may well persist longer than the paint used to portray it. We attempt to cast off these objects to generate some sort of order out of the perceived chaos of the world. Boulter reintroduces their uncomfortable presence into close proximity. He creates a tension between the desire for distance and the beauty of the cellophane vanitas form rendered with paint as an aesthetic object. The paintings point to a constant process that we wish to suppress and yet it is essential to an intuitive inhabitation of the constructed environment.

Some of Colin Martin’s recent work examines objects and environments that were once central to everyday life, but have now become obsolete or are undergoing a process of obsolescence. They are recovered and represented as artifacts bearing the weight of time. These objects are now museum specimens as in his painting Computer museum 2015, oil on canvas, 40 x 50 cm. It is a peculiar irony to see the technology of the screen in various outmoded forms depicted on one of the oldest screens, the canvas, and it points to the speed of change/obsolescence built into technology. Martin explores themes of future orientated culture that has become obsolete or reappraise[2]. Amps, 2015, oil on canvas, 40 x 50 cm points to changes in the modes of production and decimation of music, which situate sound in a particular moment in time, bound to process and physicality.

Carol Anne McGowan’s painting brings us closest to the figure and yet the almost religious gesture of the hand obscuring the face ostensibly transforms the painting into an anti-self-portrait. The hand gracefully yet defiantly denies access to the individual in an age when such a large proportion of the population replace actual interaction with the simulacra of online avatars, posing as identity. The level of mediation is further emphasized in the painting by the choice of a monochrome palette. The hand appears at first glance to belong to the figure and yet the composition severs this connection. The self may be seen as other[3] The self is only knowable insofar as it is reconstituted through the other, like an echo chamber. The hand depicted in the painting may be a representation of the hand that created the work and yet it is also the hand that refuses us entry, blocks our voyeuristic appraisal of the other as object, as reflection of the self. The paradoxical gesture becomes at once ambiguous and uncanny.

Rebecca Partridge’s minutely observed watercolour paintings of specific moments isolated in the passage of time are meticulously selected as resonators with the internal rhythm of the body. The resonance with her grapheme [sound/colour] synaesthetic experience of reality confounds the separation of senses.  She looks at the condition of synaesthesia as a general model[4] and indeed synaesthesia may be the foundation of metaphor[5], that which puts the inside outside. Nature is the outside, the external, what is distant but repatriated through or in time to the body. The painting is the medium of that resonance and the work becomes an intuitive synthesis of a network of modalities.[6]

The sea, or the fog, or the tree, is simply an outside, an other. If we understand mimesis as a way to enter into an embodied relation with the other, and we go along with the notion of nature as outside, then you could say that, by bringing nature into the studio, I blur the boundaries between the inside and the outside. The inner sense of bodily rhythmicality is externalised in the work. At the very same time, the work brings the external and distant close.[7]

Partridge is testing the resonance of the external against the internal response and aiming at a synthesis across a horizon of experience. Bringing the external, that which is far from us inside and reproducing it as a physical object.

The exhibition derives its title from Nick Cave’s song, ›Far From Me‹. Cave describes the lyrical narrative of the song as the gradual disassembly of a relationship. Colin Martin’s Amps I, Oil on canvas, 40 x 50 cm, 2015 depicts the analogue recording studio as an artifact, empty and frozen in time. The various microphones and amplifying equipment are mediums of proliferation but without the voice or instrument they are silent vanitas objects. Music permeates the body as pure experience, penetrating and inhabiting us as a non-physical entity. So in spite of Cave’s lyrical narrative of estrangement through the music the distance is relocated and reassembled within. As a still life, Amps I, invites the contemplation of production and mediation, making the silence a palpable physical experience. In a way all of these paintings attempt to reclaim or bridge the gulf of distance, to repatriate experience in time and space to the viewer, albeit as illusions.
David O’Kane, 2016

›To live means to leave traces.‹ Benjamin, Walter. ›Paris Capital of the Nineteenth Century.‹ Reflections: Essays, Aphorisms, Autobiographical Writing. Trans. Edmund Jephcott. New York: Schocken Books, 1986. Print.
Rebecca Partridge quotes Heidegger in her text ›Time Being: Being Time‹ ›Everyone is the other, and no one is himself‹. http://rebeccapartridge.com/time-being-being-time/
[The pronoun Heidegger uses highlights another type of alienation. The exclusion of the feminine through language usage.]
Partridge, Rebecca ›Resonances and Reverberations: Conversation between Jan Verwoert and Rebecca Partridge‹. Notations – Rebecca Partridge. Trans. Nadja Gebhardt Berlin: Broken Dimanche Press, 2014.
[5] Ibid.
[6] Ibid.
[7] Ibid.


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