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These 9 Artists are Revolutionising Photography in Ireland

Header Image by Jolane Schaffner

Words: Staff Writer

Photography in Ireland is currently experiencing a particularly fertile patch in its development. Urged on by a younger generation that is more willing to push the boat out, Irish photography is becoming increasingly diverse in both form and content. In recognition of this spurt of growth, Blow Photo, the contemporary fine art photography platform, has been invited by Photo Museum Ireland to curate chapter six of In Our Own Image – the museum’s year-long programme surveying photographic practices in Ireland.

The Rise which opens in D Light Studios this Thursday is curated by Agata Stoinska and Monika Chmielarz and features nine young photographers whose work indicates new directions in contemporary photography in Ireland. Ahead of the exhibition launch on Thursday, we have broken down the work of the nine featured artists.

Iryna Baklan

Tender Loving Care

Iryna likes to explore local landscapes employing photography as a tool to document and reflect. Intrigued by the juncture of man and artifice, she looks at how space is formed and organised, gradually assembling shapes and patterns that form the patchwork of our cultural landscape. 

Her current practice revolves around ideas of landscape, play, and perception within the everyday. Bending the understanding of both medium and subject matter, Baklan’s photographs playfully invite the viewer to reconsider their habits of seeing.

Iryna says “Tender Loving Care explores internal fragilities through a sensitivity towards external structures of support. It is also a response to the nature of perception and a growing disengagement with our local environment. Facilitated by a sense of childlike discovery and democratic looking, anything is of potential interest. I filter through the habitual and common to discover the quirks, ingenuities, and idiosyncrasies of people who never appear in the photographs but nonetheless are there.”

David Copeland

Darkness Visible

David Copeland, a photographer born and based in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Interested in landscapes’ power to both delight and disturb, David continues to explore psychology, landscape, and place. His work utilizes conceptual and documentary approaches to explore states of mind, place, and the boundaries physical and psychological that can hold us in between. 

His project, Darkness Visible explores the idea of darkness. He explains “At its edge, the Darkness is infinite: home of the mythological, clandestine, dead, and lurking. It could be everything and nothing, a harbinger of fear, a metaphor for despair. Plundering its drama, myths, and its ability to amplify silence to constant and tinnitus-like drone. “

I photograph the same streets, day and night, that I have always walked. In the morning, the seeing world’s existence is restored.  The sun grounds us in the day, as do house lights and streetlights in the night. 

Clare Lyons

Every Saturday

Clare Lyons (b.1993) is a visual artist and photographer working between Dublin and Belfast. She holds an MFA in Photography from the Belfast School of Art in Ulster University.

Clare’s practice finds its concern in the tactile nature of the photographic image. Emphasising the materiality of the photograph, she explores themes of memory, trauma and her personal struggles with mental illness. 

Describing her project Every Saturday, she says:

I was born in 1993, but my official birth certificate was issued three years later in 1996. Following court orders, I spent every Saturday with the man listed as my biological father, but he is not my Dad.

Every Saturday is the culmination of a lifetime of trauma, pain, and confusion, resulting in an autobiographical narrative which reflects on identity and what it means to be family. Through experimental methods of working with my family archive and childlike crafting using ephemeral materials from the landscape, the story affirms my sense of self, connection with my Dad, and confirms that love goes much deeper than biological connection.

Karl Magee

Continuing

Karl Magee is a Dublin based photographer, first drawn to the camera from a longing to record the passing world and the change it brings. Karl seeks to convey a nostalgic mood and a search for the next fleeting moment. Now more than ever, this search has shown the weight of time and the emotion it can instil in an image. With a focus on club culture, Karl captures scenes filled with depth and feeling, allowing viewers to connect personally and recount their own memories.

Selected works comprised over recent years. Intricately woven and seemingly linked much of this photography finds its origins in trial and chance. Two sides of a story, some are bound by certainty others by possibility.

Elinor O’Donovan

Stock

Elinor O’Donovan (b.1995) is a multidisciplinary artist based in Cork, Ireland. 

Her practice references internet memes, cartoons, and film and tv tropes. Through playful sculpture, collage, drawing and installations, she teases out the ways that familiarity with common tropes in popular culture allows us to form cognitive shortcuts, influencing how we understand the world around us.

Drawing on theater set-design, she examines the dichotomies of front-stage/back-stage, public/private space, and audience/performer.

‘Stock’ 2022 is a sculptural installation consisting of license-free stock-photos mounted on cardboard boxes. The work refers to the commercial imagery we encounter in our daily lives, and the ways that these images shape our perception of the world around us. Removed from the pristine palatability of commercial images, the work sits in an uncanny valley of aesthetic neoteny – calling into question the value a work has when it is left sketchy and unformed.

Created while on residency at West Cork Arts Centre, this work draws on the tradition of landscape art, depicting various elements which might comprise an Irish landscape photograph – green grass, blue skies, stone walls, rolling hills – though as it is made up of stock photographs it is unclear which images, if any, were taken in Ireland.

Jolane Schaffner

With All its Fear and Grace

Jolane Schaffner is a German photographer and communication designer currently based in Belfast where she completed her MFA Photography at the Belfast School of Art (2021).
The German language contains two words for home: Zuhause (where one lives – a place of comfort and peace) and Heimat (a familiar landscape evoked by memories and nostalgia).

Jolane’s work has always evolved around these twin notions of belonging; of absence and presence. She seeks both conceptual and documentary perspectives to explore the connection between place and identity.

“With all its Fear and Grace” is an ongoing reflection upon my childhood and the search to find a home within myself. It shows my emotional progression from the child’s absorbed perspective to the contemplations of an adult.

Memories of ease and certainty are rooted within the landscape of my childhood’s endless summers. Revisiting this familiar landscape, I allowed myself to play, to be immersed, to surrender. When I found the fields dried up the next summer I started to collect the flowers and to study them – objects of strength and tenderness. Both perspectives reflect my search for universal trust within myself. I’m hoping to find a certainty to belong and the empowerment to be.

Donal Talbot

Queer Fighters

Dónal Talbot is an artist and photographer based in Ireland. Talbot’s work is predominantly based in portraiture, and uses its intimate qualities as a tool to showcase and empower the LGBTQ+ community, through representation in art.

Often employing a soft lens, Talbot’s work hopes to capture his subjects in natural light and unedited backgrounds while interviewing his subject’s in a conversational style, with the hopes of capturing a real and honest depiction of their everyday lives.

‘Queer Fighters’ is a photographic body of work that features six different LGBTQ+ individuals based in Dublin who are actively involved in combat sports and Martial Arts, including Mai Thai and Boxing. 

This project, which consists of intimate one on one portraits of each athlete placed within different queer friendly clubs around the city hopes to showcase a new era of acceptance in Irish Martial Arts, an era which values diversity and inclusion for all types of athletes.

George Voronov

We Became Everything

George Voronov (b. Moscow 1993) is a fine-art and documentary photographer currently based in Dublin, Ireland.

We Became Everything is concerned with photographing what a religious experience feels like and the young people who search for them.

Spending time in religious communities, on spiritual retreats, and at sites of worship I found that everyone I met shared one core conviction. This was a belief in the existence of two worlds: our familiar ‘real’ world as well as an elusive and mysterious spiritual world which lies beyond the boundaries of normal perception.

The idea of photographing a link between these worlds became a subject of fascination. These almost imperceptible moments when one becomes aware of one world bleeding into the other are what we have come to call religious experiences. I began to tune into these rifts in reality. In these instances, the banal gives way to the sublime triggering inspiration, revelation, or even rapture.

Roisin White

Our Year of Rest and Relaxation

Róisín White is a visual artist based, working primarily with photography while incorporating drawing, sculpture, and textiles into her practice. Róisín holds a BA (Hons) in Photography from DIT, and certificates in Ceramics, Sculpture and Drawing from NCAD.

Our Year of Rest and Relaxation is an image and textile-based work, born out of a need to return to working with my hands, and embrace the repetitive action of sewing – busy hands make for a quiet mind. 

The panic and terror of the pandemic made me unable to continue working in my studio. I felt incapable of being creative. It felt like I had crossed a verge I could not return from. My usual practice felt inaccessible, so I began to attempt new pastimes to distract and fill the void of our pre-pandemic lives. Jigsaws, breadmaking, paper marbling, and eventually I came to quilt making. 

A quilt is something soft, something comforting. Patchwork is piecing scraps together to make something useful and secure. This was the kind of art I needed to make in times of trauma. Now, more than two years since the pandemic began, I am able to reflect on those first months of lockdown. Our Year of Rest and Relaxation is a work that responds to that time. 

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