Words: Eva O’Beirne
Images by Jed Niezgoda, Hazel Coonagh, Conor Clinch and Ruth Medjber
Embracing elements of social media, street photography, music and fashion photography with elements of the documentary tradition, the exhibition treads the line between heavy and light-hearted.
Curated by William Laffan and Dawn Williams, SATURATION is unique in the sense that each piece featured in the exhibition was married to the theme instead of built around it.
Featuring thirteen Irish and Ireland-based artists, it will be on display in the Crawford Art Gallery until 26 June 2022.
District sat down with three of the contributors to understand the inspiration behind each of their works and how the exhibition impacted them emotionally.
Hazel Coonagh is a visual artist and photographer from Dublin. Her photography career was inspired by the ability to tell stories, especially through people as the subject matter. “I enjoy mixing reality with surrealism,” Hazel explained. Her fondness for fantasy and sci-fi as a child has permeated into her current works.
“Photography is such a unique art form as you are literally capturing a real moment in time. When I started photography I was quite young, it was a hobby and I worked with mainly manual cameras and film. I focused on the idea of capturing moments in time but as I went into college I started to learn about the many ways you can distort imagery. And that’s where my current style has emerged from.”
Her contribution to the SATURATION exhibit includes six pieces, which she hopes will “transport people into another world”. As a child, Hazel would “escape into the worlds of films and books” and she wishes that her current works on display will assist others in finding artistic refuges.
“Really, it’s a show I would like to go to myself,” said Hazel. “That was the most appealing aspect when it came to being asked to be involved. I feel like I’m in fantastic company and I’m really honoured to be part of it.”
When asked what the differences between seeing her work displayed digitally versus physically, Hazel noted how early in her career she worked primarily with film but recently, the majority of photographers have had to display their work online in order to thrive. “I’ve always thought that there’s something truly special about displaying your work physically. To have my work live amongst other artists, especially in somewhere as beautiful and prestigious as the Crawford, is very validating. I hope other younger artists get similar opportunities,” she explained.
To check out Hazel’s other projects, click here.
Currently residing in the UK, Conor Clinch has had a passion for photography since his early teens. Describing it as an “escape”, Conor explained how the hobby distracted him from feeling that he didn’t fit in while in school. He moved to London after finishing school – “which was like being thrown into the deep end,” Conor noted – and now seven years later is working for his dream clients.
Describing himself as “primarily an editorial and fashion photographer”, Conor was also honoured to gain the opportunity to physically display his work in a gallery. “It isn’t very often that my line of work is regarded as art. For it to be seen [as art] it was very nice, personally. It feels like the first time where I am being called an artist, as well as a photographer,” he explained.
Conor contributed six pieces to SATURATION, all shot around the pandemic. “It was the first time in a while that I got to take a step back and figure out what work I wanted to do instead of appealing to clients,” said Conor. “I’ve been living in London since I was 18, I was constantly worried about money or where my next job was going to come from. And the pandemic gave me a few months to realise what work I enjoy doing.”
With a style that he described as “graphic, polished and futuristic”, Conor hopes that his works will transcend the everyday when looked upon by visitors to the exhibition. One of his pieces, “Ryan as Klaus”, that features in SATURATION was also shown in Vogue Italia. According to the photographer, his most recent works are the most personal they’ve ever been.
“When I first started out I was so young and was focused on building my career, now I’m focused on building my artistry,” Conor noted. “When I was 18, I didn’t focus on myself and now, a few years later I’ve recognised the importance of having my own vision.”
To visit Conor’s website, click here.
Dublin-born and globally based Ruth Medjber is known primarily for her concert photography. Her images have previously appeared in Hot Press magazine, NME, Rolling Stone, Kerrang! and Classic Rock. And this line of work has clearly inspired her contribution to SATURATION.
Her immersive sound and video installation, WORSHIP, consists of a six metres wide and six metres tall cube at the centre of the exhibition. It features a series of her concert photographs along with a lighting display by Conor Biddle and a soundtrack by Alma Kelliher.
Inside the cube, Ruth has included a gigantic image of Jehnny Beth of Savages interacting with her audience. According to Ruth, this was no easy feat, but she was up for the challenge. On her first site visit, she spotted the cube and immediately asked to use it.
“I’ve worked with the same printer since my degree show in 2008. So Jim, from Inspirational Arts, looked at me as if I was a lunatic when I told him the dimensions,” Ruth reminisced.
“I remember going in to pick up one strip to get it proved and once I saw it I immediately thought I had messed up. There was no way they could be this big. But they were. It was mad to see it come together,” Ruth laughed. “He ran the dimensions three times. I was so nervous.”
When asked what emotions she hopes her contribution will evoke from viewers, Ruth underlined how she wants to create a mini-concert feeling for each person. According to Ruth, if she can simulate the energy and excitement of attending a gig, that will be enough.
Ruth’s portfolio includes portraits of Grace Jones, Hozier, Metallica and the Foo fighters. Most recently, she documented Arcade Fire on their tour of the UK and Europe, as well as covering the Glastonbury Festival for the BBC.
She has also recently curated a book named “Twilight Together” that consists of portraits taken of people through their windows due to the pandemic. Published by Penguin in November 2020, it has sold over 12,000 copies.
You can check out more of Ruth’s work here.
SATURATION will be on display until June 26 in Cork’s Crawford Art Gallery. Spread over two floors, the varying mediums of social media, street photography, music and fashion photography combines into a sensory extravaganza. The exhibition illustrates the major changes in both society and technology, how photographs are taken, shared and consumed.
To visit the exhibition in person, you don’t need to book tickets, or even pay. The Crawford Art Gallery is free. For more information on the gallery, click here.
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