Seán O Sullivan is a writer and curator whose work focuses on the politics and preservation of localities. He has curated projects and written critical texts dealing with community, ecology and the bonds between people and places. He holds an MA and a BA in Visual Arts Practices from IADT, Dún Laoghaire. He is a former chair of Black Church Print Studio, Dublin. He is Visual Arts Adviser to the Arts Council of Ireland / An Comhairle Ealaíon.
This page: A review of Philomene Pirecki’s exhibition at the Green on Red Gallery published in Paper Visual Art’s Dublin hardcopy edition.
Philomene Pirecki’s ‘Frame, Fold, Fracture’ is a collection of ten works positioned over and amongst one another in Green on Red Gallery. Each of her images contains multiple views and is applied directly to the wall, or raised a small distance away from its surface. Her largest composition is entitled White Wall, Green on Red Gallery (11:05, daylight, 26-3-13 / 18:39, fluorescent light, 22-3-13). In this, Pirecki photographed the gallery wall twice, once in a balmy morning light, and again in the bruise-coloured blue of evening. There are more than fifty reproductions of these two scenes glued to the gallery wall – the same space that is captured in the photographs. Each image is neatly cropped, and set into a grid with its sister reproductions.
Interspersed among this photographic grid are a sequence of pages that reproduce half an image of the wall before trailing off into misprinted streaks of bright red and purple, as if the paper were ripped away from its printer head a half-second before being made whole. Instead of the familiar printed depiction of space, we see a progressively less-real version of the wall that begins to have its molecules strewn apart, until all that’s left are a few brightly coloured pixels. The photographic grid is enclosed on both sides by paint that’s applied to the wall in quick, vigorous clouds of dusty khaki and slate blue – colours that are drawn from the printed scenes. This paint is so strong it obfuscates the viewer’s recognition that the photographs actually depict a space, their subject matter has been made so demure that they barely seem like images at all. Pirecki disguises them as a soft, unintense colour. And standing at a distance, her entire composition seems to fold its way out of reality and into some kaleidoscopic pixelation of views.
A third of the way through the gallery is a thick wall dividing the room. It creates a slightly dark corridor where Pirecki neatly installed three slide projections to run in a recurrent sequence. Their light obstructs the space, and keeps the viewer from facing the scene head on. The projections, named Working Title (Drawing Pins/Fine Point Pen/Magic Tape), are created from stills that show a pair of fingertips holding and papering over the brightly-coloured packaging of the title’s objects. The fingers are carefully controlled; they point in the same direction and hold their objects to highlight a single word printed on each product box. The three scenes cycle at an independent pace, causing a rotation of discordant sentences: “A/System/France”, “Pins/System/France”, “Approx/&/France”.
The arrangement imitates the exquisite corpse technique of arbitrarily aligning unrelated images to spark a useful juxtaposition. But here, the arbitrariness is replaced with three iterating scenes, each alike in character, and made distinct only in the fine print. The scenes don’t make themselves into meaningful phrases; instead they conform to Pirecki’s erasure of spatial distinctiveness in favour of an accumulation of views – in favour of a contest between similar and same.
On the wall by the gallery’s entrance, there are five almost-white pages of paper that hang from their corners. Each white page is taped at its lower edge to hold up a thick black carbon sheet, the kind used to replicate documents in an era before the digital scanner. These black sheets protrude horizontally for an inch before bending down to their own weight. The pages are entitled Agent (Mailed from Cambridge and London to Dublin, Weeks 1–7), and as their name suggests, Pirecki posted the sheets to the gallery in preparation for her exhibition. The journey caused each white page to carry dirty imprints from its carbon counterpart, a combination of crushing, handling and bending are discretely visible; one page carries a curiously spirited stamp mark from the postal sorting office.
There is a distinct eloquence in how Pirecki approaches these simple, devoted exercises in place, mark and sign. Agent substantiates the difference between its natural and engineered surfaces, but it also captures its own past and displays that together with its present. In a similar way to both White Wall, Green on Red Gallery and Working Title, the marks that form Agent are plotted somewhere on a sliding scale between those moments that are in the instant, and those that are perennially delayed.
Pirecki treats her physical space softly, but tears away at approximations and hints of space that lie within images. In that way, ‘Frame, Fold, Fracture’ reveals a gulf of intensity between what is seen and what is made. There are careful distinctions between image types; those captured by the eye have been flattened, rehearsed and repeated, whereas those touched by the hand are overlain with lightning-fast streaks of coloured paint. The viewer’s attention travels back and forth between what is in the moment and what is not. It is this competition of views that makes ‘Frame, Fold, Fracture’ simultaneously busy and clear, and that synchronous effect is made real by its sharp, deep deviations from the remoteness of seeing into the intimacy of touching.