The State of this place


This body of work was created during my MFA at NCAD, Dublin (2015 - 2017). The exhibition culminated in a showcase of painted and printed works spanning small and large scale painting with installation

“Place makes memories cohere in complex ways. People’s experiences of the urban landscape intertwine the sense of place and the politics of space” - Dolores Hayden, Urban Landscape History: The Sense of Place & Politics of Space.

Architecture forms an identity. It creates places, spaces of social and cultural importance, encapsulating nostalgia, emotion and personal experience. At the beginning of 2015, St. Teresa’s gardens began ‘Phase 2’ of its regeneration. The term regeneration, the embodiment of ideologies focusing on change and social growth, became conflicted with my own understanding of contemporary urban Ireland. In this context, I was drawn to the physicality of demolition and the ideologies surrounding the idea of place-making.

This research marked a distinct change in my cultural understanding of the space and how this series of actions ultimately initiated mass relocation, having far-reaching effects on the already fractured community. As the iconic architecture faced the onslaught of bulldozers and demolition crews, so too did the history and memory associated with the complex. Erasing generations of social function and culture, the place became nothing more than a field stuck in the transition between new and old, propelled into a void. I become bound to the remnants of these structures, exploring the rigid dichotomies between contemporary culture and architecture. The critical assessment of these spaces lead to a series of preliminary video and still images which document the process and resulting wasteland.

The theme of regeneration reverberated throughout many post-industrial cities, forming a union between these places; it gave a unique insight into a romanticised idea of the future, a utopian sensibility masked in a veil of dust. The spectacular explosions and demolition caught on video brought the legacy of these places into focus, giving me the time to reflect on my own experience of their presence and come to terms with their removal.

My procedure involved scanning video files, recorded by both myself and other audiences. With the purpose of capturing the violent process in a still image, the resulting abstraction manifested a peculiar subversive recollection of the space. The linear abstraction strongly references these documentation pieces, making a metaphorical suggestion at the digital presence and the continuation of these places. The images managed to hold a sense of presence and place for me; it offered another take on my existence within this urban space, integrating the endless cycle of building and demolition. The noticeable division that had been accentuated by palisade walls and mounds of debris formed a physical boundary between the place and myself, the imagination of this boundary became exemplified through its digital presence; creating a feeling of inaccessibility to a place that was once so familiar.

Looking out over the remnants of the building, the physical presence of material and the emotion of experience encapsulated my perceptions of the space. Our existence with these places is held within a fragile union, the shattered walls and residue of homes became an emotive subject opening successive doors into the lives of those who had lived there. By highlighting the stresses and persistence of form found within the architecture, the printed and painted works envisions a pursuit to engage with the process of regeneration and reflection on where we are as a society. Finding focus on the clear divisions created in the social and political narratives present in these spaces, they exist on the boundary between what has happened and what is to come. The slabs of lead, molded and shaped, reference the fluid forms inherent in the crushed concrete; they provide a setting for the works to reside around.

The thematic interplay between absence and presence, politics and culture, approach the subject with a unique view on how art can engage with a rapidly changing landscape and question our understanding of reality.