Burren College of Art Time, Space & Inspiration

MFA Graduate Exhibition: Place Placeness Perception 2009

18th May 2009

The work by Chris Attenborough and Angel O'Leary featured in BCA's 2009 graduate exhibition "Place Placeness Perception" share similarities and distinct differences. The conceptual similarities each is concerned with-place, placeness, perception of physical space, and elegance- underlie the physical installations of each artist.

In Attenborough's highly organized and carefully manipulated digital images, the pared elements excuted in spare abstract compositions speak to the essential bytes of information typically used for various purposes in our society -information used in the mapping of airport terminals, color-coded signage and advertising seen on petrol/fuel billboards along freeways, and icons used in modular construction of public spaces. Sites used for television dramas and commericals, locations televised on news reports of criminal activity, anonymous street corners typically representative of the American urban landscape are all sources of imagery that are manipulated and finely tuned. Through these disparate found sources, Attenborough is able to synthesize a commonality of placeness and reflect a ubiquitous facet of contemporory society- as he says"...it could be anywhere but is somewhere."

While Attenborough's work addresses public space in an oblique framework, O'Leary's work challenges us to a first-hand experience of a private and somewhat disconcerting personal space -the place, placeness, and perception of home. The conflicting terms of restraint and freedom, of restriction and shared openness set forth in one's home, in this instance her own home, are central threads woven throughout each of her installations. The installation "My House" depicting a house front suggests harmony through the warmth of the glowing interior reflected from the rear wall of the installation and simultaneously suggests constraints and restrictions by the lack of doorways and windows, typical conduits of access and freedom to the broader world. Likewise, in the installation "Doorways to..." the framed doorways evoking passage transformation, and future potential are juxtaposed by fine wire mesh entanglements suggestive of snares and/or psychological entrapment -both elements being brought forth and presented with equal importance and urgency.

Elegance is yet another defining factor apparent in the work of both artists. In Attenborough's work, elegance is achieved by sleek execution, choice of bold, simple color and clean abstract composition. The use of digital techniques is seemless and decisive, lending a clarity to the simplified visual clues running throughout the various series of work he presents. On the other hand, O'Leary's raw ,materials and somewhat casual execution afford her installations an elegance of natural materials without artifice, reflecting a more private and interior investigation based on personal experience. Each artist's work, although dramatically different in materials and excution, shares a distinct honesty-each in its respective voice raising questions of where we are, why we are where we are, and what do we take with us as artists and viewers from this shared experience.

Larry Thomas, Visiting Tutor, Burren College of Art