Our Arty Blogger is back! Des Kenny Reviews 'The Weight of Water' by Elaine Hoey ...
A four sided metal cage with serrated barbed wire stands starkly silhouetted against the autumnal light flooding into the Ground Floor Gallery space of Draíocht. The light shimmers along the inflexible framework as it marks out the compounded claustrophobic structure. The visitor enters into a restrictive hard edged enclosure through a sharply cut rectangular slot where a swivel stool awaits an occupant as if for interrogation. The sculptural presence is a formal device in which Elaine Hoey’s work titled “The Weight Of Water” explores the plight of people caught in the current refugee crises across Europe. The visitor is hemmed in and movement restricted within the barricaded cage, no doubt replicating the situation of refugees incarcerated in various camps throughout the world. There is heightened tension when a gallery assistant provocatively questions the visitor if they suffer from vertigo before virtual reality headsets are fitted. Slightly unbalanced by such an inquiry, it is with slight trepidation the virtual world is faced as the headset is fitted. There is an immediate disconnection with the actuality of the outside world as a virtual realm takes over and realigns the senses to a new vivid environment. Activating the subterranean visual chamber of the mind with an overload of sensory data it takes a while to reorientate your relationship and placement within this virtual construct. The thunderous noise of a helicopter encompasses the ears and its sudden arrival demands that you swivel your head upwards to locate its intrusion on the periphery of your vision. The great grey mass of a helicopter without insignia hovers above in search mode, scanning the seas for boat people. Its unnerving presence demands vigilance since its intention whether benign or malign is uncertain.
In the gloom of half light figures emerge mingled tightly in a boat. A bearded man holds a dimly lit torch while a young child seeks comfort nestling their head against a parents shoulder. Waves beat without pardon against the sides of the boat as a large gate opens and the hunted boat moves out into the open shaded sea. A narrator explains the unwritten code of survival. To survive they must embrace the shadows and remain unnoticed and from yesterday’s forgotten dreams and desired revolutions a fragile hope of a new future beckons beyond the tortured sea. The route to freedom is found on churning seas and the destination is found using hope as a compass.
A tree suddenly appears shedding leaves as great concrete pillars surround its girth, depriving the tree room to grow. The tree becomes the symbolic representation of hopes engulfed and restrained by hidebound physical force. Abruptly the boat sinks downwards into a maelstrom of fire and explosions as war engulfs the refugees. It is uncertain if those on the boat manage to withstand the onslaught of conflict but gradually the boat rises and comes into view. Two fire beacons light a distant shore, guiding the sea tossed boat to land. The helicopter dramatically careers into view as it pursues the refugees. A desperate white sun bleakly rises above the horizon as the boat finds land. The displaced people have momentarily found peace away from their fractured homeland.
The programmes duration of eight minutes comes to an end but the feelings and experience of a people in flight from war endures long after the broadcast is concluded and remains clouding your mind as you exit the gallery.
The Weight Of Water – Elaine Hoey
Thu 19 Oct – Sat 04 Nov 2017
Ground Floor Gallery, Draíocht Blanchardstown
Desmond Kenny is an artist based in Hartstown, Dublin 15. He is a self taught painter, since he began making art in 1986 he has since exhibited widely in Ireland and abroad, solo shows include Draíocht in 2001, The Lab in 2006 and Pallas Contemporary Projects in 2008. His work is included in many collections including the Office of Public Works, SIPTU, and Fingal County Council. Kenny's practice also incorporates print making and he has been a member of Graphic Studio Dublin since 2004.