Des Kenny Reviews – Yvonne McGuinness ‘Holding ground where the wood lands’

December 18, 2017

Yvonne McGuiness is the latest recipient of the Amharc Fine Gall award which is coordinated by Fingal Arts Office to promote artists who reside in Fingal. The artist utilises various disciplines in her broad based practice to explore the lives of teenage boys approaching the cusp of manhood. In a corner of Draíocht ground floor gallery a split video projection shimmers life on a blank wall. The two projections present the same integrated storyline but the corner of the gallery wall acts as a border separating the timeline and sequence of similar events while remaining within eye line of the viewer. The sequential shift of the two projections does not fragment or disrupt the thread of the plot but recompose additional layers of interpretation in a quiet unobtrusive manner.

The opening shot captures a hooded crow casting a glazed predatory eye over playing fields as seagulls scramble for worms in the sodden earth. The distinctive call of a peacock flares through the air from adjoining fields. The camera scans the scrubland for this exotic bird when the screen unexpectantly presents the face of a young man. He opens his mouth and emits the plaintiff cry of the peacock. This inexplicable occurrence creates a surreal atmosphere for the all the other actions which take place in the film. Catching the viewer off guard, momentarily disrupting a linear perception to the storyline, liberates the viewers imagination from a predetermined outlook towards the film. The actor appears to shift off script as if driven by an internal force outside his control, hooking the viewer’s attention to remain alert for the unexpected.

We see a group of youths wander aimlessly through a wooded land emitting suppressed screams, announcing their presence to an echoless forest. The primal scream frees the group from innate restraints that would inhibit the internal kindling of transforming spontaneity which may unearth new truths about themselves.  A sapling is dug up and carried with them on their journey while a provocative blue line is painted on a grass verge. Acts that appear irrational and incomprehensible early in the film have a reflective and restorative implication as the narrative unfolds towards the films conclusion. In the black night the youths discover by torchlight the blue line painted earlier in the day and replant the sapling. The elemental desire to belong to the natural world at times requires a ritualistic enactment of connectivity even if it is an unconscious transaction. It is uncertain if these young men are aware of the ceremonial nature of these activities and the primal impulse that influences their actions.

Away from the constraints of suburban life they set up a rudimentary camp, hanging long strips of cloth from branches and gather firewood. They add to graffiti on a wall with the proclamation “Begin Again” no doubt wishing to supplant old conceptions of society with a new understanding of the world they inhabit. Sitting around the campfire as the darkness surrounds them, they try to formulate a wording that explains their current existence and what the future might promise. As they search for words that explore and reposition their desire to find meaning in a life as yet unburdened by responsibility, they inexplicably howl at the darkness. Perhaps this animalistic incantation is a deep rooted need not to wholly surrender to a rational structure found within the confines of language. Nevertheless their use of language holds sway and has a poetic resonance that rises and ebbs with the flittering flames of the camp fire. Words and flames combine to keep the untouchable darkness at bay both within themselves and the outer forces of remorseless reality.

Putting on lifejackets and armed with torches they leave the security of the camp fire and are absorbed by the dark shadows of the night. In time they discover the blue line painted earlier on the grass and replant the sapling that was removed from the nourishing earth. In unison they cry out “Begin Again” and move off towards the twinkling lights of civilisation. This simple decree for the youthful group of men if cramped by life’s woes you can always start afresh.

Around the gallery floor are video screens embedded in logs depicting a boy half hidden behind a tree. The only discernible movement on the screen is the flickering motion of the boy’s eyelid. Gouged into the trees bark is an eye shaped form which substitutes and replaces the function of the eye hidden behind the tree trunk. The youth is part of nature and not beyond its influence. When we forget to recognise the need for initiation rites that bring nature closer to society we create a more impoverished culture. Thick black electric cables meander like pathways through the wooden stumps on the gallery floor. While acting as a conduit for electricity to the video monitors they also lead the eye to the wall caption where bold black letters describe the youthful activity of the young actors in the film.

This is a demanding show for the spectator since it takes time to absorb the unimposing subtleties found embedded in all the shows varied components but it is an opportunity justly rewarded as we get  a deeper understanding of the lives of young men  and their need to create rites of passage as manhood approaches.

 

Yvonne McGuinness – Amharc Fhine Gall 11th Edition 
Wed 22 Nov – Sat 03 Feb 2018 
Ground Floor Gallery, Draíocht Blanchardstown
http://www.draiocht.ie/visual_arts

 

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.

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