Samuel Laurence Cunnane at The Douglas Hyde Gallery


Shooting on 35mm film and populating his small, hand-printed images with downbeat characters and settings, this young Kerryman’s Douglas Hyde exhibition follows an extended period traveling through the Balkans, Turkey and Iran. They say location is everything, but Laurence Cunnane’s images are stripped of obvious signifiers, rendering his subjects and their locations curiously adrift. Travelling seems important but we learn little about the places he visits. Instead, in a set of formally exquisite prints, we are given a record of the marginal, the displaced and the provisional. Images preoccupied with borders and moments of transition contain crossover points both physically evidenced – a preponderance of windows – and metaphysically hinted at, in their sense of a world translated through a curious but uncertain eye.

The first image one encounters is the sickly pale and crudely truncated, Tree (all works 2016). Frozen in flashlight against an inky skyline, the pallid stump looks like a cry for help. Next to it, Legs 2 is a peek over the shoulder of a seated figure, a furtive glance of the eponymous legs, and bordering these, a blur of hair and a fabric of flowing stripes. Framing and cutting, bark and skin; meaning is set within a series of contrasts. Further into the cavernous gallery space, the stained colours and soot-like blacks of Shadows of Plants Inside a Window (1&2) feel contingent – avert your gaze and they might slip away. You are reminded that their meaning depends on your attention. The work of the influential Italian photographer Luigi Ghirri finds a ghostly afterlife in some of these images – in the charged ordinariness of Bag of Cut Grass, or the deadpan animism of Plant inside a Bank – meaning comes filtered through layers of previous imagery. Propped in golden light against the footing of a metal bridge, Tina by the Bridge, Serbia shows a young woman holding a camera in front of her. The landscape looks abandoned, an inter-zone of scrubland and neglect. Bridges appear elsewhere too, solid things, but also ephemeral, spaces between alternative realities.

These pairings and comparisons are not to suggest that individual pictures lack an intrinsic value, but simply to highlight some of the ways meaning adheres to artworks, and how an artist as sensitive as Laurence Cunnane can be effective in harnessing them. Standing slightly apart, Bin shows a black refuse sack inside a rusted metal container. This simple image, abject yet beautiful, ordinary yet mysterious, has the same qualities that make all of these photographs worth looking at.

The exhibition continues until November 9th at the Douglas Hyde Gallery.


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