10/05/10A new article I have written has been published in the May issue of the Mutation ezine. It's called The Things I (don't) keep coming back to. If you want to know what inspires me then read the text version below or follow the link to see the full article HERE
The Things I (don’t) keep coming back to…
Moray Bresnihan asked me if I’d like to do the honours with this feature for The Mutation. To be honest I hadn’t read any of the previous articles on the subject and he didn’t give me any real guidelines. I said I’d do it but I told him that a more suitable title for me might be The Things I don’t keep coming back to. As an Artist I have a tendency to turn my back on things that were previously central to my Art.
Old Photos; To give you an example in 2006 I had an exhibition called Lost and Found. I acquired a box of old glass negatives from the 1920’s that were found in an old building in Waterford city. I spent years piecing together the lives of the unknown characters. I recreated a family album, a printed exhibition, an outdoor projection and other artists collaborated with paintings and graphics. The main show was held in the Munster Bar, in a building that was featured in the photographs. Here’s the website; HERE
Anyway, posters went up, many works were purchased on the opening night, it made the front page of the local newspapers and RTE Nationwide came down to try to unravel the mystery. Then I got a phone call; “That’s my family!” and the adventure was over. I turned my back, I haven’t even gotten a copy of the images to the family or given the prints to the people who purchased them. My wife says I’m a disgrace. Shortly afterwards the bar closed down, so there has been a kind of poignant ghostliness about the work remaining to hang on the walls in a dormant building. People have been quite patient I guess but I just couldn’t bring my self to taking down the show.
I had gotten a message from one of the owners of the pub and this morning I plucked up the courage to knock on the back door to collect the work. The place is in the process of being renovated so the show was actually taken down a few days ago. Anyway it’s time to face up to the reality, the fantasy is gone. And so it is that I do actually find myself coming back to something, eventually.
Where does the fascination with old photographs come from? I don’t really know. As a child I painted my bedroom chocolate brown and covered every wall with old framed photographs of unknown people that I would buy in junk shops. I am still fascinated by these anonymous characters. Who were they? What happened them? Are they dead? Thankfully I grew out of the brown bedroom and painted it Turquoise in my teens.
I always remind my parents that there is only one photograph of me as a baby (not the most handsome little chap). Although there are many photos of my sister, two years my senior, this photograph was taken by a door to door salesman, a travelling photographer.
Back Up Time. Then last week I eventually convinced myself that it was time to back up all the files on my computers. It’s a thing I dread doing, I’d been putting it off for months. I now have 204,559 files, mainly photographs. I take photographs every day, hundreds and thousands of them. Basically I keep two copies of everything, one in my studio computer and one in an external hard drive that I usually have at home. I try to keep only current work on my Laptop. Having this photographic record is a bit like regurgitating your life.
Going back to New York; I’m just back from shooting a project in America with the videographer Hy Mayerson. After two weeks shooting we had accumulated 190 Gigabytes of video and stills, that’s a lot of stuff to try to sort out and edit. Here's the website if you want to have a look HERE. We’ve been getting down to some serious editing recently and we’re working on some interesting ideas for the footage. The project is an attempt to capture a portrait of America on a train journey from Miami to New York.
Maybe it was my fifth time in New York. I have a magnetic attraction to the place. I was so green and overwhelmed the first time I went there, I literally stepped out the doors of JFK Airport and had my bags stolen. I was such an easy target, standing there in the rain with my mouth open, awe struck, waiting to get on a bus. This dude comes up to me and says “Put your bags on the Sidewalk and get on the bus”. Those words forever ring in my ears, I stupidly thought he was the bus driver and did what I was told.
New York grows on you in funny ways. Back then it was the buildings and the noise that fascinated me. This time it was the people that overwhelmed me, the amount of them all going about their busy day like ants. The following video will show you what I mean, we produced it for a Moby video contest for his song Wait for me. We didn’t win but we did get an honor from YouTube and nearly 6000 hits in less than a week;
Get on your Knees! I have found that having two young kids has taught me how to play again. Us grown ups seem to forget how simple it is to have fun. In fact I think it’s a shame that we are burdened with inhibitions. Now I know what kind of reaction I’d get if I started crawling around in the park howling like a wolf or even tip toed along a wall.
As long as you have a child next to you there’s a multitude of things you can get away with. Getting down and dirty, splashing in muddy puddles, making sandcastles, talking to dinosaurs and plastic farm animals, down on your hands and knees with things with wheels making Beep Beep noises.
Omey Island; We’re going on our holidays shortly to Omey Island. It’s a tidal island in Connemara that we’ve been going back to since 2003. Now with the kids it has become a whole new kind of adventure. It’s a very simple and unique place. When the tide closes behind you there really is nothing like it on earth. Rocks and rabbits, sand and grass, limitless freedom.
The first time my wife and I were there we camped by the lake at the centre of the island. In the middle of the night we encountered a strange creature that experts are now comparing to the Dobhar-chú, an ancient almost mythical creature that supposedly lives in remote Irish lakes. This is not a wind up! We seriously were terrified by a huge snarling creature. I spent the next six years drawing a map of the island, a colourful quirky interpretation of the place. I launched it last year up there with a guide and DVD. Plug; Buy it from my website or at Sweeney’s bar on the mainland in Claddaghduff in aid of the community centre.
More on the creature (and Map + Guide + DVD) on my website here; HERE
The Dobhar-chú on Wikipedia; HERE
Here’s what the Irish Times had to say about our encounter; HERE
The supposedly mythical creature written by Dr Karl Shuker; HERE
The Past Behind me; As an Artist I have worked in many different media, Stained Glass, Mosaic, Wood, Sculpture, I draw maps, occasionally paint, Photography, Video and Digital Art. I have been commissioned to design many Interiors, from Houses and Hair Salons to Bars and Nightclubs, but I’m not an Architect. I take thousands of photographs but I’m not a photographer. I’m not sure why but I always seem to be moving into new fields, dabbling in things that become a challenge to learn. There are always people to collaborate with who are experts at what they do, and for now I ramble around from one thing to the next.
Don’t get me wrong I’m not a New Age Traveller. I know how to earn a crust. My Dad and I ran a very successful enterprise called the Salvage Shop in Waterford. I designed things all day long for people who were willing to pay the price. Everything from Funky Furniture and Mad Contraptions to more bread and butter things like Fireplaces and Freestanding Kitchens. Stuff there’d be more call for, like tables and chairs to use Waterford playwright Jim Nolan’s words. He wrote the play called the Salvage Shop, an emotional father and son drama set in a place like ours. We helped with the production and were almost like the mascots for the show.
The Salvage shop was a weird and wonderful place. I have great memories of those days. I worked with a great team of people but I’m glad to see the back of it to be honest. I don’t need to open the gates at 8am or answer the call from the fire brigade in the middle of the night.
Bubbles; Visual symbols have a tendency to repeat themselves in my work. For years Bubbles and water were the main focus of my work, in particular my stained glass work. In fact whatever the image was it had to have bubbles in it. It wasn’t until I was doing a late night interview on the local radio station WLRfm that I discovered why this was a recurring theme in my work. It was one of those programs where you sat back in the chair and chilled out, maybe I took that idea too far, I brought in a bottle of red wine and drank it on air. Three of us in a little room, fellow artist Ben Hennessey and I think the presenter was Geoff Harris. In my hypnotic state I realised that it all linked back to the time I nearly drowned.
A sunny summers day, freak waves out of nowhere swept me out of my depth and my mother saved me. Being underwater looking up through the sparkling water and seeing the bubbles gently float to the surface didn’t actually seem so bad. It was like a trance. I knew I was drowning but it felt peaceful, quiet. The bubbles seem to have left my work, as if the spell was broken but who knows maybe they’ll return.
At the start of writing this article I thought that I don’t keep coming back to things but I suppose subliminally that’s what I have always been doing. Thanks Moray for enlightening me. Keep up the good work on The Mutation.
Sean Corcoran, April 28th, 2010. www.SeanCorcoranArt.com