Eileen Quinlan, Constant Comment
I first noticed it looking at CK, 1: what appeared to be scratches (as in an original glass plate from old fashioned photography) that when followed look like bits of image floating in a grey haze – a haze that itself might be burning the image or the photographed objects away. I looked around the large photograph and found a dollar bill laying against what must be a plaid tablecloth – the clarity that Quinlan achieves is such that I can see details in the bill that I would never find with my own eyes. But then I notice a black rend across the bill and I cannot tell which is more real, the rend or the bill. I also think that this scrape resembles the brittleness of old skin, and how when abraded it tears, and the fresh wound wells with dark blood. Further to the right in the photo is a lace-trimmed – is it a cap? This solid-seeming object is smeared at one side, as with a layer of paint; or perhaps the cap is painted and the artist watered and smudged it and it is running?
In this area the brittle rend has itself become an object, and also like a weirdly three-dimensional void: while the black ‘object’ appears to curl midway between the cap and the surface in the illusionary space of the photograph, its edges do a perspectival trick of cutting clear at the top but showing a descending wall at the side and bottom, this is like looking into a slot. Tiny white and sharp flame-like explosions occur along this wall, and I wonder what they are.
Aah, that beautiful grey haze is such a rich void, and Quinlan must love it too, for she employs it again in Portrait of Space, “Not the color,” I think to myself, for in Portrait of Space the V-shaped cleft in the image is white, “but the rich, suggestive void.” And when I return to PoS I find that I am wrong and it is grey, not the white in my memory, like the palest skin of the bosom of a maiden.
My drift into fantasy sounds nuts, I know, but I am encouraged by Quinlan’s photograph Sisters of Mercy, an early work that pictures a mysterious castle, and Paul in Paul as Poet (another earlier work that Quinlan includes in this exhibition) makes me think of Dante Alighieri Rossetti… so perhaps Quinlan does tell herself fairy tales.
Back in the middle room, and reviewing the checklist, I find that a photograph I took to be of a hideous monster (in The Pond) is the artist herself, and also resembles a Medusa figure reflected in a still pond.
Reflections play a strong role in Quinlan’s art, and her re-presenting of this earlier work brings in a different type of reflection, still physical and also temporal. Thinking again of The Pond, with the artist/Medusa doubled in still water yet still not clear to my vision, I think of rippling water – which is often a subject for photography – and how it enchants with its subtle hypnotic movement, and I am struck with the lack of such enchantment in Quinlan’s photographs: for though I suspect the work does have roots in fantasy and fairy tales, what Quinlan shows us is nothing but real – sometimes pretty, sometimes harsh and often impossible to pin down, but always factual.
Eileen Quinlan, Constant Comment is at Overduin and Kite and closes this Saturday, January 7.
Overduin and Kite website: http://www.overduinandkite.com/