WE ARE Hurtling Into The Future, a new solo exhibition by artist Joanna Kidney, opens tomorrow in the Galway Arts Centre. It reflects on ideas of time and motion, the experience of being human with a living body on this earth, moving through the measure of time.
kidney's work utilizes the medium of drawing and the potential of diverse materials to reflect on the human relationship with the vast universe. Through encaustic paintings and a site specific monumental spatial drawing, the work explores repetition, rhythm, and structure, versus randomness and chance. Also featured is Skimming Stones, a new collaborative video work by Kidney and dancer Liadain Herriott. Examining the relationship between drawing and dance, it focuses on ideas of repetition, fragmentation, and quality of movement and line.
Joanna Kidney was born in Dublin and lives in Wicklow. She is a founding member of Outpost Studios in Bray; a featured artist on The Drawing Suite and a member of the artists’ collective The Tellurometer Project. Solo exhibitions include Wunderkammer in Mermaid Arts Centre, Wicklow (2015 ) and Dig, undig, redig in RHA Atrium Gallery, Dublin (2013 ).
Ahead of her new show’s opening she told me how it came about. “Maeve Mulrennan at Galway Arts Centre offered me an exhibition and also the opportunity to come down and have a two week residency and install a piece of work in the gallery as part of the exhibition," she says. "That was a bit more unusual than the normal offer of an exhibition where you are just hanging it all in a couple of days; this time I had the opportunity to make a much larger piece of work that I could spend time installing within the gallery space and that has been a really exciting part of the exhibition for me.”
The exhibition will feature the large installation piece, Metamurmuration, which reflects Kidney's interest in the murmuration of starlings.
"I love their poetic quality, their mathematical quality, and the theatrical quality of the movement they make when they are doing their murmuration in the sky," she says. "So I began to visualise it and make a responsive piece that trails through the gallery, so it starts at the entrance to the gallery and trails up the flights of stairs into the upper gallery rooms.
"It has 100,000 particles of felt threaded onto fishing line and suspended from the ceiling so it is very much a drawing in space. I’ve been making it for about 15 months and 180 people have helped me make it. It was a very labour-intensive piece of work to make. It was made and then packed away in rolls of plastic and wrapped around cardboard tubes and just gathered in my studio so it is only really coming to life now as we unpack it and hang it up suspended from the ceiling and I find that exciting to see.”
Kidney often works in encaustic painting [an example of which, Kidney's Oscillate, is pictured below], which is an ancient, immediate, and tactile painting process using molten pigmented beeswax. “I started working with wax itself in 2001 and immediately loved its transparency and its immediacy," she says. "It sets so quickly and you can work with many layers and scrape back into the layers.
"I worked with it for a good few years transparently, using it as a ground and drawing into it and drawing between the layers. Then about six or seven years ago I moved into working with pigmented wax and began to paint more pure encaustic painting. It definitely fits me very well, as a paint it is quite close to drawing in terms of being very mark making and I return to it again and again and still learn more and grow more with it. With this series of paintings in the exhibition, I wanted to deepen my conversation with the paint, I was very focused on the paint itself and what I could do with it and push my techniques of working with it.”
'Metamurmuration has 100,000 particles of felt threaded onto fishing line and suspended from the ceiling so it is very much a drawing in space. I’ve been making it for about 15 months and 180 people have helped me make it'
Another fascinating element in the show is Kidney’s collaborative video piece with dancer Liadan Herriot. “I’m very interested in contemporary dance and always enjoy it,” she tells me. “I began to see dance as traces of drawing in space, the movements of the dancer moving through space being like a temporary drawing in space.
"I met Liadan about a year and a half ago and we started to talk about the crossover relationship between the medium of drawing and the medium of dance and movement. The project defined itself as we talked, there were a lot of conversations and experimentation and we honed down what we were interested in. We got funding from Wicklow County Council to make a video piece and we began to develop a scenography that Liadan would move through.
"There is a series of suspended objects and objects on the floor and wall; it is like a landscape the body moves through. It’s focused on the qualities of movement and the qualities of line and shape within the scenography and also the idea of repetition and fragmentation kept bubbling up to the surface. This was my most interwoven collaboration with another single artist and it was very rich and fascinating for me to get such an insight into how a dancer makes work.”
As part of her exhibition, Joanna Kidney will teach a class in encaustic painting on Saturday January 14 from 10am to 3pm in Galway Arts Centre. The workshop will take an experimental approach to exploring the qualities of encaustic painting (texture, transparency/opacity, incising and impressing, building up/breaking down layers ). Joanna most recently taught this technique to fine art students during a residency at Brigham Young University, Utah. Each participant will create an encaustic painting. People can sign up via www.galwayartscentre.ie The cost is €45 which includes all materials.
On the same day, at 4pm, Kidney and Maeve Mulrennan will give a walk-through talk about the exhibition, followed by the launch of the exhibition catalogue, which includes installation images of the Galway Arts Centre Show and two commisioned texts by Maeve Mulrennan and writer Finnbar Howell. This talk is free and no booking is necessary.
We Are Hurtling into the Future runs from December 9 to January 14.