In this maddening art world, with constant convincing and never-ending quest to grasp for something only very few of us can reach, it’s wonderful to find these moments of poetic clarity, which allow you to catch your breathe and remember what we are all fighting for. Enter Irish artist Aleana Egan’s current show at Konrad Fischer Gallery in the Lindenstrasse. Offering a great bounty of what can best be described as ‘minimalist architecture’, the artist has somehow managed to strip back the implementation of objects to bring the viewer into an emotional voyage of pure aesthetic. She transforms very everyday pieces (like ladders and fabric) into sort of groupings of poetic thought; her cognitive trancing, culled from early20th century novels cuddle your heart. You leave with your senses cleared and re-opened, with a very wide smile on your face. Finding it quite difficult to describe what I had seen there, I was able to discuss a bit with Egan about her process and fruits of artistic grace…..
I like the way you talk about your work, very matter of fact. Its not you’re not trying to put a lot of weight into things.
I was just thinking about something my partner said last night, which was really funny. He was talking about something really mainstream The Americans TV series and he said after the comment on the show “just to add some cultural weight to the conversation” or something along those lines!
How does the separation between art and the everyday objects you use to create it? (Is it a ladder, is it art?) Magic and Fantasy?
I liked that the ladders reminded me of the poetry inherent in the set up of a situation… so I wanted to make something of that, capture a gesture or sense of movement in something that’s eventually static.
In my writing, I don’t have to make up stories– it’s more about me describing the story than making it up. Carrying a feeling over to somebody else, so I focus on the structure, not the story. I ‘ve seen people make ladders out of paper maché or whatever, but there’s wait in your work. I really like this one piece you have downstairs that’s the blue frame because I find it really interesting how it functions in this claimed space, yet it’s also very open.
I think it’s interesting what you say about not having to make stuff up. It reminds me of what Marguerite Duras says about “deciphering what is already there, something you’ve already done in the sleep of your life…” I made another piece similar to the large blue piece that’s in the show (nature to change), it is called little surface pictures and was simpler in its structure with clothing hanging from it. I think they are like rooms and a
way to have elements inside and out. With the piece in the show I wanted it to have this cluster of objects in a corner and then a separate hanging cardboard sculpture on the wall. These large pieces take up a volume of space and have a sense of containment but like you say they are also open.
When people draw pictures, they often first consider the composition of the piece. Do you have some sort of vision?
Sometimes I have an idea of a form that I get down on paper and this could be developed for a sculpture but mostly the works come into being from working in the studioon other things.
Does your process have anything to do with playing? Like when you’re a kid and d put stuff together? Fantasy?
There is a process of moving things around and placement but I don’t relate it to play in the child like sense although there is an incommunicado element in the process …Like with the small bed shape piece in the show, with died fabric and a brass rectangle. I didn’t think of it as only a bed but also just the form and dimensions itself. However its domestic and everyday, actions of laying things out,something of the visceral ritual in that. Its making work in the studio but also at home in a sense. Sometimes, I’ll spend some time first trying to read something, and that will be kind of a conscious decision to try and work. There are loads of ‚ifs’, but its definitely a feeling and you sort of get into something, you get into the work, its stopped and started and its very much in my mind. I think about doing something when I’m away from it, and then I go back and do it.
When do you first consciously remember doing artwork?
I think I was seven or eight, and I was in Kinsale in the south of Ireland staying with my grandfather. He had a strange steep narrow garden connected to his house by a sort of little tunnel. I remember getting an empty crisp packet, and a few bits of rock (I can’t exactly remember), and some shells or something, and treating these artefacts with great care as if they were treasure and then I buried the bag containing them and there was a great sense of creativity, of having made something that was mine and it would still be there the next time I went to stay. I am struck by this memory because even though I was at an age when I’m sure I was doing drawings where the sky is blue and the grass is green, I still had this buried treasure sculpture that was very free!
The way the exhibition is set up, it is very free. You were showing me sort of where one piece Stops and the other starts. Do you think your work has borders?
Yes and no. I do think that the pieces and objects bear a relation to one another, so, in that sense, there are sometimes borders. Even though in an exhibition there does feel like there is an end but it can also feel like they run into each other like chapters.
If someone is sceptical, they’d maybe say ‘this is JUSTladder …’ what are you trying to reach? Is it some kind of emotion for the person looking at it, in presenting this work to someone else?
I cannot know how to reach a particular emotion in someone else. Another question might be what I’m trying to reach in myself when I’m making it. I’m not sure exactly, but I’m not really thinking about an audience, at least trying not to! It brings to mind…I really like Iris Murdoch, and I always remember one character saying to another ‘you don’t know what its like to be me’, and that always stuck in my head as something so obvious yet easily forgotten.
What role does Mary Butt’s novel ‘Armed with Madness’ (1928) play in the show?
I came to the book recently through a quote in an Adam Phillips book. He had quoted the line ‘We have to be as subtle as our memories. That’s all’, and I bought it immediately. I had never come across her before. I found it quite a frustrating book to read but also useful in terms of striking imagery and moments of arrest she describes. I chose the title ‘light on a leaf’, taken from the book because it is representative of pausing, a moment but it could also be an on-going thing, I like the sort of generalness of it. As far as it playing into the exhibition, I appreciated how fragmented it was which kind of made sense to me as well, relating to my work.
I think it does really fit, in terms of fragmentation. I think it remarkable how you are just putting an everyday object there and it becomes something else. How do you do that?
Sometimes you can really believe in something, and other times you just go with it. The piece with the ladder is called emptied out and peaceful, which is taken from Jean Rhys’s novel Voyage in the Dark (1934) and again (like Armed with Madness) quite a lot of heavy interior monologue. I really like when two characters are talking, but then you get what’s going on inside as well. And within these novels there is this relationship between talk and silence and that interests me in relation to my own work.
SHOW CLOSES 18. April 2015.
Aleana Egan – light on a leaf / Konrad Fischer Gallery / Lindenstr. 35 / 10969 Berlin
Tu – Sa 11-18h
Photo Credits: ©Roman März.