Eating the Image
I paint because I want to own these images!
Some notes on my work.
Because I was brought up on the opposite side of Ireland from the only real museum in the country, The National Gallery Dublin, I had no contact with these images (16th – 19th century painting) in 'the flesh' so to speak. My only contact with them was through the printed image.
There is a feeling that these reproductions are of little significance compared to the physical presence of the originals. I see the power of an original, when one stands before it: the presence of the paint, the artist and the time are tangible.
However I see the printed image as having a power of its own. It crosses very much with what one experiences before the original but the context of both these viewings is very important. For the most part a museum or gallery experience is a very public one made more so by the accessibility of these places in our time. Looking at the originals (this particularly applies to Dutch 17th Century painting) one is confronted by an icon of huge cultural and monetary value and preciousness that leads one to venerate rather than see it.
It is the accessibility of the printed image that has given us the best opportunity to experience the images with the required amount of time and quiet needed to explore them. Reproduction also removes us somewhat from the iconic status of the work and gives us a chance to really see its worth
The other area that interests me very much and that I address in my work is the relevance of European visual imagery to many of the people living in The West. Again because I come from a country with a long and troubled history with colonization; when these images were presented to us despite the fact that we were white, western European Christians, they were not ours in any real sense. They carried a message of the superiority of the bearer who almost always came from abroad. Because of the poverty in Ireland there was little or no indigenous visual art tradition. The 'otherness' of western art was something we felt strongly. At the same time the beauty and obvious worth of these images attracted us greatly. I believe this is something very many people living in the west right now are experiencing.
Ironically given my regard for the printed image, I have found the intensity of figurative painting is the best way for me to express the experience of looking at these reproductions and the many hours painting layer after layer of paint helps reflect and reconcile the beauty of the images with the complexity of the messages they convey.
Mary A Waters