Notes On Structure | Written by Joanne Laws
Within the vernacular of Irish architecture, these angular painted forms seem strangely familiar yet irredeemably distant. Gable silhouettes and steeply pitched roofs recall back-to-back suburban terraces, just as a ramshackle lean-tos and modular off-shoots channel the utility of country life.
Neither formal places of habitation nor industry, agriculture nor recreation, these non-spaces propose a conceptual framework for the built environment. In a Heideggerian sense, this struchtúr embodies the metaphysical schemes of landscape; it frames building and dwelling as existential pursuits, underpinned by our sense of being in the world.
Prior to the Irish famine and the enclosure of land, rural habitation was configured in spatial clusters. Hinging upon proximity and interdependence, these haphazard clachans [settlements]
enabled collective labour, communal farming, and the efficient use of limited resources.They sit in contrast with modern rural homes, detached and at a distance from their nearest neighbour.
Overhead are loose webs of transmission lines – tendrils of power and connectivity that extend the compositions skyward towards multiple vanishing points. An occasional flurry of marbled brushstrokes echoes the scattering of atmospheric particles, as iridescent clouds release blizzards into blushing twilight skies.
The paintings also evoke the all-overness of folk art or handprinted textiles from the Arts and Crafts era, with its emphasis on craftsmanship and the integrity of surface. At the base of each composition is a thick variegated band – a unifying structure and levelling force,
achieved through the horizontal drag of a brush, extravagantly laid down, one upon another.
We have no way of identifying the materiality of the depicted ground,
whether a bed of sand or marshland – its slumping forms quickly subsumed –an exposed river bank or cliff face; or a recalcitrant seam of metamorphic rock, its mineral compounds tightly bound and consolidated over eons.
These deeply etched planes may become heavy granite slabs to seal the ancestral tomb, encasing all the world’s mysteries in shadowy chambers beneath our feet. Like the temples of forgotten empires, our temporary structures will soon be fossilised – reduced to landscapes of dust amid history’s long trajectory.
Joanne Laws is an art writer and editor based in County Leitrim.