O’Connor Retrospective at the Shippon Gallery, Merz Barn, Cylinders Estate, Langdale – May 1st – 22nd 2015

Posted on May 4, 2015

“No One Left and No One Came  and Nothing Happened”

A retrospective at the Shippon Gallery, Merz Barn, Langdale, Cumbria.

The title is a reference to the poem “Adlestrop” by Edward Thomas in which the awareness of plants and wildlife is heightened after a pause in time in which nothing happens. The stillness of a railway carriage becomes the progenitor of awareness and anticipation. For me, this is the moment when the muse strikes, when one becomes open to the sublime and the salient.  This has lately become a preoccupation in my recent work and I was interested as to how earlier work related to it, if at all.

The green gated driveway has become a familiar stomping – ground since I first made a visit to the Merz Barn last Spring. Since then I have completed a residency, working alongside  the echo of the footsteps of Kurt Schwitters as they are in the very fabric of the landscape in the stones, pathways and in the Orchard planted by Harry Pierce and especially in the empty Merz Barn where the long absent artwork almost speaks louder because of its very absence. In its place a simulacrum takes the place with a permanently burning candle to indicate the spirit of the German artist who worked here on his last artwork.  The spirit is there to behold in the stone and plaster- battened vault wherein the echo of Schwitters singular tenacity still evokes a presence. It became a mausoleum of the end of  Schwitters pilgrimage, and represented the starting point of my own, for it was at Art College in the 1970’s that I became acquainted with his oeuvre. A tutor leaned over my shoulder one day whilst I was working, and uttered two words, “Kurt Schwitters”. Unconsciously I had been following in the same creative furrow ploughed  initially by Schwitters, who was to become an early significant influence on my work, alongside Max Ernst, Otto Dix, Paul Klee, Edvard Munch and Egon Schiele.

From early assemblages using card, wire, wood, water and collage, through to prints and eventually paintings increasingly concerned with images of a surreal dream like world  to a personal narrative that reflected states of being and historical associations to do with Primitive art and motifs.

Last September I worked here for a wonderful week. The weather was blissful and I worked in the Shippon where now this show is set. It provoked me to consider the trope of art in the rural context, and the appreciation of the sublime in the context of inspiration and spirit travelling from source to the creative act. What was the instigator of the muse in search of the sublime, and how does it work in the context of the rural artist “singing out” from a shed up a hillside? Then I remembered a fragment of the Edward Thomas poem….”No one left and no one came”…..and nothing happened until a blackbird  was heard to sing…..there was the sublime, there was the muse! The potential is immense. Inspired by this thought, I organised a residency at the Burren College of Art in Co. Clare in the Autumn, also as a celebration of my 40 years working. Co. Clare is the land of my forefathers, my Grandfather was a Clare man and his ancestors before him, so indeed it all has an element of returning home. This exhibition is a nod to past influences, and a tip of the hat to the possibility of the  new.

Photos to follow.