Ambivalence - Silent Noise (locusts, paper, glue, matt varnish), 23 x 23 x 23cm
Silent Noise (locusts, paper, glue, matt varnish), 23 x 23 x 23cm

Dear Matthew,

I decided to write this letter to you, my Godson, to introduce you to a world I am passionate about, in these your formative years, into the exciting world of contemporary art practice through my own personal reflection on a particular exhibition.

In all great works of art, the work will speak for itself. Our own personal interaction or journey with the work in the context of the exhibitions is also important. I believe that accepted ‘arts speak’ commonly used by critics in essays and reviews are often pompous overblown prose and a barrier to communication and the artist’s work. But notably, professionals, such as gallerists do not speak this way when they engage with others in the gallery space. 

Every artist likes to regard work as a progression, a continual exploration of how she lives her life. We all get comfortable, myself included, with expressing ourselves in a similar way or through a familiar passion but the world of contemporary art demands much more from an artist. It constantly asks the artist to re-reflect and to re-engineer their own life experiences.  One of my own personal favourites of Clea’s, is a painting entitled “In the Head”. (From an earlier exhibition than this one) To many this is just an abstract piece with a humorous title that has connotations’ of substance abuse but, on further investigation, it is based on the artists suffering with migraines.  Artists, by their very nature, have to be fearless because there is no question about travelling a road that is comfortable or predefined. This earlier piece can been seen by some as the turning point that lead to the current show, anchored in the Iconic “Silent Noise”, not something we normally associate with locusts being so silent.

The relationship of artists and collectors is always an interesting one. I and Clea are no different.  I would describe it as questioning, challenging, occasionally interpreting and always listening.  Always controlling.  At times it is difficult to know who is doing the questioning and who is doing the challenging!

The word and title of this show “Ambivalence” is often used to describe mixed emotions that give rise to conflicts.  A clear example of this is “Conflict”; this sculpture is in itself an exploration of how we perceive a piece of art. Is it a question about items which are not what they seem? The title of these pieces is hopefully telling a story about uncertainty conflicts, choices, and mixed emotions. This is very true in the role of artists in constantly discarding or moving on from different works of art versus the conflict of the collector who is acquiring or holding on to pieces of work or interpretations on the work itself.

This exhibition raises issues about Clea’s own obsession with death which in itself is about mixed emotions and views conflicts of interpretation. How do we the audience view the work versus how does the artist view the work – Some of the works in Clea’s exhibition like the “Dead” found in the Sinai desert are clearly precious to the artists and reference forgotten time.  The artist’s ideas about a work can be very different to how we interpret it. For example, the beautiful, polished bronze “Death Mask” is a very seductive and yet a recognisable discomfort is established with the very idea of a death mask for a living person. I think the work she does with the local hospice raises questions about life in the presence of death and this directly influences this work.  Similarly, a connection to the artist is very clear when you look at the shells “Urchin” that have been cast in bronze.  These were shells found by Clea on the seashore during her first week in Sligo where she now lives.  These were hoarded by her in herb jars and are now being metaphorically discarded in the sense of being used in a totally different manner to which nature intended. Again, we are back to ambivalence or those conflicts within the artist. Are we back to the control questions?

I was in an extraordinarily privileged position leading up to this show because I was able to witness the journey.  I saw the artworks at various stages of development from exploration to production.  I was given an insight into the complexity of creating and organising an exhibition with everyone involved from the foundry to the gallery.  This exhibition in turn has renewed the soul of my passion for the exploration the contemporary art world as it treads in no one’s shadow other than the challenge of the Artist!

Enjoy the show,