Christopher IRELAND
sits down with artist

Criena Court

Christopher Ireland and Criena Court share a similar aesthetic.
Both artists enjoy the concept of combining art with photography.

Finally introduced through a mutual friend, Christopher was delighted to document and discuss Criena’s latest exhibition ‘un-becoming: parts of the whole’, as well as perceptions vs reality – as an artist, an observer or even a woman. Stay tuned for a very exciting collaboration to come.

When people realise you’re an artist, and ask you what is your medium, how do you answer them?

Recently I was described as a multi-disciplinary artist, but my explanation is usually more complicated.

I start by explaining that I was formally trained as a painter at the National Art School (a very rigours, traditional, craft based approach to painting). However my works explore painterly composition across 2 and 3 dimensions. They can be painting, collage or 3D assemblages and installations, either way I still consider them to be within the extended dialogue of painting. Painting was my foundation and it still informs how my mind deals with compositional space.

Your show at Arterial Gallery is called “un-becoming: parts of the whole” 
would you mind elaborating on the thinking behind this show?

This show, continues an ongoing enquiry into reality, perception and self. It explores space and our psychological relationship to environments.

The paintings are the start point in order to consider and deconstruct illusory systems within which we formulate our perceptions of reality. The notion of ‘un-becoming’ is about breaking apart the elements in the paintings. Then reconfiguring them and their influence in distilled settings, creating new realities, as in the assemblage and the construction.

By deconstructing and reassembling the elements and base materials underpinning painting, and presenting them to the viewer, the work is created via a process almost akin to that of alchemy. Through this re-examination of the basic ideas, materials and constructs on which the history of painting rests, un-becoming challenges us to re-consider, re-imagine and re-evaluate our aesthetic and conceptual value, before re-assembling them in a way which allows for the creation of a new aesthetic value system.

The compositions are mixed media, from two dimensions into three dimensions, encourage observation of a different kind, the viewer is asked to look outside ordinary phenomena. They are temporal, acquiescent and provide less predictable situations of viewing that are simultaneously real and false. They are willingly altering states, while willing the viewer to alter his/her state of observation and perspective.

Always aware of the tension between the work and the viewer (as a defining factor of the phenomena), this show ponders our formulation of reality and the level of illusion/delusion we are willing to entertain to formulate or reconcile the whole. As in the nature of the self, are we prepared to undergo fragmentation of the known to reimagine the nature of harmony and wholeness in the unknown?

Is this theme part of a wider vision for your practice?

My ongoing practice is about perception and reality, which is really about me making sense of the world. 

I’m always seeking to understand my reality and that of others, sometimes this takes effort to reconcile and my work helps me process those ideas. Formulation of reality is coloured by perceptions that are complicated and affected my many things. Presenting ‘the known’ in a new light, in my practice, hopefully opens people’s perception and allows space for a new consideration. 

There is a hyper-aesthetic edge to your work. In some ways its photographic. 
Has photography shaped your work?

Having studied at ACP and assisted photographers prior to attending art school, the fusion of painting with photography for me was inevitable. 

There are a few reasons… 

In my devoplment as a painter I had to work out what my aesthetic was. What I considered “good” or ‘bad” painting almost completely transformed the more I explored the surface. I didn’t enjoy making paintings that were attempting to be real. They just didn’t make sense to me. Why would I create a painterly reality when I could capture one through photography that suited my aesthetic better. That’s when the need to interfere in the “reality” of a photograph, with both photographic methods and with material on the surface was appealing. This also interfered with the notion of traditional painting, which I liked. 

On a more mysterious level, photography and painting have had sometimes contradictory roles to play in terms of illusion on a 2D surface. Before photography, painting was about the illusion of space within the canvas. Once photography was mainstream and providing this visual record of reality, painting developed a new relationship with the surface of the canvas. Photography was also exposing a curious relationship with 2 and 3 dimensions – for example a photo of a road heading off in to the distance may translate as a photo to be a road from the base of an image straight up into the air – touching the surface rather than entering into space.

For these reasons, for me, photography has a paradoxical relationship with the truth. Even with everything we know today about manipulation of imagery, in our minds photography still actives an idea of truth or reality. It also evokes a sense nostalgia and memory that is appealing. I often use reflections in my work. I may tamper with an image to expose the ‘unreal’ and breaking down its sense of reality, then reflect it. Something new happens when it’s reflected back, our minds (which are used to a bombardment of imagery and screens) somehow recreates reality. It’s curios and something I like to play with. Only the use of photography allows me to do this.

I feel a sense of tension in your work. It seems to inhabit a space between chaos and order. Are you always feeling a compulsion to find balance and harmony in the world around you?

Aaaah… yes! Personally I tend to oscillate between chaos and order. It takes time for me to realise there is chaos, then I create the return swing back into balance. I also find that my sensibilities are affected by that flux. Something I like one day, I might dislike the next. I might leave the studio thinking I hate something, only to walk back in an hour later and love it. Perceptions are always shifting.

You were initially tentative to have your son with you in the portrait. 
Is there still baggage in the Art sphere when it comes to raising children and being regarded as a serious full time practitioner?

Yes. This is probably not exclusive to the art world, but I still feel like women have to fight for their place somewhat. It’s not enough to be talented and driven. You somehow have to do more as a woman, or prove more.  The perception is that having a child compromises you and you could never be a ‘serious’ artist. Despite much evidence to prove otherwise.

It’s an archaic notion that you cannot devote yourself to you practice unless you are ‘unencumbered’.  I was nervous of this notion (that wasn’t even mine) at first. That I would be written off as an artist if people knew I was becoming a mother. This may or may not be true, either way I have chosen to disregard the notion.

At some point you have to choose if you let other people’s perceptions colour your life, or if you will choose your own way.

My child has made me stronger as a person and an artist. He has expanded my sense of connection, how I look at the world and feel within it. For me that is advantageous to my practice. I have been exhibiting since finishing art school, during pregnancy and into early motherhood. I hope this will continue.

What’s in the pipeline for future exhibitions?

The pipeline is usually mysterious. I tend to let things unfold to a certain extent, while I continue to think and make. I have a few projects and collaborations to work on and for now I’m researching for my masters. My work is the kind that benefits from text, and as a natural born researcher text inspires my ideas. Stay tuned.