03.09.2020 - 04.10.2020
NICC Vitrine Brussels
from Thursday 03-09-20 till 04-10-20
It was as if I were trying to catch something and the written word provided a net which for a moment entangled a shadowy form which was other than the meaning of the words…
-Marion Milner, A Life of One’s Own, 1934
The work of Irish artist Aleana Egan is guided by an intuitive negotiation of materials and a desire to forge a singular visual vocabulary. While she frequently works with photography and drawing, her focus is primarily on sculpture. The initial “mode opératoire” employed in the production of these sculptures is that of a bricoleur. Images, outlines and abstract forms are accumulated from an array of disparate sources such as architecture, clothing and most recently, car parts. The found shapes and motifs are then refined, manipulated and often completely altered in the studio via manual processes. This repeated -often obsessive- (re)working imbues the chosen forms with a constellation of personal associations. Physical structures become armatures into which Egan embeds immaterial ingredients sourced from her unconscious; emotion-laden memories, unresolved impulses and half-formed feelings are developed into symbolic figures. This is essentially a form of sublimation, whereby deeply subjective personal references are translated into a particular medium.
This exhibition at NICC, Brussels consists of three new works that have been shaped by Egan’s formative engagement with the writings of British author and psychoanalyst Marion Milner (1900-1998). In the production of her sculptures Egan applies a method that has similarities to a strategy devised by Milner known as ‘introspective journalling’. Essentially, this involved Milner identifying past experiences that she felt were particularly significant and designating them as ‘bead memories’. These ‘beads’ became the focus for prolonged meditative reflection and over time Milner attached to them material that she felt resonated. This material consisted of excerpts of literature gleaned from diverse sources including mythology, religion and fiction. This technique was essentially a form of self-analysis and literary experimentation, resulting in intertextual composites which Milner then published under the pseudonym Joanna Field. Ultimately, this process enabled Milner to produce experimental literature whilst simultaneously gaining a deeper understanding of what she described as the “mysterious and astonishing fact of simply being alive”.
The cast bronze wall-hanging sculptures in this exhibition (reeds, so and no and otherwise 2019) are ‘loose’ forms that appear to capture a moment of their own making; a transformation permanently paused through the final process of casting. There is an anonymous tenderness to these shapes that echoes Milner’s prioritisation of mystical ‘oceanic’ states over a sharp-pointed ‘rational’ focus. The work on the floor (remote-sense, Isuzu Trooper 2019) is compiled of three disparate elements laid-out on canvas. Interspersed are shells, seaweed and heather that Egan has collected from the shores of the Atlantic in Donegal on the north-west coast of Ireland. The landscape here is notably barren and frequently shrouded in sea mist and low lying fog. The sculptures in this exhibition reflect this sparse, austere landscape in which Egan has spent the past six turbulent months. A “visual letter” by Egan and Pádraic E. Moore accompanies this exhibition and is available via this NICC website here below.
Pádraic E. Moore, 2020