Blackburne House – Crossing Place

image ‘Crossing Place’ 4 – 28 November 2008.
An exhibition of new paintings by West Cork artist Wendy Dison. Wendy grew up in Liverpool and went to Art School there and these 19 new paintings explore her response to the long connection between Ireland and Liverpool and its role as a crossing place in the wider Irish diaspora. The exhibition is supported by Culture Ireland and Ainsley Gommon architects.

imageText from ‘Crossing Place’ catalogue….

What I find most captivating about Dison’s work is her ability to convey a spirit of inquiry which comes directly from its subject matter – in this case migrant working families for whom Liverpool was a crossing place –  to buttonhole the viewer, hold his/her attention and engage in dialogue.

Wendy Dison skilfully and carefully combines analytic/printmaking and empathic/painter’s techniques to create a body of work which contains great truth, great presence and great sadness. Her figures merge with and emerge from past locations which are both precise and atmospheric. The places and people portrayed are gone, yet, in these paintings they present to the spectator an inquiry from the past. The figures and images draw the viewer to them, and to the time portrayed, and then it is as if one’s ancestors have suddenly arrived in the present, consumer driven, globalised world to ask ‘What are you doing?’, inquiring, impugning, ‘What happened after we left? Was our effort worth it?’

Economic migration is inherent and cyclical in capital, empire and globalisation. In these paintings we see this cycle as it is lived by working people, in the movement of labour and the imperatives of poverty. How commonplace those journeys are yet how remarkable too – and how swiftly forgotten in a new cycle of production and consumption.

Crossing Place graphically evokes Liverpool as a crossing place for Irish migrant workers and families; however the work operates on many dimensions. It confronts the vulnerability of individual lives, their connection to place, the experience of displacement, the value and expedience of place to economic cycles and the contemporary concern with the destruction of place and the natural environment by human life’s crossing.

Crossing Place addresses the question of our connection over time as well as place, to past, and therefore future, generations.

Wendy Dison’s work is as subtle and interesting in its technique as it is strong in its impact and inquiry.    Sue Hassett, freelance writer and social researcher.