Words by Sinéad Nunes, Features Editor
Niamh O’Malley’s solo exhibition Glasshouse opens at Bluecoat from 10 October. We caught up with the artist to find out more about her interest in reflecting images, and how she has been working to incorporate the architecture of Bluecoat into the show.
Your work spans many different mediums, including video, drawing, print and sculpture, which is quite a mix! Can you tell us more about how and when you choose to work in each?
I began as a painter and for me each medium expands and shifts the kind of mark-making, attention or surface I can achieve. For example, the lack of absorption in my painted glass works is contrasted by the artworks on paper where I am more interested in the imprint, the surfaces which retain mark and memory compressed. The materiality of paint, pencil, printers ink, wood or glass, helps me evolve images as a kind of solid evidence in the studio. The video works are of necessity planned and configured in a different manner and allow me to extend this mark-making into a different kind of time and space. I am interested in how moving image can reveal the constructed-ness of viewing; it can describe our fragmented attention and our compulsion towards narrative or spectacle
What interests you about reflections? Reflecting, obscuring and changing images can be linked to notions of shifting identity – is this a theme you like to explore?
In earlier mirrored works I was interested in the viewing body becoming an active part of the image. In more recent works I’m not interested so much in reflections as I am in glass as a kind of screen on which we can examine images while at the same time being presented with a barrier or surface that is actually blocking the real. Glass seems to gives attention to the idea of visibility; here is a window to allow you to see through, or here is a boundary to help you attend to or frame your surroundings.
The title Glasshouse calls to mind the idea of voyeurism. Are we on the right track?
In the limited sense of a voyeur as ‘one who looks’ …then maybe! But for me the work is not about spying, or any covert study. The act of observation is certainly a point of interest and the Glasshouse serves here as a container for this attention, (we are looking out from within the Glasshouse in the video work of the same name). I’m interested in the potential of clarity, such as the moments in the video Glasshouse where the glass is completely removed and the idea of the open window is reconfigured as a potent intrusion of noise-like reality.
Your new commission responds directly to the architecture of the gallery at Bluecoat. Do you usually work in this way?
It is almost inevitable that there is some response to the venue and its architecture when you are planning and conceiving an exhibition, if only through the way the show is hung or curated. In this instance Bluecoat’s malleable and re-configurable venue of viewpoints, apertures and heavy concrete became particularly interesting to think about as I evolved new works for the show.
Glass comes from natural sources, whilst in your photography you seem to be most interested in landscape. Does nature play a big part in your work?
I don’t use photography directly in my work but yes I have always been interested in nature and more specifically landscape. I am interested in how our physical and instinctual relationship to landscape might shape our broader responses to images and to spaces. There are some interesting theories that propose that the way in which we respond to images which present us with a ‘prospect’ or a ‘refuge’ actually stems from our inherent, even biological, relationship with landscape.
Whilst your exhibition is showing at Bluecoat, another female artist will be exhibiting a solo show at FACT. Do you feel that female artists get enough recognition in the UK and Ireland?
I can’t really comment with any authority on the UK scene but from an Irish perspective it is gratifying to see an increase in the international visibility of wonderful artists such as Sarah Browne, Aleana Egan, Jesse Jones, Isabel Nolan, Sarah Pierce and many others.
And finally, while you are in Liverpool are there any galleries or studios that you hope to visit?
I’m already familiar with, and plan on visiting Static, Open Eye, FACT and Tate Liverpool, and look forward to getting further recommendations from the fabulously knowledgeable staff at Bluecoat.
Glasshouse opens on 10 October at Bluecoat. Their current exhibition Resource is open until 27 September 2015.
The exhibition is also part of the Liverpool Irish Festival (15-25 October 2015)