Visual Arts Programme
The Concourse Installation 2000
The Mirror of the Sea
Anthony Kelly & Jay Roche
The final installation of the 2000 series introduced the first collaborative project by Dun Laoghaire artists Jay Roche and Anthony Kelly. This work reaches out to find a contemporary form or medium that encapsulates the qualities and concerns particular to the landscape tradition. In this last regard, Kelly and Roche have cited the importance of the work of such artists as Turner and Gericault to their own contemporary exploration of metaphorical land and seascape.
As installed in the concourse space, The Mirror of the Sea exhibits a pared back minimalist aesthetic that at first imbues this usually busy space with Zen-like stillness. This sense of calm order is in part a product of Roche and Kelly's choice of materials wood, steel, 'glass' and ceramic materials from which the larger environment of the gallery space has also been constructed. In further part, this order is also a product of their use of simple generic forms and shapes, again a reflection of the aesthetic logic of their surroundings. Together, this affinity of form and of materials enables The Mirror of the Sea to fit not only neatly, but also naturally into the larger space. And it fits there naturally in the further sense of seemingly 'always having been there.'
Moving beyond this initial sense of tranquil permanence, Roche and Kelly's work explores landscape as a fragile phenomenon, wherein the only constant is change. In their emphasis here upon light and line and water as the medium uniting them, we are most reminded of the fact that these two artists are primarily painters. They have for example incorporated transparent water filled vessels into each part of their construction. As a result of sunlight streaming through, bouncing off, and playing on these pockets of water a constantly changing flux of brilliant light and shadows is sketched on walls and floor alike.
Being sensitive to the way that such atmospheric light conditions emphasise material texture in natural landscapes, Kelly and Roche work with high contrast materials: the wood is smooth, warm and waxy; the ceramic is rough, dry and brittle; the steel is strong, grey, cold; the water is wet; the salt dry and brilliant white. The dynamic created by the interaction of these textures accentuates the subtler rhythms embedded in the construction design. As awareness of such rhythmic tensions increase, we are divorced yet further from the initial perception of still permanence.
This perception is ultimately shattered by the power of The Mirror of the Sea to make us physically ill at ease. Its parts appear variously to hover inexplicably, to teeter dangerously, and to be so tautly drawn that one senses that even the slightest alteration could send this perfectly poised construction crashing to the floor. In invoking the more sublime side of nature, The Mirror of the Sea reminds us that, even at its stillest, nature is unceasingly active, and that the potential for sudden violent change is both real and constant.
True to Romantic sensibilities, the awareness of such danger is intended to provoke an emotive response that ultimately proves (spiritually) uplifting. To this end, Roche and Kelly further deploy their considerable skills for manipulating mass, volume and materials to create a landscape of naturally progressing planes that draw the eye ever upward into light, space and the great beyond. It is, metaphorically speaking, water that anchors this 'beyond' to human fate and concerns. As such, Roche and Kelly's use of water as a material in The Mirror of the Sea also offers us innumerable possibilities with regard to symbolic references to sea-faring, to the ritual use of water, the flow of time and the passage of life.