‘Fast Slow Fast’

CCA Derry~Londonderry
8 June – 10 August 2019

My day-job is punctuated by a variety of tasks, one of which is to create and circulate promotional images on displays. Source imagery arrives through inter-office email, mostly as custom-ratio JPEGs, PDFs, or on occasion – and most laborious of all – as PowerPoints. You might assume that this is mundane work; however, to someone with my interests, there is something profound about this cutting, pasting, alpha masking and exporting. The images become temporal objects, displaying evidence of their imperfections, rearrangements and cropping, but only remain for however long their promotions are relevant. When they are gone, so too is the time invested in them. ‘Fast Slow Fast’ at CCA takes work by Catriona Leahy, Darren Nixon and Joan Alexander, aspiring to a visual cipher for critical considerations of time, as exchanged and demarked by aesthetic gestures.

The mainstay of Joan Alexander’s practice, as represented here, is the ‘Shadow Dial’ series. With drawing, photography and printmaking, Alexander captures changing light, cast upon surfaces by the movement of the sun. On the occasion of Midsummer, Alexander has produced Shadow Dial, a site-specific, spatial drawing that charts the casting of daylight through CCA’s windows, upon the floor, walls and the building’s facade. The rectangular imprints of light are outlined in white chalk, cumulatively connecting a faint lattice of past tenses. There is no singularly presented Shadow Dial; a similar methodology is documented repeatedly, in various wall-mounted prints all around the small space, with the live-work disruptively sprawled between them. The repetition isn’t the conceptual locus of the work, and it isn’t the charting of sunlight that marks the passing of time, but rather the ephemeral actions of the artist.

Catriona Leahy, Rhizome, 2019, installation view; photograph by Paola Bernardelli, courtesy of CCA Derry~Londonderry

Catriona Leahy’s body of work is inspired by a residency in Genk, a former coal-mining region in Belgium. Leahy excavates the region’s natural and built environments through modular printing and photography, repeatedly spreading large images across grids of modular parts. A counterpoint to Shadow Dial is the pronounced black of Leahy’s Rhizome, a large floor drawing that delicately maps the subterranean mines of Genk in coal dust. The instability and fragility of the medium represents not only the impermanence of coal as a resource, but of coalmining as an industry, heightened in the context of climate change. The precarious materiality of the drawing symbolises fading identity: wear-and-tear has blurred lines and frayed edges here and there, presaging the eventual dissolution of the artwork. Rhizome critically mines notions of identity, as measured by fragile, time-limited materials and concepts.

Dislocate is an off-site project by Darren Nixon, in a disused shop in Derry’s Richmond Centre. Nixon has a fluid, ambiguous practice operating in the ‘expanded-field’ of painting, which is to say, applying a painterly logic of permanent, highly individual gestures to a mixed-media practice. He works collaboratively with two dancers, Janie Doherty and Lydia Swift, in sequence over two weeks, choreographing movements amid projected backdrops and monochrome patterned objects. The movements are recorded, then cumulatively threaded through new performances as the work progresses. At the time of writing, Nixon was in the collaborative phase of the project but was working toward a final phase, when he will continue the work alone. If the premise of the work is to obfuscate responsibility, the decision to perform alone as the ‘future tense’ relents from this linear methodology, vacillating more provocatively than a well-laid plan. Dislocate thus suggests presence as an analogue to tense; agency as that to duration. The synonymic splicing of tense and authorship are an elegant metaphor for the conditioning of an artwork by its speculative exchanges.

‘Fast Slow Fast’ cumulatively graduates the artist’s presences: between Rhizome, Midsummer Shadow Dial, and Dislocate is an analogue to past, present, and future (respectively) in the circumstances of production. Returning to the promotional images I produce during my civilised hours, it could be argued that, for their intended audience, they are alienated, instantaneous things. Art has the capacity to invert this process of temporal estrangement, promoting value in the act of viewing… eventually.

Kevin Burns is an artist and writer based in Derry.

Feature Image: Darren Nixon, Dislocate, 2019, off-site project for CCA Derry~Londonderry as part of ‘Fast Slow Fast’ (8 June – 10 August); photograph courtesy of the artist and CCA.

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