And There Was Light Exhibition in Omagh
After pursuing a career in engineering, Roslyn Kee was drawn back to art. Her current photographic exhibition is on show in the Strule Arts Centre in Omagh
Before visiting the current exhibition at the Strule Arts Centre, And There Was Light, I consulted photographic artist Roslyn Kee’s website and was struck not only by the originality of her images but also by the pervasive sense of solitude and tranquillity that her landscapes often evoke.
Her work on show in Omagh, however, turns out to be completely different and, as I discover when I meet Kee for a wander around the gallery, it was inspired by a very personal story.
Though Kee, who lives on a farm near Newtownstewart, has had no formal training as an artist, she showed an early talent for drawing and painting whilst at primary school and chose art as a GCSE subject. In later life, however, she trained as a civil engineer at Queen's University, Belfast
After graduating, and following a trip to South Africa, Namibia and Botswana, Kee travelled to Malawi to help dig wells in rural villages, where the colour and vibrancy of local fabrics and batiks reignited her love of painting. For a time thereafter she painted from her own photographs, then began to enjoy photography for its own sake. It was not until January 2012 that this medium became her primary mode of expression.
'Engineering and art are poles apart,' Kee remarks. 'Painting and photography are very different and I have had the chance to discover the merits of each.
'Painting is about detail and the difficulty of reproducing that detail. With photography it is very easy to capture detail instantly at the click of a button, but to create an image that can be described as art, therein lies the challenge. For me the more my photograph looks like a painting the better.'
By March 2012, Georgia was on Kee’s mind, though she cannot explain quite why she decided to go there. In Atlanta she toured the galleries taking in art and photographic exhibitions including one that inspired her to make the contemporary work that constitues And There Was Light.
'Georgia was not how I expected it to be. Atlanta was built in the middle of a forest with rolling farmlands to the north and vast flat landscapes to the south. I decided to drive to the ocean hoping to find scenic seascapes, but after maybe four or five hours on a three lane motorway all I saw was concrete and cars, so numerous they were like small metal boxes. I saw so few people that I realised no one walks anywhere.'
Using a lightweight compact camera, Kee felt free to move around on buses and trains absorbing the atmosphere, feeling the pulse of the place. Many of the images that make up this exhibition were photographed in Georgia. They have been printed on matt photographic paper, laminated and mounted on aluminium dibond. Some are framed and some are not.
The first photograph in the exhibition bears the title, ‘And There Was Light’ (pictured above). It hangs boldly at the entrance to the gallery as if to summarize and announce the overall theme. Carefully conceived and perfectly framed, it seems at first glance to depict a blanched full moon grading to black, but look again and you may see it for what it really is: an incandescent light piercing a black interior through a perfectly round aperture.
Then follows a series of six abstract images that feature small globes of varied hues and sizes softly diffusing the darkness. These are not digital creations but imaginative shots of man made lights taken on the move. Each photograph is titled in such a way as to make up a composite message about ways of seeing. 'Once in a while you get shown the light in the strangest of ways. If you look at it right.'
As we progress around the gallery, Kee reveals that the next photograph, the one she calls ‘Violence’ (below), is representative of something quite unexpected that happened in Georgia. It depicts an explosion of light in swirling white cloud. Apologising for being vague about the origins of the image, and the influence behind it, Kee recalled that, whilst in Georgia, she was insulted by someone.
'I always want to understand things, to know things and make sense of things,' she proffers. 'It took me several months and a drive to Dublin with a lady I have known for 20 years, during which I talked non stop for 14 hours, before I began to fully understand the significance of what had happened in Georgia.
'It was as if I had been on the wrong road and had been grabbed by the scruff of the neck and put back on the right path. I concluded it was something I needed to hear, though perhaps not in those violent terms.'
Kee admits that she is intrigued by they way in which the process of hanging the pictures for the exhibition, the choice of their sequence and titles, further defined her journey to Georgia and its meaning. The quiet continuity of the opening series of photographs is rather interrupted by ‘Violence’.
Those images that follow move progressively towards light and clarity, from the monochromatic tree trunks depicted in ‘Stripes’ – the dusky, hazy blue landscape that is ‘Expanses and Daydreams’, the large out of focus yellow flower entitled ‘Eyes Open, Ears to Hear ‘ – to the red barn door in ‘The Place where light comes’. (It is in this barn that Kee milks the cows and has time to reflect).
There is no doubting the integrity of Kee’s artistic endeavour, her sensitivity or her talent. With obvious candour and a modicum of modesty she confesses, 'I don’t know how other artists mount exhibitions. Maybe this is too personal, but it’s the only way I could do it. None of this would have happened had I not gone to Georgia. The final result for me is absolutely brilliant and yes, I would go back.'
And There Was Light runs in the Strules Arts Centre until January 15.