Sri Lanka and Leitrim meet in the artist's abstract photography at the Naughton Gallery at Queens
Majella Clancy admits that the postcard art that earned her a solo exhibition at the Naughton Gallery has little in common with her current pieces on display. 'It was drawing and painting based,' she explains, referring to her submission to the Gallery's Wish You Were Here: Postcards From an Unknown Artist exhibition. Her new, self-titled exhibition focuses more on abstract photography.
The proceeds from her previous exhibition funded this one. Clancy waves at the rows of canvases, all in different sizes, hung on the Naughton Gallery's smooth cream walls. 'In this body of work I draw from an archive of imagery which I originally took in Sri Lanka... and an archive of imagery of the fossilized landscape of Leitrim.'
They seem odd bed-fellows, but it is those tensions - between landscapes, concepts and mediums - that informs Clancy's work. 'It's finding different ways to create pictorial tensions or spatial tensions.'
The peacock bright images captured in a Sri Lanka temple sift through the sere browns and greys of the Leitrim countryside, 'coming in from behind and underneath'. Clancy's deft addition of paint and pencil to digital imagery bring the disparate locations together and create something entirely new from both. 'The spaces change,' Clancy explains. 'They become more about real and imagined spaces as opposed to anything specific from the original imagery.'
Clancy works both with and against the existing images. Sometimes her additions are subtle ones, a spider-web of delicate pencil lines fracturing the canvas or a spill of translucent garnet paint. In others they sit challengingly on the surface, thick textured lines and drops, blocks of colour that seem intent on disguising some element of the image.
'It's about looking into a space,' Clancy explains, 'but not being able to focus on any particular element. Does [the paint] sit on top of the photographic element or somehow move behind it?'
Her investment in the work is obvious; the base images are drawn from her life. Clancy took the Sri Lankan photos herself, in the serene chaos of a Buddhist monastery, and she grew up in Leitrim, describing the images as part of her own history. She touches the canvases as she talks about them, checking the texture and repainting a swooping line of peacock blue with a pass of her thumb.
They demand investment from the viewer as well. Look at a painting once and it is a whole, an other world created from the first two. Look again and you can see the building blocks. The eye struggles to put them together, to separate Sri Lanka from Leitrim, to look around the mask of paint Clancy has added. As if it will all come clear if you can just focus your eyes in the right way.
'It's great to get the work up and step back from it,' Clancy says, surveying the exhibition with satisfaction, 'to see how it all comes together.'
Majella Clancy's show is on view at The Naughton Gallery at Queen’s until 21 February.