Curated by WILL COUPS
''Discussing your work can be awkward at times. Trying to distil hours of research, thinking and making into words can be difficult, particularly when our natural outlet for this as artists is visual. But it is in the discussion with both oneself and others that new forms of thought can be created. Sitting in Irene’s studio I asked the seemingly simple question ‘Tell me about your work?’ The conversation followed the usual path- first breaking down the raw elements that present themselves in the visual pieces. Guns, strands of hair, ripped garments, knives and teeth were all talked about. For me however, I knew that there was more that was not being said- the true crux of the works that is held deep within Irene’s person was still waiting. Having watched her work develop over the past few years, I have always been intrigued by what underpinned it. Artists have a great ability to make you believe in what they are saying- attributing significance to symbols so that we can enter certain parts of their minds. It is rare for a viewer to spend enough time with the artist to get a fuller picture of what went into the making process. We see works exactly how they are presented to us, a delicate balance of meaning and mystery keeps us waiting with bated breath to know more. This works for the artists as well. Presenting their works in an exhibition (especially in a solo context) is already a gut-wrenching experience, leaving themselves open for view. It is in this process, sharing their message with others, that the works take on their complexity.
With Irene’s work, many elements of her person are laid bare for us to see, and our conversation reflected this. The objects and paintings in front of us roll around with many connotations: violence, death, human, nation. They create a dialogue that draws us all in, wondering where these symbols came from and how they relate to her. The more that we spoke about these objects the longer the silences between speech came. For her, the works and their contents form a DEFENSE at times. They are a comfort zone in which Irene knows how to respond, each association within them forms a part of her collective thought that when presented together creates an environment for us to inhabit. This DEFENSE is natural and something that I have seen with other artists, but with Irene the DEFENSE appears integral to the actual work. It always keeps us one step away - hiding fractions of itself from us. This is what fascinates me about it, I am never quite sure what will come next.
When looking back over the notes I took during our conversation, the depth and complexity of Irene’s work became apparent to me. Words and phrases that she had casually dropped into her speech echoed profoundly with deeper messages in her works that I had not fully appreciated. Flags. Nations. Urban. Trauma. Traumatic events. Personal. National. Personal is outcome of national. Fetishizing. Critics fuck you. Urban pastoral distress signals. Definition of camp. Extravagant is natural. Sarcastic/Bad notion in title. No bullets left. Call 911. State of emergency. I don’t like Susan Sontag. In the Tropics of Cancer. Notes on camp. Tracy Emin videos Sarah Lucas. The Favourite. Dogtooth. Burden of another generation’s thoughts. The sense of hidden trauma is clear but not discussed, and rightly so. We know that it is there and that is enough to satisfy us. So often we search for a full explanation but the way in which Irene tackles this is to not grant it to us, simultaneously keeping us at bay and drawing us further into her work.
Irene is masterful in how she interacts with us through her work. Her pieces are powerful yet at times understated. Bold paintings reminiscent of banners are balanced against delicately crafted objects that can be found at intimate moments in a room. She presents us with a guessing game, giving us clues to get started but does not reveal the destination. What Irene has perfected is leaving us in limbo, a blissful tension between knowing, unknowing and always wanting to know more.''