I was privileged again this year to get in to preview the WCFE Art and Design/ Photography Graduate Exhibition. I got in before the crowds, so could spend time in the space and absorb it all. It’s something I look forward to every year.
This year was no exception. In the Photography section, as I strolled around, I was stilled and stunned in equal measure. The walls danced with visual energy. The Advanced Level 6 Photography had experimented with new palettes; an homage to David Hockney and his ‘joiner’ technique. Students had recreated the work of numerous famous photographers using modern techniques in some cases and traditional darkroom techniques in others. Avedon, Blumenfeld etc. and the interpretations of their work by current students. They had also made handmade bound portfolios populated with their own original content as part of a workshop facilitated by the Read That Image company. Each of these hand bound portfolios were one off creations, totally original to the student photographer and an ideal portfolio for application to Third Level. I wondered how many of them would one day have students trying to reproduce their work, life in images being timelessly relevant.
For Margaret O’Brien- Moran, Head of Photography in WCFE, the exhibition has a special resonance. “It represents my passion and commitment to photography”, she said. “We’re surrounded by images now more than ever. It’s important for people to slow down and observe the world for themselves, as a lot of the time you’re actually seeing the world through a camera”. Her commitment is evident in the use of professional photographic modalities on the Level 5 and 6 Photography course and the way in which the dark room is central to the learning process. It was evident in the work all around me; a room full of refracted souls reproducing each other; past, present, future, all solid and captured in one harvest of visual growth.
The Art and Design studio was another journey. Seeded at the start of the year with themes and gentle suggestions such as Greek mythology; the students took root in their creative soil and moulded textures and fabrics and colour to produce a living, palpable energy in the exhibition space. Head of the Art Dept., Ann O’Regan, said that the exhibition showcases the work of two purely visual courses. “It’s really important to see how it comes together. It’s a culmination of a year of invested energy and communication.” She plants the seed and the exhibition is her harvest. Like Margaret, her enthusiasm was easy to see as she moved from one exhibit piece to the other, words falling short of the joy in her eyes.
I moved through the energy of the space myself. Each piece explored unique threads and themes of life and existence. In Evelyn O’Regan’s performance piece, loss of identity was explored through the metaphor of the Magdalene Laundries, which for her, left many questions unanswered. Tia Quinn’s work gave corporeal form to the three Fates; Clotho, Lachesis and Atrophos, while Valentina Vittorio’s stunning sculpture depicted, through a metaphor of form and shape, the impact that one person can have on the fate of others and how she, in the end, disconnected from that influence.
Seed, tend, harvest; the thread of life.
The artwork and installations bloomed into the warm energy of the May evening, each with a message of their own; inspired, developed and permanent in the record of things.
Later, when the crowds came to see the work, Principal of WCFE, Gerard Morgan spoke passionately about the commitment to artistic expression in WCFE. He said that the exhibition itself was an integral part of the students’ personal and professional development and applauded the students for their professionalism and inspirational work. For him, the magic also lies in the fate, the evolution from ‘new student’ to a professional artist or photographer, the exhibition being the culmination of a year’s work and personal development. He sees it as more than just a professional exhibition. “It’s beyond the portfolio”, he said, “friends and family and members of the public have the opportunity to come and view outstanding work. It’s very important to us.” Like the tutors, he saw the exhibition in metaphoric terms, saying that the exhibition was within the College, people come towards the work rather than having to go elsewhere to see it. For him too, the nurturing of talent within WCFE is integral to the final explosion of creativity.
For me it’s always a joy to speak with the students who create this rich harvest of ideas and creativity. Their work becomes an extension of themselves, and much like the joiner work in the photography section, the subjective mind of the viewer interprets, but also mingles intuitively with the original intention of the artist. Such is the magic of visual art and photography. So much is said in silence. So much can be heard from looking.