Remotely Radical

Remotely Radical : Vault Studios 2.9.22 – 9.9.22

Artists Charlotte Bosanquet, Sally O’Dowd, and Grace McMurray came together through a shared interest in contemporary drawing to give us, Remotely Radical, an exhibition of new work, in Vault Studios in East Belfast. The artists visited Rathlin Island, on the north coast, where Bosanquet is Harbour Master, to rekindle their emotional and artistic ties, and create drawings in response to the wild times of the last 2 years, Covid, insurrections and all.

There is a lightening of spirit in the show, that may have come from their collective relief at not co-creating via Zoom, the joy of interpersonal interactions or just the experience of making a time and place together that can elicit new considerations of patterns, of place and of time.

Each artist experienced the grind of the pandemic’s induced isolation and the invisible labour of caring and planning for an uncertain future in their respective families and each has a unique link to the rural landscape and culture of the North of Ireland. 

“Resilience is used to describe people making their own histories (and geographies) but not under conditions of their own choosing”(MacLeavy et al., 2021, p.1568)

Our present terrain of culture and politics is seemingly always urgent and reactive, leaving little space or place for rumination, for careful looking and even for the kind of daydreaming that can make another world seem more possible. Remotely Radical is a reminder to engage in a purposeful construction of meaning for places that might prefigure a feminist/queer intention to abandon chronilogical time and ordered space. The work invites wildness.

“Wildness is where the environment speaks back, where communication bows to intensity, where worlds collide, cultures clash, and things fall apart.” (Halberstam, 2018, p.454)

From pencil, charcoal and paint on paper and cardboard, Remotely Radical requests our interaction with the psychogeography of sites of care and of rural space, with the invisibilisation of continuous unpaid labour. The wiggle of lines, twisted curving paper and the freedom of cardboard and paint, bring an energy, the force required for radical resilience. There is the lively contrast of Bosanquet’s colourful boats from open, family-friendly drawing sessions, alongside the monochrome but windswept large scale drawings of O’Dowd against the modernist optical ululating of Mcmurray’s surfaces, and in all three we encounter a playful resistance through an emergence of unpredictable identities. Against the backdrop of the rural idyll, the shadow of which is remote alienation, we can sense the self-determination of three people remaining expressive against some odds.

There is a simplicity to all of the works in the exhibition which harnesses them together, a deft touch to the overriding feminist psycho-geography and subjectivity that leads us towards ‘counter-typographies’ (Katz, 2001). An important addition to resistance and resilience is the re-working that art offers us. In the space in Vault, itself an urban island of resistance and potential, we are included in their dialogue of reimagining.

Emma Campbell wrote this text to accompany the show and the exhibition is supported by Cavan County Council Arts Office, the Esme Mitchell Trust, and Vault Artist Studios Belfast