Laura Gannon born in Galway, Ireland. Lives and works in London. Studio in Hackney, East London.
Gannon works across different media including drawing, performance and filmmaking. Her work explores questions around memory and materiality and the female body in relation to architecture.
What are you working on at the moment?
At the moment I am interested in minimalist traditions in art and in architecture. However in minimalism everything was very precise and clean: corners, grids; artists were dealing with absolutes of conditions. My work is not specifically about measurement or precision but I think it still maintains some minimalist qualities.
I work on primed linen, covering it with ink then cutting into it and creasing it. I see these works very much on a scale between the body and architecture. They are almost the same size as a person but the proportions are quite architectural. There is a focus on surface and materiality.
What are they about?
Recently I have worked a lot with the metallic colours, which for me is a way of creating something that moves between painting and sculpture in its character. These colours make me think about metal, which is obviously a classical sculptural material. In the case of the gold works, I am also interested in what it means to undermine gold as a symbol of wealth, status and power by cutting into the surface and roughing it up.
I believe there is a way for an artist to work without pre-planning everything, but instead focusing on thinking through making and moving beyond language in that process. So when I make new work it is not the language part of my brain that is telling me what to do, but rather the connection between my mind and my body that makes the work. There is a an element of what I call psychological data embedded in the work.
When you say psychological data do you refer to the subconscious?
It's as if memories and data are stored in the surface. The marks can indicate a kind of data system retaining information.
And is the mark-making with the scalpel an evolution of your drawings?
Over time I have moved from using a marker to a scalpel. My previous drawings were composed of mark-making, of thick black lines. The scalpel has allowed me to move beyond these marks by removing sections of the surface. The works with the cut-outs, where the linen is removed, are about the presence of absence. So something is removed, but it still retains a presence.
I am interested in creating abstract architectural environments. The marks that are removed allow the viewer to see the wall behind, utilising the architecture of the space. They are activating that environment and creating a reliance between the work and the architectural space in which it is situated. Also, I see these works as expanded drawings rather than paintings, that’s why I pin them directly to the wall without using stretchers.
Most of the sites you decide to document are in Ireland or your subjects - for instance Eileen Gray - are Irish. Are your origins an essential part of your practice?
Yes, there is definitely a biographical element in these choices including using specific rural locations as sites for the films. I grew up in the 80s in the West of Ireland when the Republic of Ireland was still a very young country. It was formed in 1922, after years of British rule, violence and civil war, so this historically imposed control on society was still very present in terms of a collective memory when I was born.
It was this particular context in which architecture entered into my thinking from a young age. The landscape carried all the recent history: the abandoned famine villages of the people who emigrated to America and the Anglo-Irish Big Houses, which were also abandoned mostly in a ruined state in a coastal environment, very raw and elemental, it rained a lot, fields were divided by grey stone walls. Basically an architecture of ruins.
And how do you know when they are finished?
That has to do with the closeness of the relationship between my thinking and the work. And it is an instinct that is honed over a long time. Being able to know that a work is finished without necessarily knowing absolutely what it is doing or what it is activating.
You also work a lot with film. Your films are often about spaces or buildings, often modernist architecture, that have been created by women.
I am interested in individual creativity that is reflected in architectural environments. This has often led me to researching specific female writers and designers who created their own houses or spaces. For example in Eileen Gray's E1027, she spent two years living on the site when the house was being built. The organisation of the house as a whole is based on her studies of wind and sun, and on its position on a steep slope descending to the sea. I filmed the house in a vandalised state before it was restored. After restoration it became a monument, a site of research. I was interested in capturing the last moment in which it was still a residence before it became a public site. In Elizabeth Bowen's writings, architecture was described in cinematic detail and her houses became characters in themselves. I created a performance based on her description of spaces in wartime London in her novel The Heat of the Day where the city's structure became unstable and entire buildings could disappear overnight through bombing.
I am quite affected by what happens around me in my own environment so I spend a lot of time in whatever studio I am in, repainting and rearranging, which goes beyond functional ordering. I think often the subjects in my films are doing something similar. Architecture that really activates my thinking is architecture that has been manipulated, re-structured or re-used for a different purpose. Both these aspects play a role in my films.
Where did you go to art school?
I went to art school in Belfast when I was 18 and did my BA there. It was still during the end of The Troubles, so again a very particular time to be there if you weren’t from there. Fundamentally it was a violent society with constant killings and deaths. That had an impact on me.
I was in the Fine Art department learning from international lecturers including Susan Hiller, who encouraged us to explore making work using different media. This led me to experiment with film while continuing to work with drawing. This duality within my practice has continued to the present day.
And did you have any female artist role models you were
At this time I was influenced by Maya Deren, Louise Bourgeois, Eleanor Antin and Kiki Smith. Artists that I look at now include Carol Bove, Marisa Merz, Carol Rama and Hilary Lloyd. I am really interested in female artists whose work have a fragile physical manifestation, someone like Karla Black for instance. I am interested in that because while it looks traditionally female with the pale colours and ephemeral elements, it is taking on space in an architectural scale, moving between feminine and monumental.
If you could choose an artwork to live with, which one would it be?
It would be Angel of Anarchy (1936-40) by Eileen Agar. It is sensual, seductive and unrevealing - the presence of a mussel shell as an ear and eyes covered in patterned silk fabric feels familiar and is indescribable simultaneously.
Laura Gannon is currently included in the group show FIFTEEN at
Kate Macgarry, 10 November - 16 December 2017.
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