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His own desires had very little to do with what
came from himself because what he put out (at
least in part) had already been put out. His
way to make it new was to make it again, and
making it again was enough for him and certainly,
personally speaking, almost him.
Joseph O'Connor understands the implications of living in our consumerist society where the nexus of exchange relies heavily on the ubiquitousness of the image. It envelops us daily through all aspects of the media, constructing ns own particular reality. As an artist, O'Connor is informed by it and responds from multifarious vantage points.
The reading of his most recent exhibition at Bellas Gallery came through as a sequence of art-historical reference points, alluding to an inferred narrative, which subsequently is not delivered. Even so, through his juxtaposition of visual codes and the cross-over between the disciplines of painting and photography, the fiction is maintained.
The artist's references are generous—from Buren in his painted work Indulgence: The Primary Process, to Ruscha in Balance Transferred, which makes reference to Ruscha's 27 Gasoline Stations; to LaFontaine in his series of photo/colour-fields with Down Syndrome children in Education in Reverse, to Kosuth in the detailed series of a chair Pure colors—If you'd like to leave a message.
O'Connor employs colour-fields as a device to transform the portrait/document of Downs Syndrome children into the spectacular; making a powerful statement that can shift entrenched constructs of meaning. This piece carries through ideas from his previous show where he dealt with issues of ambiguity that occur in the portrait/document.
The exploitation of the notion that power is spectacle is evident in the photo-collaged gridded series on The Tattersalls Club, which forms half of the work titled Balance Transferred. Here the camera becomes the privileged interlocutor that records in series the Club's beautifully crafted interiors—interiors that remain the sole province of patriarchy in our society. The large scale of the work (280cm x 150cm) reinforces the strength of the multi-dimensional image.
In the piece Penitence: Indulged, the detail of a soldier carrying a chair (taken at an Anzac Day ceremony) interjects with Buren-like painted rectangles of the same scale. Here the image intervenes in the exchange value of the surrounding surfaces, diffusing meaning and deflecting those preconceptions of power/army into a subversively docile, be it ever servile, landscape. There is a seductiveness about the totality of the view that is designed to be problematic.
O'Connor accepts the artist's a priori existence in a culture of images which constantly threaten to usurp our particular reality. His work draws on the aesthetic responses of our century, exploring its scale, style, clichés, recurrent themes and investing his own sense of perception. The show demonstrates the possibility that the artist can successfully work across these disciplines.