by David O’Dwyer
from On The Sea Wall
It would be more usual for an artist to be interviewed or his work critically appraised than for some composite of the two, likely missing the very point of each, to be attempted. Nevertheless, upon request, here you have it – a supposed outline of Patrick Hogan’s exhibition “Still” based upon a brief conversation with the artist and cursory look at the (at the time) half-hung exhibition. It does, I believe, reflect the nature of “Still” while simultaneously harbouring, no doubt, specious associations and judgements which are my own, and not necessarily Patrick’s.
Patrick Hogan’s Still is an attempt at a romantic ‘visual poetry’ in the sense that he has sought to capture ‘something deeper’ than common photographic subject matter and has endeavoured to do so through a self-imposed alienation of sorts. Shot in an unremarkable and unimposing part of Co. Tipperary, Hogan’s adopted environs for the project, Hogan found the leeway to ‘find an excuse to make a picture’ that was not rooted in concept or intention, but rather in photographable things – places, objects, people, colours – that evoked personal concerns, so fundamental that the concerns themselves could be classed as existential or anthropo-typical. It is someone of a poetic nature who seeks quiet, understanding true meaning to be interior, and subsequently attempts to express it; his description of Still seems apt.
Such unclouded moments of perception are few and far between, the poet will tell you, and when twinned with the experimental use of the still image’s efficacy in expressing this world we gain a sense of the struggle involved in the project’s construction. The struggle is incorporated – as visual protuberance; as affecting the images’ scale; as variations on the one photograph; etc. – and Hogan, in doing so, has produced a highly self-reflective work whose substance, often and in part, is the struggle itself. Frustration and insecurity are great themes of this exhibition – the woman’s face whitewashed, not showing itself; digital noise perforating a nightscape; flagrantly visible dust and scratches – what I consider symbolic of the obstacles against the concrete clear image Hogan ideally is looking for.
Mutability comes across as central to Hogan’s own appreciation of Still. His original looking for the image and his desire, now, to pause the two-year process and make an exhibition of it, which is generally expected to be a self-sufficient thing of sorts, are frustrated by ‘the weight of time’. (“Desire itself is movement / Not in itself desirable”, wrote T.S Eliot). In regard to the former, Hogan hinted that some photos were a frantic grasp at something before it disappeared; others he attempted to get right before the feeling he was attempting to visually externalise gave way to another. If what I’ve written is accurate, then I would understand Hogan’s reference to Time in his photographs to signify his struggle with a succession of fleeting presents, without any nostalgic connotations; he appears to be looking to assemble his identity through photographing. Reminiscent of the ancient notion of the teleological self: Hogan is not – brute fact – a person, but rather something evolving in time, under constant construction and reinterpretation. It’s a matter of ‘how I can define myself through an act of seeing’, as he put it.
The exhibition space holds huge importance for Hogan, who finds the opportunity to arrange his photos – ranging from the very small to the rather large – into meaningful associative patterns, presumably, another creative attempt to make the most of his medium. The negative – white – space plays as much a part as the photographs; Hogan has consciously sought to avoid clutter. To me this represents the contrast of the prosaic day-to-day (two years’ worth) with inspired moments / a laboured revolt from it. Naturally, there is more white than photograph.
Still comes across as personal, resourceful, contemplative, maybe even eschatological in nature, and I’m looking forward to seeing it in completion.