This body of work comes out of my current inquiry into tools, not merely as articles of utility but as implements that serve the human need to alter, adapt, create and destroy. Tools are both contrived and used for extending the force of man onto something, much like language, and the resulting marks of action that they can leave behind imply a residue of possession.
For most people the outcome of an action is what is important. However, this work is about constructing something that articulates the indication of a mark. In so doing, the significance of the action becomes disrupted, its intended outcome secondary, and its suggested implementation forces one into positing the question, ‘what made that and why?’
Based on drawings from an old photograph of a turf cutting with marks of the slane (a spade for cutting turf) clearly visible on the walls of the ditch, the elements of ‘Before me Floats an Image’ are the results of something pushed forward into being. They indicate a boundary, define a limit and are an absolute statement of fact and existence, they are a combination of the scars of removal, definition and intention – however much they hint at the unintelligible. The top layer pushes down and the bottom layers push upward creating a site of something that is neither recollection nor history, but that other place that mimics the act that it is based, in part, on. They are the objects of an act of thought or disappearance.
A spade is used to dig a hole and to thrust your way into the earth. A shovel moves something from one place to another. It used to be that every region in Ireland had its own shovel and spade makers, and each design was used for a particular place at a specific time of year. Some regions had as much as 250 different types of spades. This is a fascinating image of affinity with land and the considered craftsmanship of the tools people used to work it.
The wooden shapes of ‘Husbandmen’ made from walnut, are cut to the actual size of 6 different spades made in a small factory in County Tyrone, which closed down in the 1950’s. The rings in the wood mimic contours of the land they were made to work – with a sort of yearning nostalgia. The forms have the purity of modernism when art and architecture were together seen as one essential necessity in life, just at the time when the way people worked the land was undergoing its final transformation through to mechanisation.
The Untitled 1-8 watercolours show and fix that instant a missile is fired, when the ground turns to dust and light, and that formidable tool of destruction moves out of our sightline leaving a vacuum filled with anticipatory violence. ‘Like a Laughing String’ oscillates between the two opposite conditions of thought or action – in suspense, undecided and wavering.
These thoughts on tools and the link they have with language as a method of articulating intention, led to my making things that imply a demanding and purposeful activity. And in fact all this new work asks, ‘Why do we need and make things and how do we say this?
Liadin Cooke 2017 www.liadincooke.com