Sarah Iremonger

Solipsism Series 2013-15
'World View of an Oyster' was an exhibition curated by Sarah Iremonger for Cork County Council and exhibited at Macroom Town Hall in Co. Cork 2013, artists included Helen Horgan, Maximilian Le Cain and Mick O'Shea, with text by Danyel Ferrari.

A poem for the oyster:
The oyster, about as big as a fair-sized pebble, is rougher, less evenly colored, brightly whitish. It is a world stubbornly closed. Yet it can be opened: one must hold it in a cloth, use a dull jagged knife, and try more than once. Avid fingers get cut, nails get clipped: a rough job.  The repeated pryings mark its cover with white rings, like halos. 
 
Inside one finds a whole world, to eat and drink; under a firmament (properly speaking) of nacre, the skies above collapse on the skies below, forming nothing but a puddle, a viscous greenish blob that ebbs and flows on sight and smell, fringed with blackish lace along the edge. 
 
Once in a rare while a globule pearls in its nacre throat, with which one instantly seeks to adorn oneself.
 -Francis Ponge 1942
 
Francis Ponge, les parti pris de choses (Paris: Gallimard, 1942), 43
English translation taken from: Barbara Johnson, Persons and Things (Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 2008), 31

The ragged “pebble” is closed to and yet reproduces the whole world. The “World View of  an Oyster” takes the world of art practice; and its possibly solipsistic vantage point as a similar paradox. The artists included in this exhibition all draw on reflection; on themselves and their own processes as their 'interlocutors', as a means of creating individual histories, visual languages and experiences. In so doing they also comment on and gain access to something beyond their own individuated worlds.
 
Ponge’s poem was once notably critiqued for presenting an “anthropomorphised” vision of the oyster in its attribution of human traits to the unthinking mollusk. Denying the validity of these criticisms, based on the letter rather than the spirit,  the noted literary critic and author of Persons and Things, Barbara Johnson, notes that Ponge’s poem is, despite its subject, written from the view of the observer looking in onto the oyster. He describes the oyster as an object of various attributes, but he does not frame the world, either its own or the larger surrounding, from the oyster’s perspective.
 
The premise of this exhibition poses the question of how the world might appear from within a presumably closed world. How does one see the world, both internal and external, from within a “stubbornly closed” shell? How does the world, in its enormity exist within the limited world of one firmement reflected back upon itself from so close a distance? What can artists who point focus back at their own questions and creations create or recreate of the larger world?
 
The pearl, which Ponge writes, we the reader will instantly seek to adorn ourselves with, is nothing more to the oyster than an irritant, a tiny stowaway inside that closed world we have to pry apart with knives to open. Let in through the bivalve by its necessary engagements with the world outside, the taking of food and breath; fixated upon by the oyster; worked over and over in attempt to make foreign; self, the desirable “globule” begins as a grain of disruption. It is both evidence of the porosity of the tightly closed shell, and the very means by which the interior world within produces desired material of the outside world.
 
The disruption of the outside world, invited or otherwise, worked over until it becomes something else, is the thread of consistency in all of the distinctly internal practices included in this exhibition. Whether in reworking the stuff of our inherited narratives into an idiosyncratic language, opening the historic image to allow the self as viewer to become actor, translating one’s own output in one medium through another or inventing a cultural history to include a phantom self, the artists in “World View of the Oyster” simultaneously re-work the world both inside and out of their practices. ('World View of an Oyster' catalogue, pages 4 & 5, 2013)

Solipsism Series

Its an old adage of academic training that in painting you are not trying to create something where there is nothing, but rather trying to create space where there is none. In her Solipsism Series, artist and curator, Sarah Iremonger has taken the works of academic landscape painters and digitally divested these worlds of their subjects. Historic landscape painting invites the viewer to the comfortable pose of the surveyor; the world laid out for the viewer to enjoy. All the pleasure of ownership and none of the obligations of stewardship. The complete worlds of others’ making are suddenly vacated.  By removing the scenes for which they are titled, Iremonger performs a paradoxical act upon them. By opening space, she insinuates herself as viewer/maker/squatter into them, and, by extension invites us in as well. In offering entry through she also imparts the viewer to a kind of peculiar responsibility. She, and we, can no longer merely survey a world, the cost of our imagining is the new found imperative to act within our imagining.
 
In her new digital drawings Iremonger creates shapes from forms repeated, reversed and redoubled creating a form of recognizable parts that takes on a new identity. The Solipsism drawing, takes as its base one of the ships removed from George Mounsey Wheatley Atkinson’s Ship in Stormy Seas c.1854 and by flipping and reproducing its form creates something of a Rorschach test image; taking what was a titular subject and making of it playful ambiguity.
 
In an earlier series Iremonger creates a campaign for Landscape Unions and all the attendant visual propaganda of buttons, badges and postcards. The landscape, as genre of art and image history which belongs to cultural history is unlike land, hard to delineate. Its borders are not easily drawn out. By making land; landscape, she abstractly liberates. Even as a playful gesture, a subtle awareness of the often arbitrary delineations of power structures become apparent, in a way that argument could not equally elucidate. Iremonger works at the borders of worlds, where the abstract world of story becomes space, where image becomes, where play can become politics, and here, she creates space where there was none and invites the viewer in. 
 
Danyel Ferrari ('World View of an Oyster' catalogue, page 14, 2013)

http://www.irishexaminer.com/lifestyle/artsfilmtv/news/a-philosophy-of-art-inspired-by-an-oyster-237163.html