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JH

Conor Clarke’s Processual Allegory

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Installation shot of Conor Clarke's photgraphs in 'Unchained Melody' at Two Rooms. Photo: Sam Hartnett. Conor Clarke, 'Powerlines', 2018, pigment ink on Hahnemuhle Baryta paper, 795 x 640 mm Conor Clarke, 'Waterfall on the Grid', 2018, pigment ink on Hahnemuhle Baryta paper, 795 x 640 mm Conor Clarke, 'Chain Reaction', 2018, pigment ink on Hahnemuhle Baryta paper, 795 x 640 mm  Conor Clarke, 'Unchained Melody' (2018), 1 channel video, 2 channel audio, 12:15. Photo: Sam Hartnett. Conor Clarke, 'Unchained Melody' (2018), 1 channel video, 2 channel audio, 12:15. Photo: Sam Hartnett. Conor Clarke, 'Unchained Melody' (2018), 1 channel video, 2 channel audio, 12:15. Photo: Sam Hartnett. Conor Clarke, 'Unchained Melody' (2018), 1 channel video, 2 channel audio, 12:15. Photo: Sam Hartnett.  Conor Clarke, 'Unchained Melody' (2018), 1 channel video, 2 channel audio, 12:15. Photo: Sam Hartnett. Conor Clarke, 'Unchained Melody' (2018), 1 channel video, 2 channel audio, 12:15. Photo: Sam Hartnett. Conor Clarke, 'Unchained Melody' (2018), 1 channel video, 2 channel audio, 12:15. Photo: Sam Hartnett.

All this evocative imagery (its romantic and carnal symbolism) seems to suggest some sort of processual allegory at play, about love and passion, the intricacies involved in removing obstacles, the momentum of desire once the course seems inevitable, and then commitment.

Auckland

 

Conor Clarke
Unchained Melody

 

31 May - 6 July 2019

Usually Conor Clarke presents just photographs at Two Rooms. This time upstairs she offers a twelve minute film and three photographic images that are not stills. However if you look back at the documentation of her previous Two Rooms exhibitions, there are at least three images there that are very much related.

Now, at one end of the narrow upstairs gallery—by the stairs—we see three coloured photographs: a pair of cupped hands that have scooped up an assortment of chain necklaces which are spilling out over the holder’s fingers; a cascading waterfall where the blurry liquid jets look like moving descending chains; an image of a woman’s neck, throat and upper chest, where she has a painful rash—perhaps caused by metal jewellery. Maybe an allergy.

At the other end of the room, the film presents a split screen that shows two activities occurring simultaneously: on the left (indoors) two spot-lit female hands are unpicking an entangled clump of knotted-up chain necklaces; on the right (outdoors) a hand wearing a fine chainmail glove is pressing against (or cupped, or limply dipped in) running streams of water. Sometimes the water is torrential and noisy; other times it is just gentle eddies. The angles of the hand and arm entering the water, vary.

Chainmail gloves, even fine ones, have overtones of ancient knights and chivalry, even when covering ‘maiden’ hands. The water looks freezing (the low hand temperature is surely amplified by the metal links) and where the liquid is slow moving it is possibly perceived as colder than when rushing and turbulent.

Her sequence of about twenty water-and-glove shots, carefully edited and deliberately varied, is matched by the continuum of her boney fingers (surrounded by darkness) patiently unpicking the messy knot of three dozen necklaces—often undoing clasps as well—before placing each freed necklace to one side off camera. We watch the entangled cluster get smaller and smaller.

All this evocative imagery (its romantic and carnal symbolism) seems to suggest some sort of processual allegory at play, about love and passion, the intricacies involved in removing obstacles, the momentum of desire once the course seems inevitable, and then commitment.

Clarke’s clever, thoughtful and stirring exhibition is very focussed on the few repeated chosen elements it presents within inventive manipulation and structuring. There are many interpretative possibilities, including contradictions involving pleasure and pain. In its richness Unchained Melody is quite remarkable.

John Hurrell

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