Notes for an artist’s talk (Exchange Berlin 2018)

Zero Minus Zero is an example of a painting which starts out with purely formal concerns but which takes on a figurative personality by the time it reaches completion.

The first layer was made in spring 2016 with a series of brush strokes attempting to record the mixing of greys from a primary colour palette.  The exercise was dissatisfactory and I left the canvas unfinished.  It sat around in my studio, usually within eye-shot, for nearly two years.  It was January 2018 when I picked it up again.  It was freezing in my studio and had been snowing outside.  I was working on a series of small paintings which played with the idea of snow landing and sitting on elements in a landscape.  As I was looking for ready surfaces with which to continue the series -and as the incompletion of this piece had started to bother me – I picked this one up again, rotated it to portrait format and resolved to make some new marks.

I refer to the black marks in the lower half of the painting as ‘tally marks’.  Like the symbols used for counting score in a game or to count out days on the wall of a prison cell, they are easy-to-make marks and have become a tool for working through my uncertainty of what to do next.  (Sometimes making another mark feels impossibly difficult.  Other times there is a strong urge to destroy any existing progress with reckless marks.  The tally mark is my compromise between these two extremes.)

Zero Minus Zero
“Zero Minus Zero,” by Róisín Fogarty, 28cm x 35cm, Oil on canvas 2018 (BD)

I remember thinking, “It doesn’t matter if I just end up covering the whole thing with black paint, the important thing now is to do something”.  Fortunately, before long, I had the impulse to put down the black and to mix some browns.  Vaguely figurative characteristics emerged for me.  Horizons, seascapes and a shoreline came to mind and I recalled a visit to Poland several years earlier when I saw the Baltic Sea freeze.  Suddenly the thing wasn’t a struggle anymore and soon it was finished.

I took the title from a line I heard in the Terence Rattigan play, “The Deep Blue Sea”. The doctor says to Hester, “Zero minus zero is still zero.”  He is encouraging her not to give up on life after he revives her following a suicide attempt.  I do not always find painting that difficult but the doctor’s line chimed with me.  He rationalises the act of continuing to Hester in the same way that I can catch myself thinking about painting when I am having a hard time in the studio.


Junctions Press Release

34. Whereabouts 2017 61cm x 41cm
Whereabouts by Róisín Fogarty, 2017, Oil on canvas, 41cm x 61cm (BD)

Islington Arts Factory is located at the tip of a junction where one road becomes two (or two, one), enclosing it on two sides, island-like, by main roads (Pankhurst Rd and Camden Rd).

Imagine the act of painting as a junction, an intersection between experience and the material topography of the world. Róisín paints from the memory of navigating urban landscapes. Maj-Gret works with the sensations of the weather, amongst other factors, and Nadja’s practice is a turning towards the materiality of the world.

If painting is a junction, then perhaps it is one that never quite measures up, two roads that nearly meet. Junctions of nearness, more miscommunication than communication. A word is a junction: we think we mean the same thing and meet at the word with confidence only to realise that we have all gone off in different directions.

The word junction comes from the Latin ‘jungere’, to join. Yet, in our experience a junction is only a temporal, impermanent joining: a brief touching down in the same place, something travelled through. (Even Camden Rd and Pankhurst Rd become two again, further down.)

How is one junction the same place for two people? Imagine travelling from Paddington to Swansea, stopping briefly at Swindon. Is the station I see the same as the one experienced by the commuter waiting there for the umpteenth time? Yet, we both, somehow, speak of the same railroad junction.

Three painters in one space, mapping junctions of proximity, mapping junctions of cross-communication, their works making a temporary topography, creating a map of potential meetings.

Writing and poster design by Nadja Gabriel Plein, Curator

Storyboard Catalogue Extract

Róisín’s paintings play with properties of form, colour and pattern to create illusory spaces inhabited by ambiguous objects in uncertain settings.

Paintings are made over the course of weeks and months during which time ideas of what is depicted changes many times.  Narratives come and go in the making.  They help to drive the work, acting as an armature to pin the paint on to.  A recognisable scenario is formed one day but the next day, formal reorganisation disregards that story.  The work is driven by an open-minded approach, shot through with great uncertainty and some fickleness.

4. Family History 66cm x 56cm
Family History by Róisín Fogarty, 2016, Oil and pencil on canvas, 56cm x 66cm (LH)

Trees in both of Roisin’s paintings for this show, appear to be illustrative or over-simplified.  They might also be a realistic representation of artificial, model or toy trees.  Perhaps not.  Two or more modes of representation often sit side by side on the same canvas.  Sometimes presentation is diagrammatic, dismantling the pretence of a natural landscape.

Colour temperature depicts recession in space but the same space contains objects that remain consistent in size, subverting any attempt at linear perspective.  A scale is dubious.  Objects and settings hint at the bird’s eye viewpoint but never completely commit to it. Appearances are not conclusive and ultimately, narrative, or lack of it, is left for an audience to decide.

Designed and published by Chinagraph Books in April 2017. http://www.chinagraphbooks.com


John Moore’s Painting Prize 2016 Catalogue Extract

8. Goofy Foot 2015
Goofy Foot by Róisín Fogarty, 2015, Oil on canvas, 81.5cm x 61cm

Goofy Foot combines imagery from an outdoor basketball court in Walworth, south London with a village skate park in Mid-Sussex.   Both are places that I visit frequently and I am often struck by similarities between children from these two locations, even though their wider surroundings can sometimes seem worlds apart.

I like looking at the mathematical structure and clear division of space within recreation grounds and playing fields.  These areas provide me with a readymade framework for observing colour at play within space.  There is something satisfying about the clearly defined contours of the ramps and the markings of the court as they delineate the distance, tracking perspective and cooling in hue.

As a painter, I enjoy the problem of using two dimensions to convey an experience of time and space in the physical world.  I find the dynamics of movement and the complexities of spatial awareness fascinating.  And I am intrigued by left-footedness, a genetic trait that might run in my family.

Excerpt from catalogue ISBN: 978-1-902700-55-7 Publisher: National Museums Liverpool

© Roisin Fogarty 2018 – Photography by Lucia Helenka (LH), Ben Deakin (BD)

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