Incoherent fragments of intimacy
Saskia Neuman Gallery is excited to present Nadine Byrne’s first exhibition with the gallery Incoherent fragments of intimacy, opening the 16th of February.
There are several perceptions, and acceptations of the concept of intimacy. Physical, emotional, intellectual as well as spiritual intimacy… but the availability of intimacy comes to mind. Displays of intimacy, both a positive and a negative, is something longed for, cherished while simultaneously a state of being which can be avoided at all costs. Ultimately, intimacy is a noun loaded with preconceptions and expectations. A bed of feelings and reflection, experiences conjured through intimacy or the lack thereof.
Nadine Byrne’s exhibition Incoherent fragments of intimacy allows for a deep, very personal, and unbridled insight into the artist’s own familial history. This is patiently expressed through a myriad of sculptures, embroidered textile collages, drawings, and video. It is perhaps easy to label tragic events of the past in a universal box of melancholy and thus archive the experiences. Byrne actively chooses the opposite approach. Upon entering the exhibition, the public is invited to engage in a sculpture formation laden with information. The sculpture, a series of metal boxes holding, or rather cradling colored glass lids is aptly named A Past, 2023 — referring to the enormous archive the artist inherited after her mother’s passing, as well as from her grandparents.
A great deal of the artist’s practice has incorporated textiles she’s inherited, using them frequently in her work, however the inclusion of objects is new to her. With A Past, 2023 we are introduced the concept of the obstruction of memory, both personal and collective, through the opaque colored glass lids of the sculpture — a nod to the potential dimming and diffusing memory. This vast archive of inherited physical objects and non-tangible emotions become our guide into the artist’s practice and through the exhibition. We are led by an array of sculptural reliefs, each symbolizing the very most tangible components of a child and young adult’s memories, fabric and other textile materials saved, sometimes worn, by the artist, her mother, or grandparents. A towel, parts of her mother’s dress, additional found textiles: the artist dives into her archive for material as well as solace. The addition of the artist’s hair in in her new work adds to the physicality and closeness of each textile collage.
The works have the ability to come alive via their storytelling. Each stitch tells a tale, the typography and words used, with every new fabric a very definite element in the artist’s life resurfaces. The process is intuitive, almost subliminal for Byrne… there importance reflected in each work’s title, Orpheus — referring to the compulsion to look back, followed by a second title such as, A Home, A Dialogue, and so forth.
This selection and staging of a past, is something that the artist has appreciated as truth. Byrne’s archive is an ensemble of physical and emotional memories. Although these memories have been presented as absolute truths, with the function of guiding her throughout her artistic practice, the artist came to realize early on that there are no absolutes, essentially questioning the accuracy of memory. The artist states, ‘there is no one truth in regard to my past, I can’t decide in finality the intricacies of what has happened, who is right and wrong.’ Ultimately, by being comfortable with the grey areas of our own memory, we are open to interpretations of our personal histories. This statement ties into so many contemporary situations within the current western culture: it is not only the intent of what a person says, or does, but also in the manner of which that intent, or action, is received. The material becomes the bearer of meaning. Using found colored glass as a metaphor for memory, in this instance obscuring what lies beneath each thick sheet, creating a physical as well as an emotional obstruction. Memory is often described as tainted, blurry comes to fruition via the actuality of the colored glass. Urged into the second part of the exhibition, an ominous video on loop together with a soundscape that guides you. The video work, titled As if it is still there waiting for me, 2023 simultaneously encompasses three layers of time documenting the same space. A childhood home: imagery filmed in 2005, a soundscape from 1987 recorded and played on a cassette player, and artist’s script as subtitles from 2023.
One poignant line from the film ‘the past kept changing, depending on who spoke’, gives weight to the artist’s hypothesis regarding her own memory. ‘Drawing a map, but the map is too difficult to read, and I end up going in circles’, is another specific line. Alongside the video Byrne’s work, A Script, 2023 is mounted on the wall. In this textile wall-hanging we are introduced to excerpts of the script for the film, alongside images, drawings of a woman who invertedly symbolizes both her mother, sister, and herself. This woman isn’t one person, but an amalgamation of all three, ’the woman is all of us, and none of us.’ The wall hanging is in essence, the backdrop for the entire exhibition. Brimming with symbolism, Byrne has included the blueprint of the apartment she grew up in. The importance of symbolism grows throughout the exhibition. We enter a world full of meaning and fundamentals, some without inherent explanation. Allowing the physical gallery space to reenact the childhood apartment, full of incoherent fragments, memories, and emotions.
The deeply personal video work is joined by the striking embroidered wall reliefs, The Eyes 1 & 2, 2023. The two works, depicting windows from the same apartment, which in turn act as tools for observation. These allow the artist to see beyond the physical space, as well as being able to take in what is transpiring beyond the walls of the apartment, now the gallery, and the world she has created within her practice. These windows reoccur often throughout the artist’s work. For the exhibition she approached the windows - the eyes - with new tenacity. Previously, embroidery took shape in abstract form for Byrne, here she devours figurative images with each controlled stitch. They are drawings, delicate renderings of memory, and aid in building the room.
In addition, we meet a small sculpture, the back and head of a young woman, her hair cascading down her back creates room within the gallery space. This small, site-specific sculpture houses the importance of looking back, along with, to what degree the power the past holds in the present. Built into the wall of the gallery, the installation is adorned with wallpaper from Byrne’s childhood home, which can be seen in the film as well. Throughout the exhibition the artist massages the idea of combining layers of time by pressing material together that are in fact from different phases in a life, fusing their separate meanings together. She circumvents chronology and chooses to originate from a simultaneous multitude of temporalities. By inviting the viewer into a realm of personal memory through a lens of beauty and inuendo we are charged with opportunity to face our own truths via Byrne’s exhibition, her Incoherent fragments of intimacy become our own.