The Pathos of distance -Sarah Pierce


The Irish National Gallery -Print Room 

The exhibition is about the migration of people from Ireland – the art works range from 1813- 1912 – the exhibition also includes quotes and descriptions printed on fabric panels . The images were prints presented in the original dimensions arranged on furniture 

From 20th and 21st century mainly teak from the 1960’s and 1970’s 

 

When I visited the exhibition , I was the only one in there at 10.07 am on a Friday in April . It was haunting and moving seeing all the furniture from my childhood and teenage years – I felt stuck in a time warp as I read about diaspora 
 The images and the concepts of the exhibition were secondary to the furniture ‘culled’ ( Pierce 2016) from Dublin second hand shops. I Was blown away by the number and layers of memories that flooded me . I was expecting to spend hours looking around the whole art gallery – I went to chill and digest what I was experiencing in the nearly empty cafe  

I have been travelling regularly since making a new home in Edinburgh . I am English 54 white middle class. I lived in Oxfordshire for 25 yrs. I didn’t travel out side Europe before I was 40. Living in Scotland sometimes feels like I have migrated to a different country. 
My parents divorced when I was 5 yrs old 

My Dad married an southern Irish woman when I was 7 and she had a daughter . I had the feeling of being surrounded by ‘their ‘ accents , since arriving in Ireland the evening before. 

After he met my step mother my Dad seemed almost itinerant – He was a civil engineer and travelled with work to Holland, Jakarta , Tehran , Egypt . They lived in a succession of houses – Oxford , Reading , Croydon, The Hague, a little village in the Dutch countryside, Dublin, Oxford city, Stadhampton, Watlington, in the middle of a field ,Southampton, Wimbourne Minster, and Dungarven Ireland. 

During the Pathos of Distance , I am struck by the furniture and how my Dad and my step mum seemed to take their stuff with them – a white shag pile carpet, white units that could be used as tables or storage for book and artefacts all very different from the teak in the exhibition –

There seem to be so many layers here . I have visited Ireland a few times – the last time 11 years ago when my father had a stroke and subsequently passed away. 
A visit at Christmas when I was 19 seems at the forefront – A family party where everybody had to sing ,a pink fluffy jumper , burnt curry and a pretty flat. 
A pantomime where one of the chorus girls had darned hole in her fishnet tights 
Not being able to find a pay phone that worked to phone Hone and say happy Christmas 

if you talked about teak furniture to my immediate family they would be reminded of my Stepdad – he brought some with him from his first marriage – a dark teak table , chairs and a side board – 

 

In the literature about the exhibition Pierce says that the furniture is innocuous to me it is any thing but – the art in the form of prints displayed in their original formats – is small and made insignificant by the placing on the furniture which is used in a sculptural way 
There is an almost alien disruption in the positioning – which may be supported by the whole concept of diaspora? 
In one section the furniture is grouped with the images like a stage set – smaller black and white prints on tables and chairs in front of a large coloured print . This created a depth and interaction that I didn’t feel any where else in the room
The furniture also reminds me of visiting friends houses and digs that I stayed in during the 1980’s.

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