Adam Fearon, relief, at the Butler Gallery.

Adam Fearon’s work concerns impression and it is surely here that ‘relief’ finds its title. This taste for the literal is reflected also in the handmade, tactile aesthetic which carries throughout. As far as mass is concerned, a lot of the heavy lifting is done by rudimentary structures and intelligently placed wing nuts, indicating that the real interest lies in what is acted upon.

In one case, Vessel (2019), water has welled into a clear plastic skin which stretches from all corners so that the water retained here sinks down like a fat man on a bed. In both iterations of this work a nearby mirror completes the exchange. But it is the first work we encounter, a piece titled Studio Mesh Study (2019), which gives us a simple demonstration of how the artist wants us to see things. A POV walkabout of the artist’s studio introduces us to the grid. This steel mesh between us and the things in the room is met again inside galleries one through four. Bent incrementally at what you might estimate is nose height, each steel mesh retains an impression. This is the visible proof and warping effect that Fearon is keen to observe.

A work from 2016, PROMPT uses an angled mirror display, asking that you look into it in order to see his moving image. The visual slush that forms and reforms out of paper fragments communicates a potential consequence of our want to read a story from the disconnected imagery which passes our eyes. Is this the same warping effect?

Another video work Definition (2019), attempts to provide a Logos for his sculptural enquiry. The main subject here is the concept of surface and it is delivered by the voice of a female. On a screen placed facing up from the floor, we see the collision of two planes, monochrome maps taking shape across what the voice-over plainly says is a surface, before then elaborating also the linguistic and mythological basis of philosophical reality and the abstraction of observable patterns.

That isn’t to say that Fearon’s work is difficult or in some way distant. In the end it is contact which proves the greatest effect. This is perhaps seen clearest in Ports (2019), where fingertips are imprinted into a coloured plasticine. Moving on screen, this contact allows impressions to disappear as new ones appear. All of this is really an incubation. Organic by another name, screens have already come from the lab stage and are well established in our ways of life. But screens are also just another viable surface in the sculptor’s workshop.

Definition points to Faust’s pact with Mephistopheles, as Fearon seeks to remind us that form and essence cannot truly be separated without also sacrificing the soul. And so with Ports, the fingers push and prod, moulding without end, in a pointed refusal to accept man’s imminent loss to his technology. Indivisible from essence, our very human form is the source of our relief.

Written by Darren Caffrey

Darren Caffrey is an artist, living and working in Kilkenny.

Writer links: here

Adam Fearon, relief at the Butler Gallery, Kilkenny, 26 May – 28 July 2019.