Adam Burthom: Úna Morris

Úna Morris’ Imagine If Things Were As They Appeared To Be

It took me quite some time to find the Fine Art Degree show in the labyrinthine Sligo IT main campus. The Fine Art Department has now been subsumed into a broad set of institutional disciplines under the name ‘The Yeats Academy of Arts, Design and Architecture’. Signage was lacking, as was the presence of personnel who could have been helpful. I eventually found the shows: three rooms in different locations, fractured and lost, boxed and hidden and, I would guess, missed by most of the general public. There were six graduates in Fine Art this year, all showing works at a proficient stage of realisation with some interesting and well executed individual pieces in drawing, painting, sculpture, ceramics and installation. It was however the sparcity of elements and coherent wholeness of Úna Morris’ installation that drew my attention.

At first glance there seemed to be barely anything in the space but as I became accustomed to the whiteness, I began to notice small concentrations of marks, colours, materials and objects, and through the whitewash and white light faint images bled through.

Fragile paintings of faded family photographs drawn on layers of acetate and tracing paper or on fragments of torn blackout paper, faces or other attributes missing, expressing the dysfunctional aspect of memory as it grows distant and traces are all that remain – elusive and indefinite.

Domestic objects become receptacles of memory and meaning through their contact with the human, creating associations, linkages and resonances with identities or moments; symbolic transmitters of charged relationships and emotional connections; stand-ins for the very signified itself. However, meaning is not certain or fixed: it shifts, adapting to the viewer’s own perceptions and experiences superimposed onto the familiar appearances of captured family moments.

Throughout the installation there was a feeling of absent presence/absence present that seemed to encapsulate the essence of an inherently damaged state. On one of the works a text read: “To violate is the fundamental gesture”, suggesting that relationships of kin are doomed to be corrupted by imperfect recall, which leads to a tendency to misremember. Not only are memories unstable but they are also never truly accurate; they are a work of fiction, always in progress and through which we selectively create an image of ourselves based on past experiences. Yet here what is distilled from the process of erasure and revelation are the precious shards of remembrances, only half obscured, shining through the haze. Morris creates pieces that are a working through of this knowledge, each acting as a catalyst for reflection on personal experience. Utilising her own personal subject source, its happiness and trauma, the artist has found a language through which she is able to communicate the deeper currents within universally familiar aspects of human relationships.

Written by Adam Burthom

Adam Burthom is an artist living in County Sligo.