Artists' Takeover: Janine Davidson

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I am a multi-disciplinary artist. My work is primarily lens based incorporating the use of both digital and analogue technologies.

My work is often site-specific exploring the still and moving image. I use photography in various processes; in pre-production; in the presentation of a composed photograph; or interpreted through photo-etching and digital printmaking techniques.

Medium specificity is an integral part of my practice, previous projects have incorporated the use of 35mm still and slide film projections. ‘Two Fountains’, an experimental film work, was created using the features of the 8mm filming process. My more recent film work has been created through digital formats.

In my practice I am aware of my own perceptions and viewpoints embedded through lived experience and that of the viewers. Through my work, I like to connect with the viewer. I believe we arrive at any site of exploration or documentation with our own conscious and subconscious ideas of a particular place or object. How do you create an artwork that is objective and yet shows multiple viewpoints? Artist as anthropologist?

Seeing, contends the philosopher Bishop George Berkeley in his Essay Towards a New Theory of Vision (1709), is never nearly a matter of vision itself (…) What the human eye sees, wrote Berkeley, is not only narrow and limited, but also for the most part confused: 'the more we fix our sight on any one object, by so much the darker and more indistinct shall the next appear.“  (Dillon, ‘Torch’, 2008, p.12).

ImageRome from the Pincio, Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, (1827), Hugh Lane Gallery

‘Rome from the Pincio’, painted in 1827 in by Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, is my favorite painting from the Hugh Lane collection. As a member of the Hugh Lane Gallery panel of artists, guides and lecturers of the education panel, I have the pleasure of viewing this work on a regular basis. In this painting we see a fountain basin in shadow under two trees, the dark expanse shadowing the scene making up nearly two thirds of the painting. In the background we see the obscured dome of St. Peter’s Basilica. The play of light and shade challenges the viewer's focus, to move between the foreground and the background. The simple shadows and silhouettes from the Pincio in competition with the majesty and beauty of the Basilica in the distance. For me, this calls into question which viewpoint is more important? Perspective is not just what we are looking at but where we are looking from. How do we look, as a viewer/ observer/ surveillant?

This particular painting inspired my earlier work ‘Two Fountains’ an experimental film and sculptural piece which presents the documentation of two fountains designed by Arthur Edward Pearse in 1888-1892. The Doulton Fountain in Glasgow, a highly decorative five-tier fountain in French Renaissance style, designed to commemorate the Queen's Golden Jubilee in 1887 and which was refurbished in recent years and relocated to Glasgow Green. The sister fountain, the Dunville Fountain in Belfast located in Dunville Park, was gifted to the City of Belfast in 1891 by the Dunville family. Its maintenance has been neglected over the years and no longer resembles its original design or purpose. ‘Two Fountains’ is a visual juxtaposition of outcomes, one questioning the validity of the other.

ImageTwo Fountains installation shot, from 'The Starry Messenger' exhibition at The Void, Derry, Janine Davidson, (2014), medium photography, glass

I have always been acutely aware of binocular disparity having had a ‘squint’ as a child, and having to use a synoptophore[1], to bring two disparate images together and test my ability to conversely visualise them both. My journey to corrective eye surgery brought constant awareness to dualism and disparity, an awareness that was augmented by growing up in a divided society.

[1] Synoptophore (an instrument for diagnosing imbalance of eye muscles and treating them by orthoptic methods)

ImageRe-Vision, installation shot, Janine Davidson, (2012), Exhibited: Steambox, IMOCA, St Catherine's School, Dublin Medium: HD Projection, 2min 40sec loop.  Projected image, toughened glass, school tables.

In my work ‘Re-Vision’, film is projected through a glass sculptural aperture device in a purpose-built darkened space. The optical device has an opening that allows part of the image to project through, forming a restricted view, denying an overall sense of the place, instead training the eye on the subject. This projection simultaneously creates a partial view on one wall whilst reflecting itself in its entirety on the opposite wall, reminiscent of a camera obscura and of the dualism and disparity awareness that underpins my work. Representations of the same piece of film can be read in two different directions, which are both passive and ominous (diverging views about preservation, conservation, survival and surveillance).