In conversation with author and reviewer Hubert O'Hearn about my painting practice and workshops

 Interview on the arts programme, KCLR about my exhibition Light Poises


Transcript of Tom Mooney's opening talk, reviewing the Poetry of Light exhibition: 

 Two weeks ago on a fine Indian Summer of a Sunday morning, I sat on the promenade in Bray looking at the breaking waves.

I thought: what do they remind me of at this moment?

A marble-green seascape by Monet off the coast of Brittany.

This is a painting reproduced in a book gifted to me when I was 19.

It was a present from my then French girlfriend. Thinking of Monet conjured an image of Paris, where she lived.

Next I thought of the poet Rimbaud, a contemporary of Monet, and the first volume of French poetry I ever bought, in her company.

I remembered a line by Rimbaud which made the deepest impression on my young self. The poet becomes a voyeur by a disordering of all the senses.

And the poem I enjoyed the most, Le Bateau Ivre, the drunken boat, a metaphor for the visionary poet floating on unconcerned waters.

The sequence of imagery on an innocuous Sunday morning had brought me full circle, from the waves crashing off Bray to images of water in late 19th century France.

The trajectory was an unconscious arc, and made absolute sense.

I am intrigued by the process in which an image hyphenates a sensation or a correspondence or indeed another image lurking in the psyche.

In Tate Modern, I always sit before the same painting each time. Jackson Pollock's Summertime 18 A.

There, paintings are not arranged chronologically, but by theme.

So an abstract expressionist (Pollock) could be hanging adjacent to an impressionist (Monet). 

I read the horizontal Summertime 18 A from left to right, aware that if my first language was Arabic, I would read it from right to left.

Sometimes I see Pollock painting with urgency because he’s afraid he won’t have enough time to get it down.

On a Spring afternoon, however, I see an artist visualising a Charlie Parker melody he has heard in a club in New York.

On a dull winter day, I see only chaos.

Summertime 18 A is a viaduct into an attic outside of my reach

Oonagh Latchford is a disciple of art’s capacity to create new narratives. She shares with Monet an obsession with light, the amoebic contours which define a blur. On the theme of narrative, Oonagh is content to imply, that the desire of the observer to question should never be at the expense of the retinal sensation the artist triggers.

I believe that art can have its own cartography, its own way of making connections. Art is a matrix of the mysterious and occasionally indefinable.

So when I look at Oonagh's work, which I have seen in other incarnations in the Arts Centre and the Presentation centre in Enniscorthy, I ask myself two questions:

1.What do I know, standing before this work,  that I can know nowhere else?

2. What will this art reveal of me already, that I do not know of myself?

Cognitive is a popular word in modern therapy, but art through the ages has been a method of achieving knowledge through experience and the senses.

All true art is in fact a catalyst, the aesthetic rather than chemical definition of which is something that brings about change, without changing itself.

And yet the production of this powerful totem, which triggers change and yet is not altered by that which it has caused, can only be brought about if the artist, not the art, has undergone catharsis.

With catharsis we also think, if spiritual, of purgation, and if not, deliverance.

My earlier reference to Monet and Rimbaud and Pollock was also to demonstrate why we, outside the artist's cauldron, should not relegate ourselves to a walk on role in our relationship with is around he here today.

We are here to partake.

Our role is to engage.

This exhibition, if you chose it, can be as important as Newgrange to your perception of this world, past and present, as important as the recently discovered cave drawings in Chavet, France, 30,000 years old

So art, like those cave drawings, is a source of solace.

An exhibition is a cathedral of enlightenment.

Your role is to understand that when you purposefully look at art you cross a watershed, because you have engaged yourself in a rite of passage which, courtesy of your senses, will reconfigure how you think, and can reveal lost continents of thought.

Oonagh explores how over exposure in photography and high contrast from sunlight, and artificial lighting at night, distort both shapes and colours, reshaping and creating new narratives.

Those intimate with her work will appreciate her fascination with Bok-eh photography, from the Japanese for “blur”, describing the out-of-focus regions of an image, often achieved by shooting with a shallow depth-of-field.

Oonagh’s use of blurred focus, the deft shepherding of light, reminds me how and why the understanding of the use of light in art is an ongoing education

I was intrigued by the presence of her portrait of Maria Callas: it seemed to me to be the most obvious visual metaphor of the tragedy unfolding gradually in Greece.

You should study the video Oonagh has made of the genesis of this profile.

In the beginning…was a mere hunch.

She outlines the soprano in sudden and heavy strokes of acrylic on a recycled canvas. You can view this as either a pentimento, an Italian word for when an artist changes their mind, or, as every writer knows, a palimpsest,  something that is worked upon again, and has diverse layers beneath the surface.

Jung gave the world the notion of a collective unconscious, a reservoir of images which the artist taps into through the portal of their talent and their vision.

Oonagh is such an artist.

It is not unusual for the mind, like soil, to have an impoverished layer, but there is nothing as forceful as art, to penetrate it.

There is nothing as functional as a new exhibition to let in the light.

But art cannot be watched with mindless passivity - you have to give something back.

We are in the company of voluptuous tableaux, nourished by an artist who can weave a symphony out of light, and compel us to enter her realm.

The process of painting, our engagement with it, the deep mapping od ideas, old and new, the tension between artist and canvas, the terror of the blank canvas, the nicotine of the artist’s solitude in a studio where light, often savage in its demands, is ducted into the imagination.

All of this deep mapping, is subordinate to one idea, the artist’s unfolding of herself. We should feel honoured to be present at Oonagh’s blossoming in our company which is enriched by her gift.

(Tom Mooney/Fusion Café/19.10.13)