Interview with Ciara Rodgers by Niamh Murphy

 Ciara Rodgers is a visual artist based in the Backwater Artist Group in Cork. She graduated from Crawford College of Art & Design in 2018 with an MA in Art & Process.

For more information on Ciara and her practice visit http://www.ciararodgers.com or @ciaraarodgers on Instagram.

So I have been following your work for a while now, and I’ve always been drawn to the aesthetic and themes surrounding your work, I hope to learn more about your development of ideas and the elements within your practice that you find to be key in making the work you have envisioned. 

When developing your ideas do you have an open way in the methods that you use or is it something more ridgid, e.g., constant exploratory drawings?

I tend to take a more open approach to develop my ideas. I am always gathering photographs, objects, postcards, and books. The edges of cities and rural towns are spaces I most often photograph and explore because with teaching and residencies, I often find myself driving to and from rural areas. The return journey will take twice as long as I must stop and photograph all those things I noticed on my way to the destination. As for the objects I gather, they often need to sit in the studio for a long time before I have figured out their purpose to my practice. At the time of bringing a found object “home” all I know is that I must take care of it and I tend to almost anthropomorphise old phones, gas boilers etc in doing so, there’s a strange lovingness to it. 

You create work through charcoal drawing, polaroid photography, found objects and models; as seen in your solo exhibition in the LHQ Gallery Cork ‘Monuments of Abandoned Futures’ in 2019 and in the group exhibition in the Blue House Gallery Schull, Cork ‘Alternative Views’ in 2019. Is there a certain sensibility with charcoal and polaroid photography that drew you to their use in your practice?

“Physicality” is a word that readily springs to mind regarding my material usage in the studio. Drawing, especially on a large scale has a lot of movement to it and there is a lovely clunkiness to the mechanics of vintage Polaroid cameras. They are noisy and heavy to hold and there is a sense of magic as you wait for the chemicals to settle and reveal your image. Charcoal and pastel have a wonderful velvety texture and are endless in their possibilities for interesting mark making. I treat them as both drawing material and painting medium as I often blend with bits of cloth and apply with brushes.

Is it your intention to use methods that reject the digital era? 

I must confess to using digital means for research or sometimes as a precursor to some of my analog processes so I cannot claim to be some sort of “purist” regarding working through analog media! I do, however, really cherish the haziness of both charcoal and polaroid images as my concepts so often allude to memory – memories do not tend to present as a crystal-clear digital image in our minds. – at least not mine anyway.

Your practice explores the defunct landscape, the relationship and the values we place on a historic built environment, right? (let me know if I’m off the mark here!) Do you aim to create a narrative of a personal history with this imagined built structure/monument?

There are a few elements at play when I’m looking at a particular site as a starting point for making work; the history of the environment, inputs from locals, literature and finally my own experience. These elements come together to form something new or otherworldly, I am often trying to convey a sense of the uncanny, a place that is familiar yet unfamiliar at the same time. As an early career artist, I am still developing my visual language and I’m currently in the early stages of developing a new body of work and looking forward to a sustained period of making in my studio.

There is a lack of human figure in your work- but do the images of abandoned and archaic architecture represent man’s futile attempt to leave a permanent mark on the world? Or is it more about the personal history a monument/structure holds?

I’m definitely interested in the defunct or failed aspects of our built environments. I’m in my thirties yet have seen so much change around me, from the function of a particular building to watching the fast dilapidation of another. I don’t quite catch up to it and find it quite an uncanny experience. During my MA for example, I looked at the old tax office building on Sullivans Quay for reference. I toddled along in there as a child with my parents, went in to get my PPS number at sixteen, studied for my final year of my BA in a studio space there and finally watched its demolishment from my studio window in the Grand Parade Campus during the MA course. The idea that some of the spaces we inhabit and utilise can be so temporary, yet others are protected enough to outlive us intrigues me.

Is literature an important component in your research and development of your practice?

The science fiction novels of JG Ballard are important reads for me. His post-apocalyptic writing from the 1960s highlight human error and the power of nature. I am about to begin reading “The Atrocity Exhibition” which pores over the ways in which violent mass media spectacles send shockwaves across the electric circuits of the global unconscious in a pre-internet era. 

The ability to present work in an exhibition is essential in being able to present a cohesive body of work to the public, and to have your work interacted with. During lockdown do you find that you have turned to social media(s) as a way of interacting, curating, and forming feedback for the work you’ve created? 

I find Instagram to be a useful tool to convey and curate some of my ideas and interests. Its image-based presentation can be used like a mini art blog or a place to share experimental works and it can be changed up as often as a studio wall. It is useful to engage with an audience online (even if it is mainly other artists who are commenting or giving feedback). There is nothing quite like the “real” time and space of an exhibition, however. Elements of a body of work come to life best in a project or gallery space and need less background noise that the internet so often disrupts us with.

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