Curated by Brenda McParland
‘An evolutionary design by nature paired with an innocent and optimistic refusal to quit, plants combine the vast universe and the quantum realm in one. Biological growth pulls fuel from light, transforming blue and red photons to energy, expanding in space through time. In Ireland, our native plants have performed this scientific act for centuries, linking hands with the star in our solar system on a daily cycle, while also being bound up in our human folklore and culture, serving medical purposes, providing magical protection and being a vessel for our storytelling.’ – Lucy McKenna
Solstice is delighted to present a major solo exhibition of new work by Lucy McKenna. The exhibition title A Dormant Light Resides in The Eye comes from the book ‘Bright Colors Falsely Seen’ [Dann, 1998], which navigates the interesting history of synaesthesia up until the modern day. The quotation ‘a dormant light resides in the eye’ comes directly from German poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe in the late 1700’s, who believed that the eye owed its existence to light.
McKenna’s practice is multi-disciplinary, and this exhibition of new works includes drawing, print, photography, sculptural acrylic and light installations. McKenna’s work explores communication and language with hypothetical civilizations beyond our own planet, as well as research that is broadly about the universe and comprehending our place within it, often referencing folklore, mythology and spirituality. Recently, as the world changed tempo and shifted focus, McKenna developed a new interest in plants and gardening. The process of planting, curating by colour, texture, size and time has inspired a new body of work that features in this exhibition.
The exhibition brings the visitor on a journey beginning with imagined groundwork, a folded origami piece with research notes, botanical carbon prints with native plants imbued with mythology as test subjects, and an unfamiliar language that could travel as lightwaves ahead of a botanist as a self-assembling message for any life form it meets. Small drawings depict recent astronomical travellers within our solar system: 67p, Halley’s Comet, GN1 and our first known interstellar visitor – Oumuamua.
Making your own journey as an astronomical botanist, a blueprint lays out a roadmap and an AI voice describes an unfamiliar world. Lifeforms begin to make themselves known, growing in and out of substrates, melting, swimming, blending and communicating through colour.
In this other universe, life is powerful and alluring, 2 dimensions and 3 dimensions rotate, appearing and disappearing. The Holographic Universe becomes tangible and the fabric of visible reality is pulled back. Quantum particles are cast in light and the nature of information becomes visible. Organic plant-like life speaks to the multiple energy sources in its sky and it is down to the botanist as visitor to make new discoveries.
Lucy McKenna studied at NCAD. Recent projects include Artifacts, group exhibition, Casa Hoffmann, Bogotá, Colombia (2021), Ollphéist, group exhibition Ormston House, Limerick (2020), Subliminal Sublime – Roscommon Arts Centre Park Project (2019), Cube Space, The LAB, Dublin (2017); Periodical Review #5, Pallas Projects/ NCAD Gallery, Dublin (2015); Residencies include ISCP New York (2017), The Artist Observatory- Catalyst Arts & Armagh Observatory (2016), Facebook AIR Program (2015). Awards include DCC Artist in Residence Award (2018), Culture Ireland award for international exhibition (2013), Irish Arts Council Project Award (2012).