Aleana Egan

We sat down where we had sat before

The Irish artist Aleana Egan (1979, Dublin, Ireland) will present at Kunsthalle Basel her first major solo show in an institutional context. Egan studied painting at the Glasgow School of Art and her work has gained wider attention in the last few years with solo and group shows at Mary Mary gallery, Glasgow (2006) and Galerie Sandra Buergel, Berlin (2007), among others. She is also currently participating in the 5th berlin biennial.
The title of the exhibition – *We sat down where we had sat before
– is a reference to a line from the novel The Sea, the Sea (1978) by the Anglo-Irish writer Iris Murdoch. The novel explores the human obsessions of love, vanity and jealousy against a backdrop of poetic descriptions of the sea and rugged coastline. The title is also a reflection of Egan’s working method: her art embraces intuitive and subjectively motivated processes of interpreting literary source materials as well as precise observations of her immediate surroundings and of people who are close to her. Egan’s sculptures, collages and drawings evoke abstract forms and are made from simple, relatively crude materials which she assembles and transforms using manual techniques such as dyeing and bonding. She often relates her sculptures to the exhibition space by incorporating selected architectural features in a modified way into the formal structure of her works. Egan creates highly evocative settings that instil an atmospheric mood in the exhibition space through the forms, materials and colours that give her works their physical and fragile tactility.
For the main gallery space in the Kunsthalle Egan has developed a five meter high sculpture with a rough, uneven surface made of cement, bonding and dye, which occupies the space like a massive piece of rock. The form of the sculpture reflects ongoing impressions the artist gains from observing landscapes and the sculptural processes motivated by these findings. It is also a direct response by the artist to the large, historical Oberlichtsaal, which itself has a classical sculptural aspect with its domed skylight and friezes and is here contrasted with the amorphous sculptural form. The work’s title – Stage of Concern, 2008, – refers to a term coined by the English psychoanalyst D. W. Winnicott in the 1960s for the point in a child’s psychological development when he or she becomes aware of an “inner” und “outer” world and begins to feel concern for his or her mother’s welfare as an object of desire. Egan’s sculpture, the form of which oscillates between the recollection of a landscape and the representation of an inner feeling, makes the viewer feel a sense of irritation and the loss of a definitive linguistic description. The rough-looking object becomes a neutral mass that does not so much contain or display thoughts and ideas as it evokes them.
In two other, elegant wall objects entitled prospect and terrace, both 2008, constructed from cardboard, paint and glue, Egan makes reference to architect Johann Jakob Stehlin’s design of the interior of the Oberlichtsaal (1868/72). The sculptural reliefs with their interrelated, abstract line drawings echo the form of two sets of large wooden double doors, which Stehlin originally designed to open the hall onto the adjacent rooms in a representative manner.
In the following rooms the artist presents two video works from her ongoing Readings project. For some time Egan has been filming friends and family reading excerpts from their favourite texts out loud in front of the camera. In the film Harry, 2008, a young woman standing on a country track between fields reads from works by American writer Henry Miller and English poet Ted Hughes; in Helen, 2008, a woman reads excerpts from books by Iris Murdoch in a disparate interior setting. The intimate act of reading out loud and the concentrated gestures of those reading offer sensitive insight into their personality. The artist underlines this by staging each reading in a carefully arranged setting with controlled lighting conditions and specific colouring, sometimes installing some of her own artworks in the spaces. In this way she has a constant presence in her films, which are a form of autobiographical analysis and at the same time create a suggestive narrative space through the literary texts being read aloud in outdoor settings or interior spaces.
Aleana Egan’s films and sculptural works reflect her observations of her personal environment and lend a poetic voice to the tiny details of our everyday surroundings which we otherwise hardly notice.

In conjunction with Aleana Egan’s exhibition a catalogue will be published in May 2008.

On the occasion of the event-series “Archiv des Alltags” at Theater Basel (Klosterweg 6) an evening with readings and performances by Aleana Egan and Ahmet Ögüt takes place on Friday, April 18, 2008 at 8pm.

Aleana Egan (1979, Dublin, Ireland. Lives and works in Dublin and Berlin).
Solo exhibitions (selection): 2006: Mary Mary, Glasgow / 2005: *Doldrums
, Mary Mary, Glasgow / 2003: Assembly Gallery, Glasgow.
Group exhibitions (selection): 2008: 5th berlin biennial / 2007: Our affects fly out of the field of human reality, Galerie Sandra Buergel, Berlin / 2006: Peaton House, Argyll & Bute; Mantua Arts Festival, Roscommon, Ireland / 2005: Take it Further (Part 2), Andrew Mummery Gallery, London; Flounder 2, Amsterdam / 2003: Royal Scottish Academy, City Arts Centre, Edinburgh.

The exhibition is generously supported by: Martin Hatebur