Claire McCluskey in conversation with Ciara McMahon for +
+ was an exhibition of work by Claire McCluskey, created in response to DeAppendix and displayed in the space from 16th June to 31st July 2015. The text featured below was presented alongside the work, taken from conversation between Claire McCluskey and Ciara McMahon.
Can you tell me a little about the use of the + in the work, and how that relates to the all encompassing spherical shape – both 2D being transformed to 3D (both the curtain and the sculptural object)?
My interest in the plus symbol has developed from previous investigations using grids. I have always used 2d and 3d grids as a tool or a source material, so I began to examine the structure of the grid itself, reducing it down to a series of intersections between parallel and vertical lines. I found it interesting that when you remove everything but those essential intersections, what remains is a network of + symbols, while still retaining the essence of the grid.
The + is a familiar mathematical symbol for addition, it is a connecting block within an equation that combines figures together. The + at the intersection of two lines is essentially the relationship between these lines, at the point at which they are connected. This is also the point at which they become most obviously defined, by contrast to each other.
My work regularly returns to this idea of mutual definition, particularly considered in a social context. It seems contradictory, but individuality or autonomy cannot be understood outside of the greater context of collective community. Similarly, the defining space that separates two elements is also the shared space that unites them.
It is this dynamic, invisible space between elements, wherein relationships exist, that this show is attempting to draw attention to. As depicted in these works, the + symbols are individually recognisable and complete identities. Yet their accumulation produces something greater than the sum of its parts. For example, the curtain piece, on display in the waiting room, presents an undeniable image of a circle, yet there are no curved lines in sight. Between the suspended sheets of paper in the sculptural work floats a sphere, so very nearly non-existent, yet there it is. The overall form of collective relationships can be understood like this as a single unit – a shared social identity. And it is the in-between spaces of negotiation and interaction that are the building blocks of this identity.
The significance of the + symbol resurfaces in many meanings, and the work allows itself to all interpretations. Perhaps most significantly, the + symbol’s connotations with wellbeing and health are certainly not lost in this setting.
When you talk of caring for each other, is there an almost spiritual element to the work for you?
As the work developed, it did seem to acquire somewhat spiritual references. This was not a conscious objective for these works, but there was quite a ritualistic feeling for me as I was making them, which is common for me in my practice. The + symbol also bears a strong resemblance to religious crosses, and representation in gold leaf seems to underpin this even more so.
Gold, particularly when used in a religious context, has vocabulary of power, celebration and excess. I was trying to achieve the opposite in this instance, by balancing the opulence of the gilding amongst the more muted, commonplace materials, such as wood, paper and metal. The contrast herein serves to enhance each side against the other, seeking to find the preciousness in the common materials and the more humble, quiet qualities within the gold. This mutual definition and balance between the elements is an important objective here, ideally towards producing a harmonious and calm effect.
Harmony and care are relatable to spirituality, as is the idea of wholeness, reflected through the circle and sphere. So along these lines, I admit, there are possible suggestions of spirituality at play here. However, the comparison ends insofar that spirituality may be considered to be looking beyond ourselves at something bigger – this work is instead trying to take the perspective of looking back towards ourselves.
The repetitive nature of the making of these works strikes me as important in the viewers engagement with the work. How does that relate to the viewing experience for you?
My production methods are usually quite repetitive and meditative, and I do this with the hope of communicating an air of meditativeness and calm through the final result. There is visible proof of time and patience invested in this kind of process, which in a way commands attention of a certain significance. Within the quietness of these pieces, that evidence of meticulous attention speaks loudly.
Finally, is there any relationship with minimalism and that movements relationship to space for you in this show?
I do identify with the clean aesthetic and use of repetition typically associated with Minimalism. My use of materials also references the industrial characteristics of the movement to point, but I think my work then moves on to take a softer, more domestic quality.
The minimalist engagement of space is something very prevalent in this exhibition however, notably so in the sculptural piece. Minimalism as a movement sought to engage the audience physically, acknowledging the shift in perception as they move through a space. The work here requires just that of the viewer, requiring the viewer to move around it to reveal the form hidden inside.
The context of the space, or rather the site of the exhibition in this instance is also integral to the reading of these artworks.