The Burren is a Glacio- Karst landscape its geological memory is scratched and etched onto the grey limestone, the marks and ridges serving as ancient natural hieroglyphics that chronicle its weathered journey over time. It has often been described as lunar, and this is prescient. A glimpse skyward at twilight will reveal an aerial satellite making its steady journey across the night sky, or the light of a radio mast flickering in the distance. This is a reminder that the Burren sits in another less tangible landscape, one whose topology and cartography can be both literally and metaphorically hidden. This is the landscape of the global digital age, the Info-sphere of unseen signals and grids and coordinates. The proliferation of the internet and globalisation has profoundly altered how we perceive and experience our natural environment. As our material environment constantly shifts and changes, so does our perception of it.
The work is an attempt to find a visual language for this duality between our necessarily abstracted experience of place and being in the new digital landscape, and our perception of place and being in relation to the more tangible primeval geological past. It is an attempt to use the visual lexicon of the past to articulate and chronicle our experience of the transient, often invisible now. This interplay of past and present place and time exists in the intermingling organic and inorganic forms on the canvas, in the physical act of making the work and in the perceived embodied experience of what is made. The processes used in the studio echo the naturally occurring processes of concealment and revelation in the physical act of erosion in the natural environment. Organic material such as clay is collected from the coast or from a river bed. The act of construction in the layering and the deconstruction by dissolving and sanding, and the transformational potential of the material, enables the observed materiality of the landscape to be embodied in the tactile surface of the piece. At the same time, the use of the reflective qualities of enamel on textured coloured surfaces allows forms to appear and disappear, their visual reality in time shifting and impermanent. The inorganic materiality of the enamel and its reflective quality allows it to be part of the whole, but with a different separate narrative.
In many ways this describes our new, rapidly evolving natural environment and where we locate ourselves in relation to it.
Matthew Mitchell is a fine artist painter based in Co Clare. In 2017 Mitchell completed his MFA at NCAD and was awarded a NCAD Studio Residency at NAStudios, Dublin. Since graduating from NCAD was awarded the emerging Irish Artist Residency Award at the Burren College of Art he has exhibited in Law Society of Ireland, VUE Art Fair Dublin, Mason Hayes and Curran, The Sailors Home in Limerick and the RHA annual exhibition, Painters & Makers at So Fine Art Gallery Dublin, Legacy – The Courthouse Gallery Ennistymon. His work has been purchased by the OPW, the Law Society of Ireland, and are in corporate and private collections.