For The Complex, this collaboration on ‘Slabs’ is something quite different to what we’ve seen from Hearne before. It is the presentation of a collection of the artist’s photographs, an archive accumulated over 20 years. Sure, the religious imagery is there, and motifs of the painter/decorator materials we’ve become familiar within his work, but we also see family photos, newspaper cutouts, collages, advertisements, photos of nights out, posed pictures, candid snapshots, over and under exposed images, half visible objects, sometimes splashed, splattered or scratched obstructing the full picture.
SLABS ARTIST’S STATEMENT, OCTOBER 2021
‘Slabs’ is an ongoing, growing and open-ended photographic archival project. In its essence it consists of a series of used painter/decorator wallpaper-pasting tables, or slabs, used as carriers for presenting photographic and archival materials. These slabs are utilised to present my archive, which spans over 20 years of collecting, editing, collaging, and printing. I’ve long since grappled with the volume and value of my past and present photographic content. Issues around storage, care, and quality of the material are abound.
The medium of photography has rapidly changed over the last two decades, from the analogue age of film and darkroom production to the swift infiltration of digital processes. My relationship with these contemporary processes has at times been fruitful, frenetic and maddening. I feel frustrated with modern technologies and the tech giants who have big hands in our ways of working, and even bigger eyes watching over our archives. I don’t trust this digital age of media storage and ownership. I recently purchased a new computer and its lack of ports doesn’t accommodate my large external hard drive or the many discs that house various folders from my archive. It seems we, the users, constantly have to stay a step ahead and fight to keep our property accessible. I value the printed image over the unstable digital image, from fine art darkroom printing to mere desktop prints off an office printer. I trust this printed material will outlast latent digital files. Technology with all its inbuilt obsolescence, tech giants ever changing, monetisation of systems for iCloud upgrades etc. This is both tiresome and enraging. To top it all off, Ireland is being infiltrated by scummy data centres, that hold and house selfies, dick pics and influencer bullshit.
The content and themes within the photographic material on the Slabs varies. The numerous images bounce off each other, seemingly fitting together in some cases and clashing in others. A memory bank where some thoughts, traumas, situations, people are remembered, truths rewritten or buried. I question if this project is autobiographical? Flitting from the personal to the political, from self-reflection, family portraits to snarling, snarky piss-takes of an organisation I despise. Maybe it’s an exercise in making sense of the world, my world, a world lived through the many ages of photographic practice. A world as a gay boy/man, a queer person living through an age where the Catholic Church has lost some of its grip, kicking and screaming its way through two tumultuous referendums that sought to govern lives, loves and bodies. – Austin Hearne