Work in 2021

The Blue Landscape - Stephen Doyle

The Blue Landscape

The Glucksman and Cork Pride Festival invited members of Cork’s LGBTQIA+ community to participate in a creative project at the museum summer 2021. Through a series of creative consultations at the Glucksman, the community inspired the artist through creative workshops. There was a candid exchange of lived experiences and concerns of everyday life. It became apparent from the first session there was a shared feeling of exclusion and an eagerness to to be heard. For context, the topic of queer culture has never been visually depicted, openly for public consumption within a university’s collection in Ireland.

Acknowledging this, the commission needed to reflect the discussions being had during this time as a way of honouring those who came to share their stories. It also had to summarise the group's thoughts and commentary on life as an LGBTQIA+ person within wider society. The workshops which included collage, photography and cyanotype, helped provide the inspiration for the aesthetic of the commissioned artwork. The content of the piece references the experience of existing as an outsider in a system that was built to neglect and punish those who don’t fit in, a unifying sensation felt by the group whether it was due to homosexuality, gender dysphoria, bi-erasure, HIV status, etc. The monotone blue became a tool to express the binary, the restrictive nature of man-made systems and the constructed ideologies we use to police issues around sexuality and gender. Furthermore, the significance of the blue tone is solidified in the association it has to Ireland. ’St. Patricks Blue’ is the official colour of Ireland in heraldic terms. Doyle uses it to construct the foundations of the piece as a way of connecting the viewer to what we consider ’traditional’.

The collaged space includes places from Cork city and county. Grand Parade taking up the majority of the composition. It has a special significance to the LGBTQIA+ community in Cork as it is annually transformed to celebrate Pride. A protest, party and a safe space for the community to come together and promote the self-affirmation, dignity, equality, and to increase visibility of queer people. The inflection of colour acts independently of the monotone structures, defiantly creating a space for the minority. The spectrum of colour appears to be establishing itself in this space as it juts in from the foreground blending into itself and reforming in areas it has been erased from. It challenges the painting’s aesthetics, and in doing so it asks, ‘how useful are blue landscapes for a multicolour society?’

Attending Colaiste - Stephen Doyle

Attending Colaiste

The contentious atmosphere evident within the work is a manifestation of the artist’s internal experience of the education system in Ireland as a queer person. The drawn figures conjure a performed experience of their youth and the adult they are. Two figures are enacting the artist's youth as two personalities coexisted during this time. One figure takes the ‘pretence’ role, painfully keeping a smile on their face in an attempt to deter anyone taking notice of the damage being inflicted on their true self. They obscure the viewer gaze of their face, restricting their identity from developing. The school uniform detaching itself to wrap around their neck is a commentary on the failures of the department of education action to assist LGBTQIA+ youth.

There is a duality to the perspective depending on which point of time the figures exist. The younger self struggles with their identity/identities and becomes entirely dependent on a more hopeful future. In this possible interpretation the rope connecting the figures acts like an umbilical cord, suddenly becoming a more fragile material as it connects to their saviour. Alternatively, it may be the older self-carrying the weight of their past around in the present. A constant reminder of delayed experiences with each step taken. Yet the complexity of the piece is furthered by the mix of materials. The figures are depicted with charcoal, a medium which gives the piece a rawness, suggesting the artist is attempting to depict trauma through a psychoanalytic venture. As the rope transitions from the drawing to the physical space it indicates the real presence of the ongoing mental strain the figures are enduring.

A common coping mechanism for queer youth is self-preservation through disassociation. Deflecting and compartmentalising their queerness to fit in with hetero/cis social norms just to avoid conflict. In Ireland this issue is perpetuated by the catholic structured education system as most schools dismiss or more accurately put, refuse to deal with the anti- LGBTQIA+ bigotry in any substantial manner. Leaving these unresolved issues with the individual and the struggle between past and present in perpetual action.

Copyright © Stephen Doyle 2023

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