Dorothy Cross: life, death and magic on the Connemara coast

The shore, and things found along it, including the washed-up, broken and dead, feature large in Cross’s exhibition

Thu, Mar 27, 2014, 01:00

Dorothy Cross’s exhibition Connemara was on view at Turner Contemporary in Margate in January. Now she has reshaped the show for the RHA’s cavernous main gallery space. It is dramatically different and tremendously effective in terms of content and installation.

Make your way through the entrance lobby and you find yourself in a darkened, seemingly limitless interior in which individual works are picked out in pools of light, and two looped video projections flicker on opposite walls.

Still garbed in utilitarian overalls and making a final, ruthless edit of what to put in and what to leave out, Cross provides a concise account of what’s on view and the genesis of the overall project. “I’ve lived in Connemara for about 12 years now. Most of the work [in this exhibition] I’ve made in that time, and a lot of it is specifically to do with Connemara.”

The curator at Turner Contemporary was, she notes, a little surprised that it wasn’t more conventionally about Connemara “in terms of the landscape, and so on – the classical notion of Connemara. But I don’t do that, I don’t paint landscapes, and quite deliberately so.”

She didn’t go to Connemara for the scenery. She is Cork born and bred, and, as her two-volume visual memoir Montenotte and Fountainstown makes clear, her links with the city and its environs are deep and inform her work in many ways. She went to Connemara to dive in the sea around Inishbofin, Inishturk and Clare islands, found that she liked it a lot, and bought a field that tumbles down to the sea on the south side of the mouth of Killary harbour.

She built a shed, the first of several (it’s no exaggeration to say that she has a passion for sheds). One thing led to another and she bought a small house across the road, felt at home and built a studio. The setting is spectacular but it is a raw, elemental landscape, in the face of the ocean. Has she found it tough living there? “Strangely enough I haven’t. I find it tougher to be in the city. It’s getting harder to make that transition, to adjust to the city when I have to go there.”

Shore discoveries
The shore, and the things you find along it, including things washed up, broken and dead, feature large in the exhibition. As Cross points out, she doesn’t make pictures of things, on the whole. She prefers the things themselves, or photographed, or perhaps cast from life.

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