Art in Focus: Enda Bowe – Cybil McCaddy with Daughter Lulu
Part of photographer’s Clapton Blossoms project it won the Zurich Portrait Prize
Detail: Cybil McCaddy with Daughter Lulu, 2018 by Enda Bowe. C-Type print, 127x101.6cm
What is it?
Cybil McCaddy with Daughter Lulu is a photograph by Enda Bowe. It could be described as a contemporary variation on the classical subject of the Madonna and child. The photograph won Bowe the €20,000 Zurich Portrait Prize for 2019.
How was it done?
Rather than, say, setting off with a camera and keeping an eye out for a nice picture, Bowe is a photographer who devises and works on projects over long periods. His engagement with his subjects, and their co-operative involvement, are essential to the process. His projects are usually not just thematic or taxonomic, they tend to be considered explorations involving character, experience and place – that is, they have something of a novelistic or filmic character (he acknowledges the importance of writers and filmmakers as influences). His photograph of Cybil with her daughter is part of his project, Clapton Blossoms. It is one of a series of photographs centred on the diverse group of individuals living on a housing estate in East London. He has noted that, when he embarked on the work, he was resisting the increasingly poisonous character of public discourse and growing antagonism fostered by Brexit.
Where can I see it?
For the first time, the Zurich Portrait Prize exhibition tours to Cork’s Crawford Art Gallery following its showing at the National Gallery of Ireland (Crawford Art Gallery, Emmet Place, Cork, February 1st-April 13th, crawfordartgallery.ie). Bowe was the overall winner. Two highly commended runners-up, Joe Dunne and Salvatore of Lucan, each received €1,500. The show sees the launch of the Zurich Young Portrait Prize (open to 18 year-olds and younger in four age categories). The overall winners, a collaborative partnership, were Mabel Forsyth and Mary O’Carroll, with four category winners, Callie Le Page, Jiaming Zheng, Erin Welch and Cara Pilbeam.
Bowe is the second photographer to win the prize, edging out two painters. Mandy O’Neill was the first, in 2018.
Is it a typical work by the artist?
It is typical. While Bowe’s projects have covered a diversity of places and people, his warm, empathic identification with his subjects is consistent. For At Mirrored River, his acclaimed series of photographs and a book featuring a number of young people beginning to face up to the challenges of adulthood in an Irish midlands town, he regularly spent time in the un-named location – Carlow, in fact. He has been based in London for some time. It’s no more than accurate to say that he aims to find grace and beauty in the everyday, and the everyday usually involves individuals negotiating life’s travails, often at moments of decisive change, when they face difficult choices, caught between the familiar and the unknown.