Sean O’Carroll @ New North Editions

Sean O'Carroll - Finn #1, 2010Thursday, 24 June 2010

Dear Diary,

I became aware of Sean O’Carroll, whose exhibition of photography has opened on Thursday night at the New North Editions in Fairfield, late last year. Together with the two other judges, we have unanimously selected Sean’s work Viktor #1 as the winner of the New North Portraiture Prize 2009.

O’Carroll was reticent then (as he is now) to talk about his photographs, preferring the works to speak for themselves. And speak they do. His earlier studies and ongoing interest in psychology provide an important key to the understanding of his works.

Sean O'Carroll - Viktor #1, 2009O’Carroll’s exhibition features two distinct bodies of work. Interspection series of 2009-2010, consists of six images, and includes the above-mentioned Viktor #1. Each photograph depicts people in a deeper stage of interspection, and visualise a confrontation between the outer and inner self. Sean fills the backgrounds of his photograph with enough detailed information to allow the construction of the narrative of each individual piece. His photographs are populated by protagonists that are seemingly at the end of their tether. Their imperfect, downtrodden, troubled outer self is confronted by their equally imperfect inner self; their troubled inner child; their pre-suicidal ghostly double. Finn #1 is perhaps among the strongest in this series. Not only does the work succeed in delivering a powerful, psychological, and deeply emotional message within the figure of the lone girl seated in the garden, it also successfully resolved as a composition, which is built along the strong diagonal axis of background details and the bold foreshortened limbs of the crouching figure.

Sean O'Carroll - Untitled#6, 2009Boys, Guns, Etc? series of 2009 feature images of children playing with toy weapons.  They perhaps continue O’Carroll’s theme of our own primeval inner child, the nascent masculinity within our pre-cognisant self. Images of children with weapons are frequently disturbing: not fully aware of the value of human existence yet wielding the power of other people’s lives, they haunt the photographs of the Hitlerjugend, Khmer Rouge, and African child warriors. In visual art, one can go as far back as the pre-pubescent David dwarfed by Goliath’s head in Old Master paintings or as recent as Steve Cox’s paintings of child murderers and thought-provoking mise-en-scènes by the Russian photography collective, AES+F. Untitled #7 is among the most disarming images, quite successful compositionally in its perfect balance between the negative and positive space, sheathed by a skein of an Old Master greenish hue. However, in subsequent photographs these innocent-looking cherubs, instead of acquiring bows and arrows, brandish toy weapons. The resulting imagery, such as Untitled #1, brings forth the multiple psychological dichotomies of boyhood versus masculinity, and the representation of weapons as symbols of violence and power versus them being the objects of play and innocence.

Sean O'Carroll - Untitled#1, 2009Sean O’Carroll’s background in professional photography must be mentioned. It is evident in his adroitness behind the camera lens as well as in front of the computer screen. The figures are properly lit; the uniformity of a single light source is well observed; the colour balance is professionally maintained. There is sharpness to his images, and lucidity to his compositions. Sean’s works should provide a valuable reference point to those working in the photographic medium as they combine the aesthetic appeal and deep intellectual content with the technical proficiency.

The exhibition is on view at the New North Editions in Fairfield until Saturday, 17 July 2010.

[© Eugene Barilo v. Reisberg 2010. This article is copyright, but the full or partial use is WELCOME with the full and proper acknowledgment]

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Eugene Barilo v. Reisberg

June 2010


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