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  • Writer's pictureEllie Rankin


Updated: May 20, 2020


The works and outcomes below are part of my personal exploration in considering alternative techniques with regards to working in a predominately digital format, as this has never been a strong point of mine. When creating these, I was partly inspired and challenged both by the visual and conceptual works of artist and lecturer at Manchester School of Art, Oran O'reiley. I attended a visiting talk by him earlier this year, and became heavily inspired and challenged by several aspects of his practice.

He works between disciplines but is predominately concerned with image-based content, using the image as a starting point, and seeing where he takes it. As much as I found the concepts behind his work very powerful and influential, I feel I was more struck and engaged with his approach to his practice, and methodologies used. A lot of the ways he said he liked to work resonated with me, and I could see in my own personal practice. For example, juggling multiple projects at once, and allowing them to inform and feed into each other. In many ways, this made me realise that everyone works differently as a practitioner, and it’s always comforting and inspiring to hear that others are like you.

With regards to his work, one aspect of his work that resonated with me, was his approach to presenting work that dealt with how media and images are consumed and 'live' online.



BELOW: Words taken from 'Paper Geographies' review on BJP :

"Meanwhile, Oran O’Reilly’s100 Ships, below, subverts the fragmented understanding of the current migrant crisis afforded by 24-hour news culture. The artist’s images, (NO.2) contain hundreds of overlaid images of rafts of migrants floating across the Mediterranean, fade into an indiscernible grey, suggesting that singular photographs may dilute our understanding of the crisis rather than widen it."

This extract below was taken from a feature of his work on 'ASC STUDIOS' :

"Migration has been ever present throughout history, with tales of epic journeys filled with optimism and nostalgia. Contemporary images and stories of migrants are extremely evocative, being greeted with a mix of empathy, fear and aggression. Hostile Environment brings together recent works by Oran O’Reilly that respond to the stark press images of migrants on boats, part way through a journey for a better life. The work explores ideas of loss, otherness and our inability to understand peoples experiences through the media imagery we consume.
The imagery that has been left to drift on the internet is re-worked through a number of processes including digital manipulation, drawing, projection, tracing and woodcut printing. The processes engage with time and act as an antithesis to the speed at which imagery is digested within contemporary media. The series of woodcuts They Drifted Slowly to Eternity appropriates contemporary and historical images, acknowledging the cyclical nature of migration throughout history. These prints reference the political history of woodcut and employ metal powders to instigate natural processes of oxidation allowing print to become ephemeral and time-based, rather than a static process.
Within the drawings Seascapes with Void human presence is removed, leaving the imagery incomplete and fragmented to evoke a sense of loss and to subvert the romantic and sublime references to the journey and seascape. In the animation Hostile Environment (a term used by Theresa May whilst Home Secretary) these drawings are turned into a graphic code that regurgitate key divisive words used within political rhetoric. The work acknowledges the difficulty in understanding the experience of the migrant journey and also references the complexity of government policy on immigration."

Despite my work not linking directly conceptually to his, I still feel it important to pick out certain aspects of someones practice, and see how you can apply them to your own.

From this reading, and my recollection of his previous talk I was challenged to begin to question and explore how I could visually explore this abundance of images that are presenting and 'living' online.

I therefore layered all of the darkroom prints (that I'd created prior to the facilities being shut) digitally onto of each other. The strongest result is featured directly below. Despite not being able to see all of the details of each separate image, I feel as though the confusion and 'noise' that is created through the process could be seen as a reflection of this abundance and excess of digital imagery.

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