2020.05.07 Thu, by
Claire Kerr –
On Going for Walks and Taking Photographs

This is the first article in a new series devoted to walks, in which we ask artists, writers, curators and sometimes even collectors to share their photographs from a recent or not so recent meander.

Claire Kerr is an Irish artist living in Dublin. Claire’s paintings are apparently factual and resolved, yet the verisimilitude belies the intense contemplation and conceptual games at play in her small-format pictures, which frequently concern idiosyncratic trains of thought, the act of looking and an unobtrusive weirdness.

On Going for Walks and Taking Photographs, by Claire Kerr

William and Dorothy Wordsworth moved to Alfoxden in Somerset in 1797 to be near Coleridge, then living at Nether Stowey. When the three of them took to going for walks in the surrounding country (sometimes, God forbid, at nightfall to see the stars), the locals were suspicious. Purposeless walking was for people who had nothing better to do – criminals or poets, for example. For all the reasons we know, it is again frowned upon; as far as possible, we must stay at home.

Kitchen at nightfall

Kitchen at nightfall © Claire Kerr 2020

Kitchen at nightfall © Claire Kerr 2020

Nevertheless, I have a government roaming allowance of two kilometres a day, as if tethered, with at least one of those kilometres disappearing into the Atlantic to the North. I’m used to the city and like being indoors, especially when it’s sunny. I was on holiday in the West of Ireland when travel restrictions were announced at the end of March and stayed. Since then, unusually, I’ve been for a walk every day.

Some days I am in a Historical Documentary mode. Here in Cloonagh, County Sligo, I am a few miles from Lissadell, the childhood home of poet, suffragist and social worker Eva Gore-Booth, the equally interesting but less well-known sister of Constance Markievicz. Eva wrote affectionately about the landscape here, the ‘little roads of Cloonagh’.

One of Eva’s Little Roads

One of Eva's Little Roads © Claire Kerr 2020

One of Eva’s Little Roads © Claire Kerr 2020

A Woman dressed as Eva Gore Booth © Claire Kerr 2020

A Woman dressed as Eva Gore Booth (original photo by Maeve O’Beirne) © Claire Kerr 2020

Attractive weeds

Unused to grass underfoot, I am enjoying the springtime. Primroses and violets are everywhere.  There are some lovely weedsAlbrecht Dürer style. Every morning and evening until mid-April, overwintering Barnacle geese commute to and from the offshore island, Inishmurray, to feed here on the mainland. Every day I tried to photograph those distant specks. Then they flew back to Greenland.

Attractive weeds © Claire Kerr 2020

Attractive weeds © Claire Kerr 2020

Distant specks

Distant specks © Claire Kerr 2020

Distant specks © Claire Kerr 2020

In Proust’s ‘In Search of Lost Time’, the narrator finds that his interest in or connection with people and places is in proportion to his imaginative engagement with them. He is initially disappointed in the church at Balbec, which he had imagined on a cliff battered by waves but which is in fact 12 miles inland, on an unprepossessing town square. He tries to grasp that this is the actual, real Balbec church – but unlike in his imagination, it is now competing with a distracting context and in the shadow of his picturesque expectations.

Three picturesque trees

Picturesque Trees © Claire Kerr 2020

Picturesque Trees © Claire Kerr 2020

Three picturesque trees behind a picturesque septic tank

Three picturesque trees behind a picturesque septic tank © Claire Kerr 2020

Three picturesque trees behind a picturesque septic tank © Claire Kerr 2020

Abandoned cottage

Like the fictional Balbec coast, The West of Ireland is a wild and storied landscape. There are so many layers of history still visible it can be overwhelming: beaches where every pebble is a fossil, ringforts, passage tombs, old rundale-system fields in narrow strips. Everywhere there are abandoned cottages, overgrown walls. Sometimes, though, the West of Ireland looks like the South of France, or the African Savannah.

Abandoned Cottage © Claire Kerr 2020

Abandoned Cottage © Claire Kerr 2020

African Savannah at Ballyconnell

African Savannah at Ballyconnell © Claire Kerr 2020

African Savannah at Ballyconnell © Claire Kerr 2020

Expansive landscapes are difficult to photograph – not enough room on the viewfinder. Nearby Ben Bulben, or the high Donegal cliffs on the opposite side of the bay, come out as small and distant. Other landscapes are difficult to see free of our mental store of landscape paintings. Where there are trees under a cloudy sky in a northern light, there’s a Ruisdael. Elsewhere, sheep graze in the evening sunshine in the best 19th century manner. Twilight biblical illustrations are common. I haven’t taken many photos with a view to my own paintings although I do sometimes need specific images – the sea with a distinct horizon line, for example. Most things I set up indoors.

Sheep in the best 19th Century style

Sheep in the best 19th C style © Claire Kerr 2020

Sheep in the best 19th C style © Claire Kerr 2020

Bible illustration

Bible illustration © Claire Kerr 2020

Bible illustration © Claire Kerr 2020

Sometimes, with decision fatigue, or because there seem to be so many versions of one thing, I move into categorization mode. Gates. Signs. Gates with signs.

Gate

A gate © Claire Kerr 2020

A gate © Claire Kerr 2020

Sign

A sign © Claire Kerr 2020

A sign © Claire Kerr 2020

Gate with Sign

A gate and a sign © Claire Kerr 2020

A gate and a sign © Claire Kerr 2020

Sunset

Some things are irresistible – sunsets, moonrises, blue skies, stormy skies, rainbows. We like to collect them.

Sunset © Claire Kerr 2020

Sunset © Claire Kerr 2020

Moonrise

Moon Rise © Claire Kerr 2020

Moon Rise © Claire Kerr 2020

Blue sky

Blue Sky © Claire Kerr 2020

Blue Sky © Claire Kerr 2020

Stormy Sky

Stormy sky © Claire Kerr 2020

Stormy sky © Claire Kerr 2020

Rainbow

Rainbow © Claire Kerr 2020

Rainbow © Claire Kerr 2020

Another sunset

Another sunset © Claire Kerr 2020

Another sunset © Claire Kerr 2020

Another stormy sky

Another stormy sky © Claire Kerr 2020

Another stormy sky © Claire Kerr 2020

A photo

I have a folder of things which look as if they should have their photo taken. A folder of accidental photos, too.

A photo © Claire Kerr 2020

A photo © Claire Kerr 2020

An accidental photo

An accidental photo © Claire Kerr 2020

An accidental photo © Claire Kerr 2020

Claire Kerr is represented by Purdy Hicks gallery, London. Her most recent show was at Bravin Lee in New York

Biography – Claire Kerr (born 1968 Wallsend, UK) lives and works in Dublin. She studied at Wimbledon School of Art and Dun Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology and has exhibited widely in Ireland and internationally. www.clairekerr.info