‘Wanderings’ Solo Exhibition
A written review of exhibition and artist Derval Freeman
A Place Like Home
While Derval Freeman stresses it’s not about space and astronomy, mark making and how she navigates space, reminds me of early 20th century and late 19th century mapmakers and how they navigate an interpretation of travel, travel is an important part of the viewing Derval’s work as one is allowed to travel over these imaginary landscapes.
Because of this, I am reminded of the artist and map maker, Tim Robinson. Tim mapped Connemara, and lived in Roundstone, County Galway. Tim studied maths at Cambridge and was also very interested in the mathematical magic of the landscape. Derval’s paintings are not unlike these maps as they allow the eye to move back and forward over the weathered surface, surface is very important in these paintings. It enables one to see the variations in tune and mood. By ‘tune’, I mean that there are areas where the colour sings, enabled by an area of calm within the painting surface.
To return to Tim Robinson, as a map maker, to look at the idea of mapmaking as a topographical image, but also a way of navigating one’s past and future again moving back and forwards. Back and forwards, a little bit like an analogy for life itself. Tim Robinson in a time of Google maps and CCTV cameras, like these paintings, defy the contemporary vision of the map, space, or city. When one is looking at these paintings, paintings do not travel in a linear pattern but your eye and your imagination move from one section of the canvas to another on a journey, not unlike one would remember a walk or a Sunday drive, or time spent with the family when you were a child.
Derval Freeman’s early childhood, was enhanced by the knowledge that she was adopted and that she’d found a loving supportive family in which she could grow and develop her creative process, this in itself, put me in mind of the Russian painters from the early 1800s right through to the Second World War who, because of circumstances, learnt to navigate a bewildering, bigoted world were being adopted is not one of comfort, but of huge anxiety. Derval’s home life was neither bewildering nor anxious, but it did develop in her, the idea of a life journey, which could be mapped and mapped to understand the process of living.
Derval’s paintings start with a drawing, with either charcoal or pencil, either enhanced or obliterated by the process of making a painting. This is an important technique in Derval‘s painting process as she uses this working and reworking of a surface to inform the viewer of the journey she’s taking to develop the painting.
Painting is a process and helps Derval understand the world that she inhabits. Wicklow is a driving force behind these paintings and especially a Wicklow summer where the smell of gorse and bracken, given the right conditions, can create a summer tapestry of summer colour, which are not unlike the depth of colours that illuminate these paintings.
As a younger Artist she was very influenced by the artist Rotraut Klein Moquay whose exploration of colour would not be unlike Derval’s. These are landscapes of the mind, or they could be landscapes, not as she sees them, but as she feels them. Rather unsurprisingly, Derval inhabits the same space, these paintings are paintings using the same imaginative space using colour to enable the viewer to explore their complexities. It’s this complexity that is intriguing and the landscape of the mind painted by scraping back, clearing up, making marks, transparent and using cold wax to create a topographical form within the painting. These paintings are not really about a place, but about the human interaction within it and the marks left behind by humans when we walk, farm and live in. They’re not always on the surface of the place, in other words these paintings are drawn back to marks left behind.
Derval works in a studio to become unfamiliar with the painting that is in front of her, which in turn enables us the viewer to find a familiarity within these topographical landscapes, like a bird’s eye view of an area and a region that is both known and not quite understood by us. This is what excites our interest and allows the viewer to find a place like home in these paintings.
These paintings are not easy, they introduce to us to the complex world that Derval Freeman inhabits. Long may she have the imaginative qualities to bring us on this journey.
Visual artist Eamon Colman, member of Aosdána, (an Irish association of artists)
The exhibition runs until the extended date January 29th, 2023 at the Easter Snow Gallery, Seamus Ennis Arts, Naul, Co. Dublin. More about Derval in the links below.