Helsinki Photography Biennial 27.3.–14.5.2014

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Mary McIntyre – Not purely a flat image

Northern Irish artist, Mary McIntyre, photographs outdoor landscapes and interior spaces in certain hours of the day or particular weather conditions in order to achieve that gloomy bleakness and depth of meaning that is significant in her imagery. She gives these seemingly abandoned places a mysterious character by applying certain attributes of landscape painting into her photography and therefore reconstructing the depicted views. In her installation piece, ‘The Construction of a Utopian Model ‘that is displayed at the Finnish Museum of Photography, she approaches the same subject with some irony and critique as the emphasis is on the activity of looking at a man made attraction that has been photographed and built into a site itself.

Your images go beyond orderly landscape and interior photography, they are like portraits of a land or space. What is the process in your work when finding a place you would like to photograph?

– My photographic process is very intuitive. I never deliberately seek out my subjects. Instead I tend to ‘find’ them. This occurs when I come across a place or space that has a resonance for me. It doesn’t necessarily follow though that the ‘recognition’ is instant. It usually unfolds over time with a place that I will encounter in passing on a number of occasions. And over time the resonance of that place for me becomes more and more insistent until the point where I feel that I should photograph it. The act of photographing then becomes a form of documentation, but the recording of that place, whether it is a landscape or an interior space, is never usually of the place itself or the objects within it. For me photographing is as much about trying to capture an atmosphere as it is recording what is physically there.

Implying your images into installation pieces seems like an important part of your practice and provides a different understanding to the viewer. Do you treat gallery spaces as your own landscapes?

– My background as an artist began first in sculpture, so very early on in my practice I was aware of the role that scale and spacial considerations could play in my work. Perhaps it was this that first led to my interest in the photograph’s ‘object’ quality, rather than only viewing it purely as a flat image. The use of installation enables me to explore that, as well as the audience’s relationship to photography by creating a situation where the viewer has to take a greater participatory role in order to view the work. Installation also brings a sense of theatricality to viewing the photographs, heightening the atmosphere that emanates from my images, which has always been an important aspect of my work. To me the gallery spaces in which my works are shown are never generic, neutral spaces. So I have always considered the particular qualities of each one when preparing my work for exhibition, even when just showing photography. My installations are designed specially for each gallery space and its unique characteristics.

Text: Maria Paloma Velazquez

The Construction of a Utopian Model is on display until July 27th, 2014 at the Finnish Museum of Photography.

Mary McIntyre, The Construction of a Utopian Model, 2000

Mary McIntyre, The Construction of a Utopian Model, 2000