Alan Phelan Exhibition,
Folly & Diction
Brown & O’hUiginn Galleries, until 27 March 2020, Royal Hibernian Academy, Ely Place, Dublin 2
This exhibition brings together 23 of Alan Phelan’s unique Joly Screen photographs, and a new large scale music video work about the inventor of this forgotten colour photography process, which was abandoned from use over 100 years ago.
Over the past three years, Phelan has worked on reviving the process, invented in the 1890s in Dublin by John Joly, a physicist and geology professor from Trinity College, Dublin.
Phelan’s ambition is to create a visual history for the process that it never had. To do this he uses art and historical references, spanning over 500 years. The work presents a ‘counterfactual temporality’, to create a longer potential history for photography.
For the video work, also titled Folly & Diction, he has worked with a variety of talented artists and musicians, who include Elaine Hoey, James Kelly, Ian McInerney, The Late David Turpin, and Jrdn.
The video brings the analogue stripes of the Joly Screen into the digital age, with audio-responsive animations, which are overlayed onto a troubled narrative about John Joly, and his collaborator Henry Dixon. Typical of Phelan, the story presented is a fusion of references that come from texts by Samuel Beckett and Jean Genet, and function outside of adaptation or appropriation to “re-narrativise” instead, and create a new or different history.
The photographs in Folly & Diction are arranged in sequences of 3, that mix floral, self-portraits and objects, with titles acknowledging source artists, and related historical events. The show title embeds Joly & Dixon into this speculative history by homonym, while acknowledging the possible humour in these probable revised histories and queer re-reading of photography. Reference points here range from Henri Latour to Robert Maplethorpe, Andre Breton to Constance Spry, again fusing and mixing genres and generations.
As a reminder … the Joly Screen photographs comprise of two parts – the sheet film from a large format camera, and a colour RGB screen, printed onto clear sheet. The Joly process is not a chemical dye coupler or inkjet, but instead filters light to create colour, on exposure and then on display. The screen is made up of red, green and blue stripes, giving the photographs a very distinct striped appearance.
The small images have the intensity of painted miniatures, illuminated by LED panels, slowing down the viewing of a photograph, as well as allowing for a unique colour-shift that happens only on physical display.
Also on at the RHA:
Neil Carroll, In Pursuit of the Brocken Spectre, Gallagher Gallery, until 26 April
Laura Fitzgerald, Headcase, Ashford Gallery, until 8 March
RHA Collection, A Selection of works chosen by Eithne Jordan, RHA Keeper, Dr. Tony Ryan Gallery, until 27 March
See http://www.rhagallery.ie/exhibitions/folly-diction/ for further information and events