Joe Sheehan

Slideshow, 8 December 2009 - 16 January 2010
"Sometimes, when you look out a window enjoying the view, you can suddenly catch your reflection as the light changes. Slideshow is an attempt to work between this slippage of scenery and self.

Cut a stone open and it looks like the mountain range it came from. But what do you write on a mountain? I was stuck between a feeling of awe - not daring to touch - and wanting to carve my name up there. A mountain can be like a park bench.

Cut into a slide ... this one is like a river winding down through a ravine ... the next one is like a horse's head ... the next one is an underwater scene. The slides are a window into the psyche more than onto the landscape; more like a dream than a holiday snap.

I wanted to create an experience. An illuminated image scaled to the body. And I wanted to make something that played with an idea of the texture of space. Someone remarked to me that this work was something completely new, and in one way they were right. (As far as I know nobody has projected actual stones.) But in another way they were wrong, because what I was trying to do was extrapolate a very common experience. When you have a piece of greenstone, be it Tiki or Key, you hold it to the light and become familiar with every inclusion, every mark. Slideshow does this on a grander scale. It is the 20-year collection of a carver and hoarder, but it also has a relationship with the common ground of greenstone artifact and jewelry history.

I am interested in the idea of a threshold; the point at which experience is just slightly 'tipped'. As is the case when you move from a day-lit city street, through a black curtain, and into a dark space where bright stones are scaled up by 500 times and turned into light. This work, for me, was always about questioning the idea of concrete reality - of what it means to occupy space for a little bit. Slideshow is more about perception and existence than land or identity.

I'm looking for contrast between lightness and great weight, between openness and constriction, and at the epic scale-shifts between the molecular and stellar. There is a transformative aspect I was trying to reach by taking stone and making it talk about the ethereal.

Always I want to take what the viewer thinks about 'stone' and turn it on its head. I'm working against preconceived notions about what stone is and what it can be. I want people to go into that other space and I want them to forget that it's stone at all - or at least to flip from the reality of their manufacture ("these are stones??") to the lightness of the projection.

I worked my marks and images onto the back of the slides, so they would be shadow-like. And so the viewer's eye would shift between the natural inclusions and my markings. I want the viewer to wonder whether or not these things are part of the stone ... and for the pointers to slip between the natural beauty and the subconscious dumping and projecting that occurs when you look at them.

Pounamu has a cultural loading in Aotearoa. In Slideshow, though, the abstraction of the image and the weird relationship between technology and history seems to open the landscape to include everybody. This is one of the great things about abstract art - the viewer can't help but place his or her own identity and experience into it. And by taking the stone off a string, a discussion can be opened about where this material sits and what it can mean.

Projector installation seems to be a current contemporary trend so it appealed to my sense of rebellion to make an analogue version. Noisy machines that rattle and clank and blow hot air seem much more analogous to the human experience."

Joe Sheehan
Auckland, December 2009