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An lrish-born artist, residing in Brisbane, travels to North Queensland to prepare work for an exhibition: Dennis Magee tackles head-on the problem of identity and place...
Dennis Magee's exhibition consisted of large three-dimensional freestanding works and a series of boxed wall pieces. This work is the result of a journey to North Queensland – Magee wanted to travel through that area of which he had no experience, and to make a body of work in response to it. The personal experience of having lived elsewhere, and now finally having settled in south-east Queensland, and the ensuing sense that he did not 'belong', that it was 'someone else's place', (unlike the Irish landscape), provided the motivation for the work.
The resulting struggle with a more alien place is witnessed in work made in situ which he assembled and disassembled before leaving each place. The artist describes these pieces as looking insignificant within their environments: the drawings and sketches he made on the trip became, unintentionally, more important sources from which to draw. Thus, the more transitional wall-pieces explore the nature of memory, in a visually literal way – how some things are retained and others are obscured in our consciousness. The glass which encases the specimen boxes of fragmented photographs is sandblasted, frosting over elements which are retained but are not accessible.
Spirals suggest regeneration in the huge forms that delicately touch the floor, and search up and outwards for another place to take hold. There is also reference here to the ornate style used in Celtic manuscripts. The work has a mystical, primordial presence and is based in the paganist culture of the Celts, as opposed to much European art which has as its roots the Greek and Roman aesthetics.
The landscape did not easily accommodate Magee as he travelled and worked in it, and tellingly, he was able to acknowledge the European desire to control and destroy it in an attempt to re-create a sense of 'home'. In many of the wall-pieces, a motif derived from an Aboriginal rock painting that can be found on the edge of the highway, just south of Townsville, appears. Appropriated in an acknowledgement of Aboriginal inhabitation and respect for that area, no attempt is made to deconstruct or research the image. The rational need to determine the age of the marks, their meaning, their purpose and other such factual information that might justify the inclusion of them in the work, is not apparent. Much of the discovery in this work for the artist and the viewer is echoed in Magee's use of this mark: it is an acceptance of relationships as they are – the relationship between people and the environment; between people in relationship – and the potential for change in ways of thinking.