Robert Ireland is an artist and also author of theoretical texts on the questions he explores in his oeuvre. His considerations on the history of painting, its unspoken rules and conventions, as well as the affects it embodies, always start from the material conditions in which an image is produced: canvas, stretcher, paper, paint and so on.
Dépendances is part of a series of works shown at Robert Ireland’s 2004 solo exhibition at the Museum, Speaking of Pictures, which spatialised his thoughts on museums as a locus of memory. The work consists of a rectangular stretcher with cross-bars holding a painted canvas, the reverse of which partly covers a photograph pinned to the stretcher. Everything is contained within the space of the stretcher, but the various elements only fill it partially, such that empty space – or, to be precise, the wall – becomes a vital part of the composition. Reversing Alberti’s idea of the painting as a window opening onto the world, Robert Ireland is interested above all in the ‘window’ – the material layers of the painting itself. He forges relations between fragments of images, which in turn become an image in their own right by a process of montage, or creates a mise en abyme effect using visual echoes.
Indeed, the photograph of a sheet drying in the wind points not only to the canvas literally hanging over the stretcher but also to the question of the pictorial surface as a screen, while the slight tear that can just barely be seen in it summons up associations with the history of painting, in this case Lucio Fontana and his slashed canvases. A further association arises from the canvas, on which a painting of drapery can be made out, while it is itself draped over the stretcher like a garment, as it refers to the history of painting since the Renaissance. Moreover, the use of stencilling evokes the history of techniques, marking the distance between an idea, its implementation and what the viewer sees.
Pierre Bonnet, Marianne Dautrey et alii, Robert Ireland: intro retro spectif, Golion, Infolio, 2011.
Robert Ireland, Hors propos: textes réflexifs écrits entre 1993 et 2006, Rome, Razzia, 2007.
Robert Ireland, Speaking of Pictures, exh. cat. Lausanne, Musée cantonal des Beaux-Arts, Rome, Razzia, 2004.