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'Lost Green' by Alex de Roeck / Ann Ensor at The Complex, Dublin

“In many ways the ground beneath our feet is as alien as a distant planet. The processes occurring in the top few centimeters of Earth's surface are the basis of all life on dry land, but the opacity of soil has severely limited our understanding of how it functions. As creatures of the aerial world, we have a decidedly distorted view of this nurturing underworld.” - [1]

“Nature echoes Reality, Artifice echoes Fiction” is the theme for this year’s visual art programme at The Complex, one which was in development well before you-know-what struck our shores last year. This 2 person exhibition featuring newly commissioned works by Alex de Roeck and Ann Ensor, was developed over a period of time when the lines between reality and fiction became blurred, when at times it felt as if we were living out a surreal dystopian sci-fi film.

‘Lost Green’ presents us with a series of dichotomies as the two artists' practices converge to create a fantastical environment that deals with ecology, anthropomorphism and materiality.  Ann Ensor’s use of material presents a sincere canvas, raw and natural, evoking an earthly familiarity, whereas Alex de Roeck’s work is artificially moulded presenting a fantasy narrative "I want the work to imitate ‘the natural’, just like how boys toys in the 90s would, caves, goo, mechanics, zombies and children all existing in one space. Synthetic debris, synthetic abjection, synthetic nature" [2]

Through a series of studio visits and email exchanges, the artists developed their work separately, whilst sharing research material and bearing in mind an imagined entangled ecology inhabited by plants, creatures and objects, that was a shared ‘scene’ devised by the artists at the beginning of the project. “Due to much unknowing and lack of familiar communication, the work has evolved in a very intuitive, playful, experimental, and inquiring way, just working in the moment without any concern for the result. While working I kept in mind the agency of the raw earth material, other materials, including the perception in my own body. I found the information needed for each step arose in the process spontaneously. I also kept in the back of the mind some conscious thoughts on an entangled ecology and a feeling for Alex’ s practice. This has brought about a journey, an adventure and a trust in collective unconscious energies that I can influence but not know the whole picture” [3]

The contrast of the artists’ materials creates further tension, signifying differences between the artists' practices and their intentions, whilst at the same time their shared interest in fantasy and fiction acts as an adhesive, binding their works to perform a narrative. 

The two artists created a bank of research material in developing ‘Lost Green’ which will be collaged together to create an interactive webpage on The Complex website. This mashup of visuals, web links, video and audio presented a month before the exhibition opening acts as a sort of prequel to the physical exhibition.

1. ‘Ecology in the Underworld’, Andrew Sugden, Richard Stone and Caroline Ash, Science Journal, Vol. 304, Issue 5677, pp. 1613

2.  Alex de Roeck, email exchange with the curators, May 2021

3. Ann Ensor, exhibition statement, May 2021

7.8.21 — 20.8.21

Curated by Mark O’Gorman and Paul McGrane

Photo by Kate Bowe O’Brien

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