Building on Ruins: Gene A'hern

16 August - 1 October 2018

In the past 6 months of creating works, I reached a point where I was crippled by self-doubt and was being highly critical of my work. To move through this destructive period of uncertainty I needed to not only accept but embrace the inevitability of mistakes in my artistic practice.”

A’Hern began to paint over ‘lost’ works, giving them new life and a palimpsestic quality. This process of layering taught him to embrace the uncertainty and vulnerability of his artistic expression without fear of imperfection. Making mistakes is now inherently vital to A’Hern’s artistic practice. The resulting body of work is honest, emotive and spontaneous. They are full of light, vibrant colour and expressive mark-making.

 The symbols and motifs manifested throughout A’Hern’s sketchbook were a catalyst for these foundational works. One of the reoccurring motifs, observed as the pouring of light, symbolises a celestial being. The sculptures displayed are derivatives of this motif. They also embody the notion of Building On Ruins through patchwork and the assemblage of everyday objects. Materials such as bath towels have been repurposed not only for their colour and texture, but for their symbolic nature – making what is old new again.

A’Hern explored this concept further, taking a knife to long discarded paintings, until a rubble heap emerged. Each piece of battered canvas became a building block that was cut, reworked and incorporated into a new work. The resulting collages reflect value far greater than the sum of their parts, or ‘ruins’. This process allowed him to be unencumbered, to ask questions and seek answers through the practice of building.

“For me, the importance of this latest series of works does not rest on the final outcome, but it in my ability to be more curious and expressive in the process and fearless with the material. The title Building On Ruinsexemplifies my feelings. I am building on my past in which certain memories are ruins, yet through the artistic process of breaking down and rebuilding, I can move forward with a hope that I am also rebuilt.”