Aileen Kelly’s new work has evolved from an interest in the histories and atmospheres of an unused Derry city centre space – an old laundry attached to a convent, situated next to Derry’s walls and adjacent to the Context Galleries.
The artist has said of the process behind the new work:
“I would intend to revisit the old laundry.
I want to work with the history of the space and address the reality of the present for a declining institution.
I am drawn to the ritualistic procedure of daily washing, drying and ironing. Its continuous function to cleanse and purify that which has been soiled.
Architecturally there is a strong sense of abandonment and decline. A ghostly past prevails over the disused sinks and drying racks. I would intend to engage with these concepts …”
From this background, Aileen Kelly has for the first time produced work on video.
Derry City presents at this time a unique opportunity for works based on the histories of specific sites: the character of the city is transforming rapidly, with heated public debate on the number of heritage buildings in the city being lost to development. Equally, with the recent research into the Magdalene Laundries and the massive changes in attitude to the role and history of the Catholic Church in Ireland, Aileen Kelly’s project should be a prominent, provocative and popular contemporary artwork.
Aileen Kelly has previously used a broad range of materials and techniques to make her art working mainly in three dimensions using materials in an assemblage manner to produce large-scale sculptures and installation works.
She has employed processes that are direct and uncomplicated, joining materials through stitching, binding, stuffing, dissecting and reforming. Past works have included the manipulation of old items of furniture. Stripping down to their skeletal framework, reassembling and combining with something new, thereby extending and rejuvenating the life of the discarded. There is modesty in her choice of materials, with a remnant quality prevalent in the formation of her art. Bits of old cloth, sheets and blankets, discarded furniture, children’s toys and more recently cardboard are often combined to make collective installations or singular sculptures.
For this Context Galleries exhibition, Laundry, she uses a material new to her practice – video – as part of the same aesthetic process: the work is made up of stitching, binding, dissecting and reforming video-ed acts of destruction.
This project has given the artist vital support to develop a richer, more prominent, and more fully researched project than she has had the budget and time for to date.
The project has included: research including calls to the public for their memories, autobiographies, and histories of the laundry space and its uses the laundry; a forthcoming publication on the project, using research into the social history and architectural heritage of the space.