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Artist: Johnny Lawson, Artist in Residence, 2010/11

Title of Exhibition: 'Once I was a Child'

Date: October 14th - 29th, Leitrim Sculpture Centre, 2011

Exhibition Images:

About the Exhibition: Lawson chose to work with people from within his own community who would have been children in the 1920’s and 1930’s. He wanted to bring a sense of their personal memories and recollections of that time into an art context. According to Lawson he spent much time in the company of some wonderful people, all senior citizens, over a period of several months. “I gathered vast amounts of footage during endless hours in cosy kitchens, countless warm cups of tea in hand, comfortable in soft arm chairs with blazing fires by my feet, listening to treasured memories often imparted with passion, sadness, joy, pain and longing, but seldom regret.”
Using a unique minimalist style Lawson explores the much travelled path of regression to childhood.  On this journey he records not only verbal thoughts and memories and the history of that generation, he also captures the emotions that accompany such a journey. Through his use of subtle observation he has liberated a delicate honesty in his subjects, one that can often be hidden through the more traditional methods of recording memories e.g. dialogue alone. In this art work he makes a real and direct connection with the emotions attached to memory. Lawson places his camera in the position of a casual observer recording each person as they travel back in time in private to visit their childhood memories.

Lawson states “This method of not being present when my camera is recording, affords these people the privacy and freedom to meditate about their childhood at their own pace. I believe this unveils an honest confrontation with each memory, subsequently revealed through facial expressions, and captured by my camera in its role as a seemingly indifferent observer.  The exposure of such honest emotions as attached to memory is extremely difficult to capture by other means."

The resulting evocative video works will be presented in a darkened meditative space at the Leitrim Sculpture Centre.

Tea, freshly baked scones accompanied by homemade butter and jam will be served. Lawson adds that everyone is welcome to come along, ceili and share in this memorable evening. If you have a traditional recipe that you are carrying forth from previous generations for scones, flapjacks, soda bread etc. please feel free to bake up a few and bring them along to share on the night. If you play a traditional instrument, sling it over your shoulder and join in the ceili as the night goes on.

Artist Statement: “All is flux, nothing stays still.” Heraclitus, Greek philosopher.

Johnnie Lawson seeks out locations within the landscape, considered silent or quiet places, to record a linear timeline of several minutes documenting the history of each place. Lawson enjoys the spontaneity and the factor of chance that this method of videography offers. He captures the continuous, the incidental, the random and the fortuitous; elements that contribute to the construction of the global landscape. The shifting tension and harmony between these elements, relative to place, time, and the forces of nature, which alter and shape the memory of the landscape, are what attract him to this subject matter.

Time and memory are important subjects as he believes, once the passage of time is witnessed, memory is created. Memory is an integral part of how we perceive time. Our interaction with the landscape on life’s journey produces our individual and collective memories and histories. 

Lawson is interested in how subjective memory influences collective memory. In particular, how memory can be manipulated, altered, and shaped through various means of expression, i.e. through the written or spoken word; through song, poetry, music, dance, paint; or through some form of technology such as digital media.

Biography: Johnnie Lawson is originally from Dublin, and now resides and works in Leitrim. A self taught artist, his practice is informed by previous careers in acting and stage craft at Ireland’s national theatre, The Abbey, as a stone mason in Wicklow, and working with various charities as a life and fitness coach. Courses in photography, film production, bronze casting, glass sculpture, various forms of printing, and Vipassana meditation, further influence his work.

Lawson’s questioning nature has brought him to numerous countries on each continent. The diversity of their respective cultures, people, and landscapes initiated his interest in individual and collective memories, and history. This also instigated his questioning of the subjectivity of perceived time. Lawson’s has participated in a number of art residencies and his work has been exhibited in numerous group and solo shows, as well as being featured in various media including print and TV. His works can be seen in many private collections throughout the world.