Bare of people, and eschewing the well known tours of architectural highlights, Eithne Jordan’s paintings focus on the contemporary urban enviromnent – factory roofs, subway tunnels, underpasses, apartment blocks , car parks and housing estates – the familiar yet often forgotten sites in cities such as Paris, Rotterdam, Berlin, Vienna, and most recently Dublin. She uses photography as an integral part of the process of generating the imagery, taking hundreds of photographs on working trips to various cities. Her eye is that of a brief passer-by, an outsider looking in. Back in the studio decisions about the imagery and the composition are then made through a process of selecting and remembering, leading to the small gouaches and later the oil paintings. Jordan narrates cities that are at once familiar yet hauntingly strange. Within the spaces depicted, although evidence of human habitation is everywhere -as in a lit window or a passing car- an explicit human presence is rare, so that there is a melancholy vacancy to to most of the scenes. This is accentuated by her treatment of the nuances of light and weather: the darkness of a February afternoon, the reflected light of a fresh snowfall, or the distictive hue of halogen street lights. There is always a suggested possibility of narrative, and the paintings are pregnant with action that is either to come, or else is taking place just out of view. What is revealed is an an intimate portrait of a city left for a moment to be simply itself.
Water in your ears, cotton in your ears. The muffled sound of the start of a day and the very last sound at the end of the day. A summer evening and an evening during Christmas holidays. And then a random evening in which the city has emptied leaving just some huddled at home. And the others? Does anyone know where they are? Eithne Jordan’s paintings use colours, lines and perspectives from which to look out from and to which be drawn in by. But prior to this comes the choice of a setting (often a very ordinary one, so utterly and totally ordinary as to become really special). It encompasses everything and you can see in every nook and cranny, in every space, everything is clean and still. But there is also much more. There are invisible tiny fragments of the world in which sounds continuously explode and ring out. Silent yet incredibly powerful. Not exactly part of the artwork, yet everything the artwork says. The sound (the drawing of a sound) is everywhere, it takes over every single space, it conquers space, both below the metallic sky and above the deserted road; it dominates the picture, to the point of becoming the most perceptible and tangible feature and doesn’t stop ringing out in the mind of the observer. It makes everything noisily silent and almost produces a murmur. Occasionally one gets the feeling that not far from the road or the crossing, a siren or the shrill sound of a house alarm are echoing just around the corner. The silence of streets which seem condemned to eternal abandonment, yet continue to exist even without a living soul around. The pitter patter of puddles sloshing rhythmically with the rain even though no one is listening and no one can see them. The empty tunnels of empty cities reveal underground colour which becomes that very sound. The sound of silence blends perfectly, seemingly unstoppable, with the slow breathing of the observer who feels safe (nothing is happening). Suddenly (why isn’t anything happening? what happened before? what is about to happen?) the breathing quickens. Like when you walk about at night, scared of being alone, yet scared of bumping into someone. And what if, after all this emptiness, breathlessness, all this running away and feeling of expectancy, after all the puddles have been filled and all the city alarms have run their batteries dry, what if gigantic plants and forests returned to recapture every corner, every house and every pavement of the planet, the galaxies, the universe? What if, after this endless, still, midsummer day, after the interminable winter night, even primitive animals were to return? And what if those gigantic, mega animals were then followed, sooner or later, by tiny humans? Man could then, once again, start to breath slowly, slowly start the machines moving again, turn on all the lights and finally make his voice heard once again (once again concealing all other sounds).
Eithne Jordan graduated from Dun Laoghaire School of Art, Dublin in 1976. She subsequently lived for periods of time in London and Berlin, where she studied at Hochschule der Künste. She currently divides her time between Ireland and France. She is one of Ireland’s leading figurative painters. She has exhibited widely in Europe, and received numerous awards, including a DAAD scholarship n 1984 and a GPA award in 1986. Her work is in major public and private collections in Ireland, Europe and the US. Recent solo exhibitions include: Rubicon Gallery, Dublin 2010 and 2007; West Cork Arts Centre, 2007; Centre Culturel Irlandais, Paris, 2007; Ormeau Baths Gallery, Belfast, 2004. Selected group exhibitions include Fenton Gallery, Cork, 2008; NEXT, Chicago, 2008; ARCO, Madrid 2008 & 2009; Art Rotterdam 2007, and Pulse Art Fair, New York, 2007. Forthcoming solo exhibitons include MAC Belfast, 2012, and RHA Gallery Dublin, 2012. Eithne Jordan is a member of Aosdana and the Royal Hibernian Academy.