Mairead Dambruch I hope to identify myself with the act of remembering.
By Mary Truong September 20th, 2020
Mairead Dambruch perceives the world symbolically. She often uses the word “player” to describe things (both people and objects), resulting in understanding the world through an “allegorical” lens. By describing representations of objects as players in her artwork, Dambruch animates those representations with certain willful individuality. She says, “everything is a symbol, everything is a player, everything has value, and everything has meaning.” To render her players, Dambruch defaults to painting because she believes a flat plane naturally produces symbols.
The stories Dambruch seeks to depict are of human experience. These stories don’t necessarily come from her lived experience; in her past work, she depicted two gay men interacting through a glory hole and the myth of the rape of Persephone. She acknowledges that within painting, “going out of the scope of your own experience is very contested” (specifically referring to the Open Casket controversy), but she also professes a feeling of “connection” to the scenes she paints.
“I’ve rejected using the body as a way to communicate human life.”
Initially, Dambruch included figurative representation to communicate human experience, but she has recently rejected that practice. She explains that images of bodies are constantly subjected to “perceptions of race, or class, or gender identity” and that viewers coming to her artwork would have preconceived notions of what experiences a depicted body might have undergone. To free herself of that restriction, she started to think about “being human without this baggage of a body… more ephemeral objects and unconsciousness.” This, in turn, led Dambruch to imagine objects as “players.”
Currently, Dambruch incorporates representations of cultural objects (like rugs and vases) in her paintings. She believes that these objects have their own narratives that can convey human life because they are “extensions of people,” derived through intention from a person with a lifetime of experience. Dambruch is especially interested in woven items because they reflect cultural values, beliefs, and history. She also finds woven items to be suitably metaphorical: “A rug is constricted to the warp and weft. ... it has to cohere to this grid structure that is a binary.”
“In art you can either do the act of forgetting or the act of remembering. I hope to identify myself with the act of remembering.”
However, Dambruch is uninterested in portraying binaries. To her, art is “a space for me to think outside of the constraints of rational language, of binaries, of dominant notions.” She says, “I’m hoping by focusing on these objects that I can amplify a non-dominant narrative outside of written history.” In painting objects, she hopes to tell multiple stories that are equal on the same plane, all interwoven with each other in the expansive story of the world. Painting like so allows Dambruch to remove herself from linear thinking and the headspace of human rationality. Using symbols, she creates a new language that is capable of dreaming in non-linear narratives, of moving beyond hegemonic representations.
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