Still life, no life, lambda print, 80 x 120 cm, 2009
by Elaine Byrne

In this exhibition of photography, video, neon and sound Dublin artist Elaine Byrne examines the fears children project onto mundane everyday objects



Who does not have memories of being frightened as a child?  Now we can look back and smile at how we confused reality, dreams and fantasy. At how frightened we were of the dark, of lightening, of monsters hiding under the bed, of shadows thrown by the moonlight and of those scary noises in the attic who were ghosts ?out to get us.?

These kind of irrational fears are common and they play an important role in a child?s development, functioning as protective behaviours. For example a fear of knives, or of the sea helps to cope with potentially dangerous situations. One of children?s greatest fears is the dark, because in the dark their imagination becomes so acute that even the most mundane object can be imagined as a threat. 

This exhibition examines the gigantic and terrifying proportions mundane objects can assume for children. Looking at an everyday object like a portrait, a figurine, a doll or a holy picture they suddenly realise, to their horror and shock, that the object is, in fact, looking back at them.  And, although the object obsesses and possesses them they take a perverse pleasure in the terror they feel, being inexorably drawn back to engage with it again and again – peeping around doors and half pretending not to see it through their fingers ?  mesmerised and tantalised by the spell those ?watching eyes? cast over them. Even though they are scared out of their wits.

Dublin artist Elaine Byrne re-enters the arenas of childhood in the exhibition ?They have eyes,? curated by  Helen Carey in the Leinster Gallery in Dublin through 30th October. Using images of everyday objects she invites the viewer to re-inhabit childhood, to see things not as they are but as they are imbued with significance associated with the subconscious; where the idea that the object or the image is watching the viewer is proposed.   

Using photography, video, neon and sound she examines the ideas that objects and memories evoke, the fears projected onto the object and the ideas around where that fear comes from, elaborating the stories that haunt childhood, that render imagination the main determinant of reality.  

Byrne?s original medium of sculpture gives her a sense of the object and in this exhibition, taking a path through multi-media, she arrives back at the power the object exercises on the human mind.  She suggests that the power of childhood imagination is so strong that the point when the object is re-introduced out of context, is one where imagination still masters the rational, that it is impossible to ever see these ?things? as they really are.

?They have eyes?
17th September ? 30th October, 2009
Leinster Gallery
South Frederick Street
Open: Tues to Sat 10am ? 6pm