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_____650—1575 IMAGES OF A MINE TIM DURHAM Solstice Arts Centre


650—1575 IMAGES OF A MINE TIM DURHAM _____


650—


—1575 IMAGES OF A MINE TIM DURHAM SOLSTICE ARTS CENTRE


Previous Spread; —— 1420 Lunchroom (Outside) 1000 x 685mm Giclée print on cotton rag Edition 5+1ap

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_____A Note from Tara Mines Boliden Tara Mines Limited

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At Boliden Tara Mines Limited we assign considerable effort and resources to environmental protection, and preserving the aesthetic of the local landscape. We have been very successful in this around the mine site on surface, but it has perhaps been more difficult for us to recognise an aesthetic underground. In working directly with Tim Durham over the last two years in the realisation of this project, we have found new ways of looking at our work environment. The alluring nature of the mine, emphasised in the lighting of his photography, was something as miners we hadn’t noticed. His enthusiasm, curiosity and technique has created a new awareness of where we work. We hope this exhibition will give the local community an insight into the underground operations that commenced some 35 years ago, and continue today and will into the future. This is the first time Boliden Tara Mines Limited has collaborated in an artistic project and we are pleased to be part of this exhibition, which will no doubt be very successful. We congratulate Tim Durham on his excellent work, and we recognise the great work that Solstice Arts Centre is doing to develop the arts in Meath. Boliden Tara Mines Limited

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_____Foreword Belinda Quirke

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ONE OF THE THINGS I LIKE ABOUT PHOTOGRAPHY IS THAT IT GIVES ME AN EXCUSE TO GO EXPLORING – VISUALLY AND MENTALLY1

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In the time that one knows Tim Durham, one learns how meticulous and detailed his practice is, and the extreme satisfaction he experiences in discovery. By way of illustration, and perhaps evocative of Victorian gentlemen’s sensibility, the artist once recounted how over one year he recorded the colour of every flower, wild and otherwise, at his home in Killucan, Co. Westmeath. Tim Durham seems to revel in the slow dissertation of infinite detections and absorption of information. With the artist there is always the insistent questioning; twitter-like in brevity but acutely patient in awaiting response. Durham’s work exemplifies this immersion of preoccupation, exhibiting technical precision, a unique compositional line of enquiry and an open invitation to viewers to engage with that enquiry. The resulting grandiose architectural observances of caverns and machinery, interjected with more intimate trace evidence of human occupation, create a personal, comprehensive and engaging field essay. A fresh method emerged in investigating the highly esteemed industrial site of Boliden Tara Mines Limited. The two year development of location visits (above and below ground, a distance of some 925m, the difference between 650 the bottom of the mine and 1575 at surface level), led to an engaging process between staff of the mine and the artist. Site visits were accompanied by experienced personnel and relationships developed therein. Stories have been uncovered of life in the mine and its importance to generations of local workers (in some cases, familial generations). 650 — 1575, Images of a Mine, a collaborative exhibition between Tim Durham, Boliden Tara Mines Limited and Solstice Arts Centre is an accumulation of time and erudition. For all involved, this long exposure has enabled a new mutual understanding of value. I extend sincere thanks to the management and staff of Boliden Tara Mines Limited for their support and assistance in the development and production of the exhibition, to the staff of Solstice, and to the artist to whom I wish every success.

1.Interview with Tim Durham conducted by Nicola Murphy at Draíocht Arts Centre, Blanchardstown, 2006.

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_____Subterranean Homesick Blues Tim Durham’s ‘take’ on Tara Mines Brian McAvera

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In 1970 the largest zinc and lead deposit in Europe was discovered in Navan, and so Tara Mines came into existence. Drive towards Navan on the main route from Dublin to the Northwest, or if you are coming from the North and approach the town from the direction of Slane, such is the landscaping and the screening by trees, that the mine is effectively invisible. There is no noise, no gigantic spoil-heaps, and no vast open craters. This is not the bleak, desolate, mining landscape of Bob Dylan’s childhood. To all outward appearances, it is as if the mine did not exist. As Tim Durham has noted2, although mining is a heavy industry, few in Navan have any real sense of what the mine is actually like. By chance, at the time of a previous exhibition, he had talked to the caretaker at Solstice Arts Centre who had previously been employed as a hoist man at the mine. From this seed grew the idea of an exhibition which would represent Tara Mines as an environment, thus reintroducing the landscape of that world pictorially; bringing it all back home, into the town from which it had been so effectively screened off. Although most people still see photography as an instinctively documentary medium (‘That’s Johnnie. This is a photograph of him’), its history has demonstrated clearly that what you see, or what you think you see, is not necessarily of documentary authenticity. War photographs from the Mexican and Spanish Civil War for instance were often staged, faked or manipulated. Cropping and ‘dodging in the darkroom’ are but two of the obvious methods of deception. A telephoto lens or a wide-angle lens radically alters spatially what the actual image is. So considerable care is necessary if one wants to produce an image which is as close as possible to that which the eye actually sees; or which is as close as possible to the ‘look’, scale, and texture of any given object, person or landscape. Tim Durham’s intention was to produce a documentary project which was balanced in terms of its attention to the different arenas within mining. As he put it, he wanted to create images which, if one had spent a working life in the mine, ‘would trigger memories in the same manner that a smell can accidentally trigger an image from the past’.

2. This and all other references, unless otherwise specified, come from a conversation with the artist in June 2009.

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SUBTERRANEAN HOMESICK BLUES Brian McAvera

However almost all photographers of any real significance impose their own sensibilities onto the medium, whether in terms of aesthetics or subject matter. Durham is no exception. By shooting with a digital camera, which allowed him to obtain a very accurate registration, he could also, and did, reduce the amount of colour in the rocks and tunnels. By using pigment printing (which also can allow you to obtain a wider registration of colour) he could also print onto a wider range of archival papers, in this case a heavy 300 gram one. By printing large, 1000 x 685mm, he also, crucially, allowed us to play detective. In the Antonioni movie Blow-Up, and in a similar fashion, many years later, in Brian de Palma’s Blow-out, an enlargement of an image reveals details that were not obvious to the naked eye. A similar effect occurs in the underground images shot by Durham. As he used no additional lighting, not even a flash, but merely the low-level artificial lighting already in place, he used long exposures. The Underground was, to him, an unfamiliar, grey environment enlivened in places by green and orange lighting. (The green light is used to mark a safe haven: if you are losing consciousness, green is the last colour that you see…). As there was no natural light, and no horizon, there was no way to ‘place’ yourself; to visually imagine a cartography of the rocks and tunnels. ‘You take a step back and you are in darkness. It’s disorientating. Foreign’. As transport underground meant being driven, some of the images were taken using the headlight beam of a Landrover. This uniform approach to lighting and format meant that the viewer concentrated upon what had been photographed, rather than how. What it also meant was that, because of the long exposures, details would emerge in the image that the naked eye had been unable to detect. In one of the very few images to depict human beings, 950 Raise Bore Machine, two Scandinavian contractors are working in a quiet part of the mine that the company wished to develop. The centre of the image is a blaze of light (not unlike light from a stained-glass window piercing the penumbra of a church) in which our two workmen exist, except that one of them, as if a character about to be beamed down to a planet from a Star Trek movie, is in the act of disappearing. Technically this happens with long exposures if there is movement: you see this regularly in mid-nineteenth century photographs, and an artist like Peter Richards used this property of the long exposure quite deliberately. With Durham it contributes to a sense of strangeness. He himself characterised it as ‘foreign’ and in many senses it is rather like the dramatist Brecht’s idea of The Alienation Effect. The familiar (to the miners) becomes strange for us.

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SUBTERRANEAN HOMESICK BLUES Brian McAvera

In this photograph, in which the photographer was only aware of the workmen when he shot the image, the cavernous area surrounding the interior cave of light, is composed of lustrous and velvety blacks, lurking within which are shapes and forms indicative of tools or materials. It’s that sense which you often get in science fiction movies of palpable presences lurking in the shadows. In terms of the subterranean images, two kinds of images unfold. One is of the securely visualised, carefully framed photograph in which the delineated objects represented create a mood or an atmosphere, often with a melancholic tinge. 1575 Mine Dry Lockers for instance, with its rows of lockers and cubicles, but no humans present (and there are no female miners) has a spartan, contained, tight-arsed quality to it. Likewise the original underground workshop, 1345 Workshop, like a huge, melancholic sepia world, contains rows of columns which look like bays but it is within the large central space that the machines are nowadays cleaned. In a very different vein are images such as 1393 Fully Charged and Wired-up. Walls are drilled, liquid explosives are pumped in, detonators and cabling are attached for remote control. But against the vastness of the seemingly black rock face, the yellow cabling, crossed occasionally by magenta, is like a surreal spider’s web. In the image 1140 Workshop which is halfway down to the netherworld, the machines, with their convoluted cabling and weird rubbery hosings, seem to have been transported from that ubiquitous science-fiction movie, a notion reinforced by the shot of the huge drilling machine, 1480 Longhole Rig, which could easily have been a still from the movie Total Recall. Even in the overground shots, this eerie alienation effect can occur, as in the image 1575 Mine Dry Baskets. This, one might assume in advance, would be as banal and quotidian a shot as it is possible to get, but in this world the banal takes on an entirely different presence. The coveralls are hung and secured with chains. In a different context, a chained forest of orange and yellow coveralls might not have been out of place in a masochist’s paradise but in this environment it looks surreal. It’s as if Salvador Dali, using the surrealist trick of making an object represent a body — in this case the coveralls representing the absent miners — had been let loose. In an unsettling way the chains metaphorically represent the dangers and difficulties of the miners: confinement and loss of spontaneity.

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SUBTERRANEAN HOMESICK BLUES Brian McAvera

The sense of confinement is also, rather quirkily, suggested in a number of the overground images which seem to mirror the windowless world of the mine. The 1575 Mill Control Room for example seems to be a hermetic, windowless space of flickering, electronic screens (though it actually does have a window) yet it is personalised by the inclusion of a large fish tank, yet another screen but one in which the active fishy presences remind us that life exists within the electronic safeguards of the subterranean world of the mine. Another image, 1575 Development Shaft Station, combines the precisely formal with the surreal. Compositionally clever — the angle of the shot is matched by the diagonally-placed piping at the right — perusal of the almost constructivist arrangement of stockpiled items slowly makes us aware of the surreal: yet another notice for Stench Gas reminding us of lurking dangers, a notion reinforced by the almost casually placed signs for Detonators and Explosives. Even more cleverly the eye is blocked by the half open door at the rear: we observe what seems to be a whitewashed wall — actually the ‘whitewash’ is a product of overexposure — but we know that another world is lurking elsewhere. Nothing is quite what it seems. Any image contains information. In the hands of a craftsman, or an artist, the rectangle can be viewed as a kind of visual crossword to be decoded: colours, tones, shapes, and visual signs of the actual world are deployed structurally, sometimes allowing visual or verbal associations to arise, and sometimes suggesting symbolic or metaphoric responses. An entrance to the mine (again a seemingly quotidian and banal visual) contains a surprisingly wide range of signs and codes. The overworld is represented by the greenery on the left. On the right is the remains of the waste rock which has been used to line the driveway into the tunnel entrance. Also on the right is the warning sign about Stench Gas. This is the gas which is pumped into the mine in case of emergency to warn the miners to make for a safe haven as indicated by those areas bathed in green light. All of these elements are, in one sense prosaic, but combined with the almost abrupt tunnel-hole into the ground, the image irresistibly conjures up the notion of a descent into the Underworld of myth.

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SUBTERRANEAN HOMESICK BLUES Brian McAvera

This notion of the ‘underneath’ seems to be central to Durham’s way of seeing. In his first exhibition at Solstice, looking at rhododendron gardens, it was not the magnificence of foliage in bloom that caught his attention but rather the scatterings underneath the foliage, literally in the undergrowth, at the swan song of the season. Likewise in his earlier show, which depicted soap film, it is not the bubbles themselves that we observe but rather that strange interior world of the interference of light on the very thin film that forms the bubble. So the work is about revealing that which is often overlooked, whether it be beauty lurking in the undergrowth, or an entire world of the subterranean, the world of the miners and their workplaces, which he makes visible to an unsuspecting world.

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Brian McAvera is a playwright, art critic, curator and art historian. He has published nine books on the visual arts, over forty catalogues, and over a million words of criticism. Currently he writes regularly for The Irish Arts Review, and Sculpture (USA). He has had over 20 plays professionally produced and is translated into fourteen languages.

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Previous Spread; —— 1575 Nevinstown Farm (formerly Bula) 1000 x 685mm Giclée print on cotton rag Edition 5+1ap

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Previous Spread; —— 1575 Development Head Frame 1000 x 685mm Giclée print on cotton rag Edition 5+1ap

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Previous Spread; —— 1575 Core Shed 1000 x 685mm Giclée print on cotton rag Edition 5+1ap

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Previous Spread; —— 1575 Core Sampling Area 1000 x 685mm Giclée print on cotton rag Edition 5+1ap

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Previous Spread; —— 1575 Load Out 1000 x 685mm Giclée print on cotton rag Edition 5+1ap

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Previous Spread; —— 1575 Development Shaft Station 1000 x 685mm Giclée print on cotton rag Edition 5+1ap

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Previous Spread; —— 1575 Mine Geology Department 1000 x 685mm Giclée print on cotton rag Edition 5+1ap

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Previous Spread; —— 1575 Mine Dry Baskets 1000 x 685mm Giclée print on cotton rag Edition 5+1ap

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Previous Spread; —— 1575 Mine Dry Lockers 1000 x 685mm Giclée print on cotton rag Edition 5+1ap

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Previous Spread; —— 1285 Lunchroom 1000 x 685mm Giclée print on cotton rag Edition 5+1ap

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Previous Spread; —— 1330 No. 2 Haulage 1000 x 685mm Giclée print on cotton rag Edition 5+1ap

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Previous Spread; —— 1345 Workshop 1000 x 685mm Giclée print on cotton rag Edition 5+1ap

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Previous Spread; —— 1393 Fully Charged and Wired-up 1000 x 685mm Giclée print on cotton rag Edition 5+1ap

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Previous Spread; —— 1480 Longhole Rig 1000 x 685mm Giclée print on cotton rag Edition 5+1ap

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Previous Spread; —— 1190 4-1/4-2 Conveyor Transfer 1000 x 685mm Giclée print on cotton rag Edition 5+1ap

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Previous Spread; —— 1435 Backfill Bulkhead 1000 x 685mm Giclée print on cotton rag Edition 5+1ap

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Previous Spread; —— 950 Raise Bore Machine 1000 x 685mm Giclée print on cotton rag Edition 5+1ap

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Previous Spread; —— 1420 Lunchroom (Inside) 1000 x 685mm Giclée print on cotton rag Edition 5+1ap

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Previous Spread; —— 750 H81 Vent Door 1000 x 685mm Giclée print on cotton rag Edition 5+1ap

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Previous Spread; —— 1575 Mill Control Room 1000 x 685mm Giclée print on cotton rag Edition 5+1ap

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Previous Spread; —— 1575 Mill 1000 x 685mm Giclée print on cotton rag Edition 5+1ap

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Previous Spread; —— 1140 Workshop 1000 x 685mm Giclée print on cotton rag Edition 5+1ap

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Previous Spread; —— 1582 Randalstown Tailings Pond 1000 x 685mm Giclée print on cotton rag Edition 5+1ap

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Previous Spread; —— 1575 Old Portal 1000 x 685mm Giclée print on cotton rag Edition 5+1ap

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Previous Spread; —— 1360 Vent Curtain/ No. 2 Crusher 1000 x 685mm Pigment on photo rag Edition 5+1ap

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_____Biographical Notes and CV Tim Durham Born 1963, London.

_____Solo Exhibitions 2007 2006 2006 2005 2005

Perfect-Imperfect, Solstice Arts Centre, Navan, County Meath Soap Opera, Institute of Physics, Portland Place, London Bubbles, W5, Belfast The Multi Coloured World Of Soap Films, BA Festival, Trinity College, Dublin Soap Opera, Draíocht Arts Centre, Blanchardstown, Dublin

_____ Group Exhibitions 2006 2006

Heartland Riverbank Arts Centre, Newbridge, County Kildare Platform 1 Mullingar Arts Centre, County Westmeath

_____ Public Commissions 2008 2002

Per Cent for Art, Kells Town Council, County Meath Westmeath County Council, Mullingar, County Westmeath

_____ Public Collections 2009 2009 2000

Science Gallery, Trinity College, Dublin 2 Office of Public Works, Dublin 2 Fingal County Council, Swords, County Dublin

_____ Corporate Collections 2004 2003

Fuji Ireland Head Office, Glasnevin, Dublin Wyeth Biopharmaceutical Campus, Grange Castle, Dublin

_____ Awards 2007 2006 2000

Achill Heinrich Böll Association Westmeath County Council bursary to the Tyrone Guthrie Centre Arts Council Travel Award

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_____Acknowledgments

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Thanks to Belinda Quirke and staff at Solstice Arts Centre for their ongoing support and keen insight; John Kelly, Eoghan O’Neill and staff at Tara Mines for their trust in taking on this project in the first place and for the day to day organisation of my trips to the site; David Smith at Atelier for the catalogue; Ed Dunne at Inspirational Arts for the Giclée prints and his continued encouragement; Brian McAvera for the essay.

_____Colophon

This catalogue was published by Tim Durham with the support of Solstice Arts Centre on the occasion of 650–1575 IMAGES OF A MINE Photographs by Tim Durham Exhibition Dates, 10th September to 10th October 2009 Solstice Arts Centre Railway Street, Navan, County Meath Ireland T. +353 46 909 2300 Email: info@solsticeartscentre.ie www.solsticeartscentre.ie ISBN 978-0-9555120-4-9 © Tim Durham / Solstice / Brian McAvera All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise without the prior permission of the publisher. Design: an Atelier project, www.atelier.ie Print: 1455 Fine Art Printers, Belgium Binding: Boekbinderij Van Waarden, the Netherlands

www.timdurham.ie

Tara Mines


ISBN 9780−9555120−4−9 www.solsticeartscentre.ie


650-1575 Images of a Mine