A Collection of CollectionsA Collection of Collections

Ciarán Lennon, 'Solo'

by Ciarán Lennon

When I was 15 I left home and joined the Royal Green Jackets Regiment, training as a Rifleman Recruit at their training camp on Badger Farm Road, Winchester.

Two weeks before marching out my father found me and I was honourably discharged by Col. Shouldice, who asked me to return when I was of age. In April 2011 my friend and I went back to find the camp. At first I didn't recognize the place because the road had been widened, but I immediately knew that sweep of the entrance, the camber of the narrow road leading up to the sentry post, and what remained of the guard house where I had once spent two weeks for being AWOL.

We walked up to the parade ground and saw that the buildings had all been knocked down, leaving just the rusting, skeletal girder frames, the concrete floors and the steps. As I walked around remembering the flint and chalk ground, and the trees along the perimeter of the camp, gradually a strange feeling crept over me.

I felt a distance growing between my friend and I - and a dreamlike feeling that I was back again in my 15 year old self, at a remove from the present. My friend stepped back and allowed me some time alone to absorb what was happening for me. Afterwards, I felt that I had regained an abandoned part of myself. I felt better, more integrated ,grounded and oddly quiet. A few days later I was back in my studio in Dublin, and while I was sanding an aluminium block, intending to apply paint to it, my arm refused to reach for the paint and continued to grind into the aluminium.

I realized that it was making its own pigment. I added water medium for a binder, and there it was -the industrialized metal returning with me back to the core. This story indicates to some extent how I process my experiences into paintings. I have chosen it because it relates most clearly to 'Solo', the ground aluminium painting which is now in the Pallant House Gallery collection. Having been schooled in classic representational techniques, in 1972 I decided to make my work relate to the medium of painting, because painting has a given condition (the vertical picture plane) unlike sculpture which has no 'givens'.

Therefore painting became the centre for me, around which I could express my struggle and discomfort with identity, but also to find great richness and freshness of visual experiences. I could see the possibility of creating a deeper experience of the body than of ourselves. The spatial illusions that I employ are those of normal everyday seeing, and the sensual ever-changing perceptions of sizes and dimensions.