Noel Hensey’s work sits calmly in the doorway. It is not so much to occupy the threshold, but more to insist on a presence that might keep the door open. On either side of the door, depending on where you stand, are any number of binaries - inside or outside, imagination and reality, experiences that we might designate as aesthetic or not.
Hensey’s practice involves an assemblage of video, photography, sound, and found objects, often arranged as a multi-part installation of simple but profound slippages between words, concepts and appearances. From a picture snapped on a trip to the store, a scene from The Big Lebowski, or a car windshield standing on a plinth with its rearview mirror, Hensey finds in the super-mundane the seeds of its own mutations - the visible embodies a moment of insight, its presence becoming a range possible meanings that then might return, in another form, as our own personal moments. There is a shifting circularity to his aural analogies and visual stand-ins, puns and approximations that keep a singular form while also becoming unmoored to slide back and forth through the open door.
Chris Fite-Wassilak (Writer/Curator).
'Miles From Home'
Exhibition Text, Feb. 2012.
A glass, two-thirds full of water, perches on a high glass shelf. A small sheet pinned at eye level carries on a short series of questions and answers. The questioner pursues on the actuality of the glass of water being, as is claimed, a tree. “To conceive the category ‘oak tree’ or to picture a particular oak tree is not to understand and experience what appears to be a glass of water as an oak tree. Just as it is imperceivable it also inconceivable.”
- An Oak Tree (Michael Craig-Martin, 1973)
Noel Hensey’s exhibition ‘Miles From Home’ works with an economy of means, grasping at any number of incidentally encountered things – from music, snapshots inspired from the area surrounding the exhibition, to a pair of wooden pylons encountered on a walk. Surfaces we take for granted and things that seem readily apparent are gathered, categorized and arranged here. Photography and sculpture become an observational tool with which to unmoor the everyday. Each of the presences in the show is an anchored metaphor, existing no doubt in front of us, but with enough instability to let us glimpse the possibility that a door is not a door.
Nestled among the raked sand, Hensey uses sound to stand in for the elements of a traditional Japanese rock garden. A dog’s bark bouncing from one speaker to another sculpts an invisible bridge. Another speaker plays music from musicians who have recently passed away, from Whitney Houston, to Amy Winehouse, to James Bond theme tune composer John Barry the echoes from their lives becoming a stream of relived moments and resurrections, the garden’s perpetually flowing fountain. Opposite the garden, a series of photos in the show are, at first, unremarkable: a fly on the surface of a television screen during a golf tournament; men cleaning the glass railings of a moving walkway; a football fields posts. But they all share an easy sense of space, and are gathered together as a collection looking at different forms of openings. Each of these moments have a set of quiet contradictions, gentle possibilities like a fly in a different environment elevated to art object. What becomes remarkable is that we walk right by these sorts of moments every day without even noting them.
Between the different media and the unhurried approaches of his work, Hensey creates a space where appearances become more analogies of presences. Like Michael Craig-Martin’s questioner, we might insist that things are what they appear to be his transformation isn’t just a semantic one, but also a metaphysical. For Hensey, the path to the metaphysical is through the physical, and he asks us to reassess its certainties to find other essences hiding in plain sight. He gently dissuades a material monism and literal reading of physicality or appearance, letting things as they are instead be something else entirely. Whether we see the door as a door or a jar is up to us.
'The Future of Contemporary Art'
Michelle Schultz (Arts Writer, Curator and Editor),
www.dailyserving.com, Jan. 2012.
...Since 1949, Young Contemporaries, or the now-named Bloomberg New Contemporaries, has been presenting its view of the future of contemporary art, selecting recent graduates from art schools across the UK. This year, spread across the ICA in London, are 40 artists who span the genres of painting, sculpture, photography, video, installation, conceptual art and performance. With the likes of the Chapman Brothers, Anish Kapoor and David Hockney included in past incarnations, there is always the hope that amongst the chosen, the next great British artist is lurking.
With no text to accompany the exhibition, the work must stand on its own merits. While I appreciate that the viewer is encouraged to form unbiased opinions based on the formal, aesthetic and narrative properties inherent in the work, I can’t help but think that we might be missing something, and that much of the work would benefit from further contextualisation – and perhaps a better hang. So what might the future hold?
1. Death by Photography
Tucked away in a less-than stellar location on the stairwells is the work of two artists whose muted photographs capture constructed moments of intrigue. Noel Hensey’s Death is Here is an unsettling and eerie image in which the perfectly balanced, slick composition if offset by the unsettling, and perhaps prophetic, narrative that one envisions may play out in a suburban nightmare...
'Dublin: Noel Hensey at Ivy House'
Emer Marron (Senior Administrator in Temple Bar Gallery and Studios, Dublin.)
Article reproduced from CIRCA 110, Winter 2004, p.95.
In the heart of Drumcondra on Dublin city's northern edge, The Ivy House pub and restaurant exhibits an active visual-arts programme. Curated by Claire Halpin, this stylish venue creates an invaluable platform for the emerging artist, showcasing Rollage by Noel Hensey during autumn 2004.
Over several years, Hensey has accumulated a myriad of visual miscellany. Drawings, photographs, printed matter, text pieces, artwork prints, computer files, in fact any found imagery that warrants attention. Working from this eclectic library, Hensey has created two distinctive aesthetics. Arranging images into a visual labyrinth, Hensey selects smaller, more intelligent groups making single compositions or "open sequences." Balancing the aesthetic with more conceptual or suggestive material, an inherent if ethereal relationship within the assemblage is evident. The work is encased in deep perspex boxes that follow the stepped outline of each composition. The definite, angular contours contrast with the fluidity of Hensey's train of thought. Visually simplified, the second strand of Rollage manipulates single images using computer software and other methods. Final images are produced in an imposing scale using digiprint. The superior quality of the digiprint process transforms even the simplest composition into work rich in colour and tonal subtly.
Indicative of the contemporary artist, Hensey moves with ease from traditional to technological processes. Balanced with some humour, Hensey is predisposed to philosophical exploration. The serenity of Rollage is almost incongruous in a public bar, yet this juxtaposition empowers the work.