Penumbra: Painting Materialising in the Almost-Shadow

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The exhibition Penumbra can be understood in relational distance to a matrix of exhibitions of works by contemporary female artists from across the island of Ireland. These exhibitions have sought to address the invisibility of such work. Penumbra presents us with a range of material practices that are reimagining and transgressing the terrain of what defines Ireland and broadly Irish cultural identity. This hinges upon a resurgence in concerns for the making and materiality of paint as itself the very site of meaning. All of the paintings I encountered in preparation for the writing of this essay have in their materiality delighted and greatly affected me. The contemplation of the work and the writing of this essay reverberates with the overarching proposition of the title of the exhibition itself, the astronomical term penumbra. Penumbra comes from the Latin paene ‘almost’ and umbra ‘shadow’ meaning a shaded spot or the outer part of a conical darkness cast behind a celestial object by a light source. Looking out across the Penumbra, my critical lens in this essay is informed by debates on the expanded field of painting, feminist theory, psychoanalytical aesthetics and cultural and historical discourses. Through this lens traditional art historical discourses could imaginatively be thought of as large opaque celestial objects that cast a shadow into space, rendering practices that are present invisible and illegible. The works in this exhibition bring into the frame that which was always hauntingly present, located in the half-light across the penumbra. This is a vast terrain so I navigate my viewing point from a number of theoretical satellites or positions that can help locate the works not necessarily in direct contact with each other but holding a proximity in resonance and relation. A glorious constellation.
Original languageEnglish
Media of outputExhibition Catalogue
PublisherF.E. McWilliam Gallery and Studio
Number of pages6
Place of PublicationBanbridge
ISBN (Print)9781908455246
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 15 Feb 2020


  • painting
  • penumbra
  • art theory
  • art


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  • Materialising in the Almost-Shadow

    Driver, C., Jul 2020, 2 p. Dublin : Visual Artists Ireland.

    Research output: Other contribution

    Open Access

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