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Exquisite Desolation

Eithne Jordan is on a mission to find the universal image of the city, she tells Sue Conley

Painting is great for many reasons, and one of the greatest is the feeling of recognition that an image can produce. You've never been where the artist has been, perhaps not that precise spot on the planet, but it feels familiar in the best possible sense -- that of it having been pulled from your own experience and translated onto canvas.

There's an exquisite desolation to the paintings in Eithne Jordan's new show, Night in a City. These are not the postcard-ready views that one can often expect to find in an art gallery. They are of vistas that are remote, full of the encroaching shadows of the evening, and unpeopled. "When you add the figure, it gives a different kind of dimension to the work," says the artist. "The paintings are about spaces, and when you start having people it becomes a different kind of a narrative, one that I'm not that interested in."

Jordan has been working in this particular mode for some time now. "My preoccupation for the past seven or eight years has been urban landscape. I've been going on research trips to various cities, mainly European, and taking photographs, and developing a body of work.

"I just walk and walk and walk with my camera, and take hundreds of photographs, and when I look through the photographs on the computer, I start to cull things from them. I know that they do have the character of a place, but it's not necessarily what I'm looking for. I think what I'm looking for is some sort of generic experience of a city."

Generic is often thought to be a bad thing, but in this case it is a synonym for 'universal'. These street scenes of Vienna could easily be off-the-beaten-path Paris or Florence, the places where people live, the places where tourists never stray.

Has the Dubliner any plans to immortalise her native city in this fashion?

"I haven't been able to get much, since I've started this series of work, from Dublin. It hasn't given me anything. I think it's because I just know it too well," Jordan laughs. "I can't see it with a stranger's eyes, and I think I need to do that. I'm still trying!"

Eithne Jordan -- Night in the City runs in the Rubicon Gallery, St Stephen's Green, 'til March 20th


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