This February, Stephen McKenna: Perspectives of Europe 1980 – 2014 opens at mima, Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art, in partnership with Hugh Lane Gallery, Dublin, and is the artist’s largest museum solo presentation in a decade featuring work from throughout his career including landscapes and cityscapes, with loans both nationally and internationally.
While McKenna has lived and worked in various countries since the 1960s, since 1998 he has been based in Ireland. The underlying theme of the exhibition is the artist’s responses to living and travelling in a number of countries in Europe, with some excursions to the former overseas territories of the European powers. The resulting paintings and drawings, made between 1980 and the present, reflect not only the cities, the landscapes, the people and the artefacts of the various countries, but also their history and the contents of their museums.
Continuing to run throughout February is Derek Eland: Diary Rooms. Derek Eland is a multimedia artist whose work is primarily focused on engaging with people about what it is like to ‘be human’ in stressful and difficult situations. He is interested in the use of the written word, particularly in a digital age, to access real emotions and thoughts. Much of his work is created on location, particularly through the use of ‘Diary Rooms’, and then re-contextualised in a gallery setting.
In 2011 Eland worked as an official War Artist embedded with the British Army in Helmand, Afghanistan. Diary Rooms describes the results of Derek’s time there. He visited Afghanistan to create a ‘Diary Room’ experience for front line soldiers, both British and Afghan, by providing them with blank cards and offering them the opportunity to write down their immediate thoughts.
The stories and comments written on the cards are raw, honest and varied, from the remarkable to the mundane, the extraordinary to the everyday. The reality of everyday life for troops sits alongside emotional accounts written in the immediate aftermath of battle. Diary Rooms presents a collective self portrait of individual experiences on the front line of a contemporary conflict – with soldiers often referring to ‘two wars’, one involving bullets and bombs and the other which goes on in a soldiers head when everything goes quiet.
Stephen McKenna: Perspectives of Europe 1980 – 2014, 6 February – 7 June. Derek Eland: Diary Rooms, until 26 February. Mima, mima, Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art, Centre Square, Middlesbrough TS1 2AZ. For more information visit www.visitmima.com
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1. Stephen McKenna, The Bay of Naples, 2006, Courtesy of Kerlin Gallery.