Connolly is a classical modernist – and not just for the parallel an eye may discern between his images and those of Herbert Bayer and Laszlo Moholy Nagy, Bauhaus greats who inspired some of his decision.
He wrote to me:
Verbally Confirmed (….) works were printed as Giclee Archive prints in a series of 16 (each having an edition of 6). Each work is 70cm x 100cm and are all untitled in the series. Some are after ‘Bayer’ some after Moholy Nagy and some are simple reactions to geometric problems – findings of Euclid etc.
The show is going on a small tour – the first place is to Letterkenny as part of the Festival there in May and then it is hoped that I collaborate with local silversmith Garvan Traynor to produce a show in NY in October
Both Bayer and Moholy Nagy intended their designs to be mass produced as posters, whereas Connolly treats his as a photographer or a printmaker would treat a series. (There was no code on the exhibits to place each print in the edition, e.g. 1/6)
Uniformity of size and frames for all sixteen compositions invited the perception of all belonging to shared identity. Displayed on the shallow curve of the wall at the Waterfront at equal intervals in one flowing line (and not in batches of 6 and 4 as I have done it above) and slightly above my eye level, each image took it in turn to whisper some remembered similarities. The display thus strengthened the impression of visual unity, further supported by instilling all compositions with strong verticality, even those that were central and diagonal. The optical sweep upwards instilled the feeling of the images leaving the horizontal level as if wishing to escape some undefined confinement.
A simple comparison of Connolly’s first Untitled with Herbert Bayer’s design for a kiosk, 1924 (image below) yields several interesting salient points.
Connolly repeats Bayer’s distribution of primary colours and black above the white rctangle. He replaces the architectural design below by an inversed symmetry swapping the positions of the smaller rectangles as if in a mirror. Moreover, the yellow receives a black sliver to co-operate in a three dimensional illusion of a wedge. In addition, the black, blue and red rectangles cast shadows, the light source being on the left, below, outside the frame, coming from our part of the space. A “wrong” shadow on the lower yellow betrays either an error when the mind was seduced by a memory of that lightly sketched high key in Bayer, or by the intentional repeat of symmetry. Or, – my preference – it is a deliberate departure from the optical logic. That little irrational shadow is an irreverent celebration of play making its presence inside the strict rules.
Laszlo Moholy Nagy included a question in one of his poems: “Space, time, material – are they one with light?” His innovations in photography, printmaking and light( The Light-Space Modulator) are still inspirational. Connolly understand the power of quiet, classical distribution of light over a composition as a visual equivalent of geometrical order and of calm. As if he were thinking of Moholy-Nagy’s ethos ” the direct colour, the spatial rhythm, the equilibrium of form” to ground his own aesthetics in similarities and differencies.
Connolly’s Untitled no 16(the last in the series) is having a conversation with Moholy Nagy’s Composition, 1924 (below)
Connolly increases the agitation of the elements in his version. While holding to the main hues, he duplicates the yellow diagonals, saturates the red to the point of burning hot and domineering the grey and colder ground.
To sum up: to appropriate what is already a successful modernist strategy by a shift from graphic design to painting, and staying in the printing medium is not a lightweight ambition.