Clare Gallagher, Verges, Golden Thread Gallery, Belfast, May 3 – June 30 2018

Clare Gallagher, Verges

Clare Gallagher does not name each image in the set of Verges, instead, she gives the viewer the choice to attend closely  and directly to the subject her photography,  weeds:   ” They defy preoccupations with property and boundaries, growing wherever  suits them … (on) tiny scraps of dirt to grow roots, weeds use ingenious ways to find spaces in hostile environments to thrive…They suggest a view of nature as autonomous, rather than one in which it exists only to serve us.” 

Clare Gallagher, Verges

Her dismantling of the hierarchy of anthropocentric view of the world is  welcome.  However strongly the  aesthetic experience  impresses a viewer, it is questionable that the transfer of  new point of view could dismantle the habitual thinking.  Nevertheless, I share her hope.

Making meaning, finding connections is an aspiration frustrated by insecurity whether what I see you see too.

Yet,  it seems to happen. A Dartmouth-led study published in an advance article of Cerebral Cortex, demonstrate empirically for the first time how two regions of the brain experience increased connectivity during rest after encoding new social information.(

The study demonstrates that it appears that the brain consolidates  as soon as it has the opportunity to rest.

“When our mind has a break, we might be prioritizing what we learn about our social environment,” added Meyer.

( Meghan L Meyer et al. Evidence That Default Network Connectivity During Rest Consolidates Social Information, Cerebral Cortex (2018).

It amuses me that  D H Laurence realized that back in the early  20th C. I failed to locate his exact words. So from memory, something like this:  I did my best work when doing nothing.

Clare Gallagher, Verges

I also experience advantages when the visual art is not accompanied by words, sounds, noises.   When, indeed, its aspiration stays within the Leonardo’s idiom of mute poetry. Photography can be that. And often happily is.

Clare Gallagher, Verges

Clare Gallagher  harbours an admirable aim:

These photographs aim to reclaim some of the freedom and creativity

that weeds exhibit.  


A talented Ingrid Gault,  harvests such images daily with her mobile camera and publishes them on her Facebook page: Pics by Ing

Image may contain: plant, tree, sky, outdoor, nature and water

Ingrid Gault, Beltoy Reservoir

The comparison  indicates that the technical means are very likely not the dominant tool or force or tenor,  to reclaim (or mime) creative freedom.  They matter for the optical quality though.

Clare Gallagher, Verges

In some cases the technical means  are the conditio sine qua non of the resulting image. ( see Andreas Gursky’s best photograph … Salerno I, 1990, which left him feeling ‘overwhelmed’. Photograph: Andreas Gursky/DACS, 2017, courtesy Sprüth Magers Gallery:


 Clare Gallagher  

delivered a display that sings on the walls of the small gallery room.   Different sizes dance in a view contently.  They stand together, not competing.

The variety of sizes contributes to a resolute distance from any authoritarian message, perhaps, smuggled through Gallagher’s committment to celebrate the neglected.  Habitually, farmers and gardeners have a firm view what is weed and hence should be removed, poisoned, killed.  Over the decades,  the weedkillers and pesticides continued to kill pollinators and other insect, and found the way into our food.

Gallagher’s exhibition offers a thought – inspiration – to reconsider the habitual thought, to revoke curiosity,  the courage to change our view of nature.   Verges  cannot guarantee that all who visit  this exhibition will follow its suggestion.  Instrumental value of art is like that. We can hang it on an image, but it is not sufficient.  Aesthetic  experience has greater chance  to move us.

Clare Gallagher, Verges

That aesthetic function is promiscuous enough to appear as ethical, political, social etc has been established  so long ago, that it would be reasonable to expect the instrumental value to be just subsumed in it wordlessly and completely.  It has not. So, I refer  once again to Jan Mukarovsky’s thesis on Aesthetic Function (1938,

Clare Gallagher, Verges



Images accessed on and as otherwise indicated above.



About Slavka Sverakova

writer on art
This entry was posted in essay, review and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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