Via Belle Arti 54
Mon - Fri 9.30 - 19.30
Sat 9.30 - 14.00
Jackie Nickerson’s ‘Faith’
by Breandán Mac Suibhne
In a convent or monastery, prayer and contemplation are magnified by ritual, so much so that the sense of a spiritual presence within the buildings becomes pervasive, and this most potently takes the form of light. Photography, itself founded on light, is an art form that saturates the world of objects and people in that medium.
The source of light in a painting is usually traceable to a source or an area, and from there the structure and geometry of the painting is illuminated in ways that we are accustomed to read as being a blend of inner and outer light, always establishing for us a ratio between the physical and the spiritual worlds. In these photographs, that painterly inheritance is palpable, but in them the intimacy between the technology of the camera and the use of light is especially strong. The blaze of light through a window, the gloss of polish on a floor, the echo of light down a corridor, the pressure of light within a face, all bespeak the spirituality and discipline which together create the beauty of silence and community we witness here.
A statue, a saucepan, a table or a chair are not merely dead objects; they are mute, but alive. The photographs create silence as a dimension, although they also allow for conversation and cheerfulness. These are communities steeped in an interiority which they have discovered is not their own but something wider and deeper than themselves of which they are a part. The purity of line in these shots — verticals, horizontals, deepening perspectives — indicates a certain completeness, a spiritual integrity that belongs to and is part of the goal as well as the effect of the monastic spirit. Yet too there is the implication of the historical time of these institutions. The iconography has that unmistakable combination of catholic revivalism and kitsch of the nineteenth century, of the Virgin and the Sacred Heart, the anti-secular devotions of that era that stand out here like insignia of time in a world otherwise concerned to register its timeless dailiness. We are looking here at an eternal present and at a historical past. Jackie Nickerson’s achievement is to embed one within the other with such gentle skill that their contrast with one another produces little more than an eddy of conflict that perhaps deepens their meditative calm.
‘Faith’ is the result of three years photographing the interior and exterior spaces of religious communities throughout Ireland. Nickerson had uncommon access to the private worlds of the religious in their places of work and prayer.