Ian Cumberland: Presence in Absence

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JD Malat Gallery is pleased to announce Presence in Absence, a solo exhibition by Irish artist Ian Cumberland, from 7th September to 5th October 2020. Born in Banbridge in 1983, Cumberland is best known for his hyperrealist portraits of isolated subjects in detailed interiors, exploring themes of mass media culture, surveillance and the notion of the human ‘self’.

Presence in Absence consists of installations that utilise portraits as part of a multi-part tableau, establishing a dialogue between objects. Cumberland’s works involve an assemblage of theatrical objects, adding abnormal touches and unsettling atmospheres within mundane interiors, giving rise to an acute degree of realism. The subjects are caught in moments of escape from their psychological containment, similar to one experienced by people during the pandemic. This is Presence in Absence, a social commentary on a sociological crisis.

Cumberland is meticulous with his choices, everything is precisely controlled from the colour palette, the outfits, the lighting and the overall set. This staging and organisation are a commentary on our society, how we are manipulated to believe in lifestyles and material goods. Get the Look 2020 perfectly demonstrates this by containing text that itemises the cost of every element in the staged scene with the neon sign reflecting our image saturated commodity driven world.

The woman is surrounded by objects of capitalist desire, get the look, the dress, the Persian rug. It is a command; we are being told what we should be wearing and how we should be living. Behind her, the television shows a still from some unidentifiable ravaged landscape, possibly caused by deforestation for the creation of materials, mass pollution in fast fashion, spurred on by our insatiable desire to get the look. Reminiscent of Brecht and his theatre sets, the individuals in Cumberland’s works are faced with a multitude of choices and possibilities and it is up to the viewer to decide what those choices will be. Although Cumberland begins the story, the audience finishes it.

Presence in Absence explores different manifestations of ‘Realism’ by bringing together painting and installation. In so doing, Cumberland presents a wholly unique experience of the effects of mass media, culture and control on humanity’s notion of self.