Artistic License: Samuel Laurence Cunnane


The Irish French artist’s new body of work is linked with the idea of peripheries, photographed cinematically in the west of Ireland …

How did this new exhibition come about ?

I’ve been making this body of work for over a year now. I had moved back to Kerry after a period abroad with the intention of building a darkroom here and making new work that would be very much based on the landscape of the west of Ireland. The intention is that this is a much larger body of work, of which this show [at Kerlin Gallery, Dublin] is a first iteration.

How and where do you work?

My approach is to go out into the landscape or the city or indeed any environment and not try too hard to find something specific – I cede control to the elements and just watch and witness and record. The harder part is the editing and that really is where a lot of the key decisions are made. As for this new work, what I had in my mind quite clearly was a certain quality of light and landscape that we have here in the west that I wanted to explore. I wanted elements of an oddly threatening damp decay and rubble and pebbledash. So in some ways my work starts on two fronts, first perhaps there’s an aesthetic response and an idea of what it might look like, and then there’s the reality of what the actual outside world gives you and ultimately the latter is what decides.

Were all of the images photographed in Ireland?

Yes, nearly all in the west and north west of the country. There are some works I included from a recent stay in Belgium and a previous residency in China. Before this I was making work in the Middle East – Turkey, the Balkans and Japan. I was keen after all that time spent working abroad to turn my attention to where I grew up.

Have you any favourite images from the online exhibition at Kerlin Gallery – if so, which and why?

I think two of my favourite images in the show might be Fox and Decathlon. Both photographs achieve elements that I’ve been trying to work on. There is a whimsical and tragic element of the image of this poor fox but then seemingly a staged and cinematic undertone as well – I’ve been trying to introduce this kind of other language in my work. A language that ultimately sits rather strangely with an image like Decathlon, which is so empty and of such an unremarkable corner of the world but it’s where they interact, the fox’s damp fur and the tangle of this beautiful grass in the morning light, that I’m ultimately interested in.

How are you finding lockdown?

I don’t think I’ve found it particularly inspiring. I’m taking pictures anyway but that’s more out of habit. I think that at a time like this, with such a monumental event, it’s hard not to just watch it unfold; maybe that’s enough. 

Need to Know: Samuel Laurence Cunnane’s work is accompanied by an e-book which includes a conversation between Cunnane and fellow photographer and friend Dorje De Burgh. Cunnane’s work can be viewed at Kerlin Gallery.


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