Frances Kearney

Frances Kearney, Untitled IV, 2015

© Frances Kearney, Untitled IV, 2015

about the work

Excerpt from a statement about Frances Kearney’s series ‘Running Wild’ from an essay by Martin Barnes, ‘Staging Uncertainty’, in Frances Kearney, Running Wild, (Norfolk Museums, 2014)


… Rather than hoping to seek out and capture a ‘decisive moment’ of absorbed reverie, Kearney carefully plans each staged scene more as a constructed and immersive moment. Hers are photographs that are ‘made’ rather than ‘taken’. Today, when photographs appear in many different forms – as prints of varying sizes, published on a page or viewed on a screen – it can be difficult to appreciate a photograph as a physical object. Kearney’s photographs have their optimum impact at large scale (4 × 5 feet) on the gallery wall. The figures that occupy small but important portions of the picture remain crucially just short of being overwhelmed by the expanse of landscape. The images also gain subtly in meaning when seen as a carefully paced and edited sequence in the pages of a book.

The narrative explored in these images is of an unfettered, almost defiant girlhood, one that in particular ventures into the open spaces

of a post-industrial landscape. In these scenes captured under broad, overcast skies, a remnant chill of Cold War surveillance lingers in the air. It is as if having created ruin, the adults have vanished, leaving the children to fend for themselves. Significantly, these girls are free from the virtual world, and the dislocated, skewed sense of time and location that being online can bring. Some of them display a natural resourcefulness, apparently struggling against the odds: one gathers useful-looking containers in an abandoned greenhouse; another untangles a net at the seashore; two prepare to carry a washed-up seal on a stretcher; and a solitary figure in a snow-covered field pulls with a rope, attempting to haul an unseen burden that lies outside of the picture frame.

These are like moments of time stuck between the parts of a novel or a film that move the plot forwards. What has happened before, or what will happen next, is down to our imagination as viewers. Kearney’s skill lies in her ability to pose a credible question but not to give, only im- ply, its answer. She crafts this physical and psychological space for us to inhabit, calling forth our own experiences of childhood alongside our expectations created by the conventions of photography, painting and film. In this way, she conjures a world suspended between reality and fantasy. Appearing unresolved, it entices us inwards. Lingering there, we are provided with a space in which to hold and to fathom our hopes, fears and uncertainties.

  • Martin Barnes (excerpt from essay)

about the artist

1996-8 Masters in Fine Art Photography. Royal College of Art.
1994-6 National Diploma in Photography. Liverpool City College
1991-3 BA in Art History and Third World Development. Liverpool University. 

The Victoria and Albert National Photographic Collection.
Bradford Museum of Photography, Film and Television.
National Sound Archive’s Oral History of British Photography.
The Saatchi Gallery Collection.
Norwich Castle Museum Collection.
The Rubell Family Collection, Miami.
The Dennis & Debra Scholl Collection, Miami.
Martin. M . Margulies Collection, Miami. 

Liberties – The Exchange, Penzance – September – November
An exhibition of contemporary art reflecting on 40 years since the Sex Discrimination Act. Curated by Collyer Bristow Gallery.
Guler Ates, Helen Barff, Sutapa Biswas, Sonia Boyce, Jemima Burrill, Helen Chadwick, Sarah Duffy, Rose English, Rose Finn-Kelcey, Alison Gill, Helena Goldwater, Joy Gregory, Margaret Harrison, Alexis Hunter, Frances Kearney, EJ Major, Eleanor Moreton, Hayley Newman, Freddie Robins, Monica Ross, Jo Spence, Jessica Voorsanger, Alice May Williams and Carey Young.
Artist in residence: Makers at Felbrigg Hall National Trust property. Norfolk. October 2016. Including Florence Kennard and Alec Stevens.


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