Richard Mosse ENCLAVE at the RHA.

I have not been a huge devotee of Richard Mosse; I was in fact slightly underwhelmed when he was announced as the Irish entry for the 2013 Venice Biennale. What I have seen (I must admit, briefly) was his large landscapes; photos blown up to huge (unnecessary) proportions, each adorned with a predominantly pink appliqué. My first impression was that these images were an artsy-take on war photography. Mosse, by shooting images in plush advantage, held-up a country’s dualistic nature; the brutality of regime set against the wondrous beauty of the land. The Enclave a work first developed for the 2013 Venice Biennale, focuses Mosse’s eye on The Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, a place better known for its consistently blood-drenched history. A place you would rather drop-dead than visit – and yet poor old Richard Mosse made the journey, and I thought for what? To take some large-scale images that sit in a white cube gallery? A place further removed from the Congo would be hard to imagine. This exhibition was met with thrilling acclaim during its showing at Venice and had a highly motivated team of curators and gallerists behind it. There have been issues recently revolving around the lack of bi-partisanship of Venice with successful gallery-sponsored artists now being the only ones in the running. Mosse’s choice did nothing to dispel these issues; well-represented and regularly shown, Mosse’s work is popular though not trendy. The worry with Venice is that whomever is chosen, because of how they are chosen, will simply deliver what we have already seen – in spades. The main gallery space in the RHA is a field of Mosse landscapes each seeped in pink ink as if the tacky sweetness of the colour itself were adhering to anything and everything that breathes. And though the works are in that awesome scale that only the RHA galleries are capable of housing; they remain daunting oddities, extremely beautiful – too beautiful. At the far end of the space there is another large room given over to an installation of video works, these pieces are also based in the Congo and are created in collaboration with cinematographer Trevor Tweeten and composer Ben Frost. The only way to describe this installation is spectacular. Multiple screens hang in a concentric pattern around the space. At differing time points, screens come into and out of focus, sometimes rivers of azure blue – sometimes streets littered with detritus and bodies. Nothing can prepare you for the shock of being transported into another world and to say the feeling is guttural would be to limit it; it is manifold emotions, the preeminent one being fear. As I stood amongst the screens I felt surrounded, the people with me all huddled together, our eyes moving around the space as the screens switched on and off. I could see a body with a sheet covering it over one guy’s shoulder. Beside me a van filled with militia pulled up, their faces glowering into the camera. I quickly move to another spot. I cannot fathom what the people involved in the making of this work went through. There are no vantage points in this installation because you are experiencing it, you are involved the second you walk in. What is frightening is that you have no idea what’s going to happen next. This is a hugely intense work, bravely composed. What was once pink and rosy is now very real. http://www.richardmosse.com/works/the-enclave/

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