Catherine Barron: Principles of light

2 - 23 December 2021

In December of 2021, The Molesworth Gallery presents an exhibition of new paintings by Catherine Barron.

Barron’s current focus is the nature of creativity and consciousness. To facilitate this, she has adopted a broader-based practice that includes research, writing, interactive workshops, performance lecture, as well as painting. Her research has culminated in a visually expressed theory of creativity called The O(map), due to be published in book form in early 2022. 

Born in Co. Carlow, Barron studied at the Dun Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology. She has won numerous awards and  was selected for the Hennessy Portrait Prize Exhibition at the National Gallery of Ireland in 2015. Her work can be found in many private and public collections, including Bank of Ireland, the OPW, Glanbia, St James’s Hospital, Carlow Institute of Technology, the EPA, John De Vere, the Haverty Trust and the Department of Education.

Catherine has two grown up daughters and now lives and works in Dungarvan, Co.


 We're publishing a fully-illustrated catalogue to coincide with the exhibition. Copies of the catalogue are available from the gallery.


Principles of light

Artist's statement

Metaphor is often an essential aid when describing the human condition. It is especially useful to visual thinkers, as concepts and expressions are pictorial rather than lingual. Metaphors trigger a broad spectrum of visualisation because they can reveal patterns, connections and relationships - fraying edges with threads of thought that can be further teased out and explored. Above all, they deliver on insight; they work by resonant means, where the matching of like for like awakens understanding. 

The starting point for me with any artistic research is to decipher the images in my mind’s eye. While I was engaged in researching creativity and consciousness, my state of mind and contemplations came to be represented by theatres. Exploring the implications of this particular visual construct gave me a way of articulating the thought process in which I was immersed. I came to understand that, no matter where I went in the theatre, escape from it is not possible, that each empty seat may represent the broadest possible range of points of view within my own mind and that the theatre space is illuminated by my attention. However, the illumination itself is not literal but metaphorical. In painting both the literal and the metaphorical, not separately but as a constant exchange between the inner world of awareness and perceptions of the outer world of physical existence, I hoped to illuminate something about the nature of their mutual influence on one another and their profound connectedness. 

The most obvious visualisation of consciousness is as light. We even use many of the same words to describe both visual and conscious experience. We recognise a kind of correlation between what we see with our eyes and intellectual insight, so that the phrase “I see” stands as a way of saying, “I understand”. In this way, the physically or visibly evident, enables us to talk elliptically of the intangible and invisible because light and consciousness resonate with us as having many of the same qualities and the same effects. For example, to be in the dark is to not be aware and to see
the light
is to become aware. To go to the dark side is to succumb to negative thoughts. To be dim witted, to be not very bright, as well as to be brilliant and a bright spark, are conditions of mind that we immediately understand because they correlate with these particular effects of light. We talk of a flash of inspiration, of a light bulb going off in our heads when we have an idea, of something dawning on us when we see it slowly becoming clear in our minds. To shine a spotlight on something is to pay particular attention to it. To illuminate or shed light is to explain, so that you can show more of what can possibly be observed or understood. To be enlightened is to have a higher order of knowing, to have vision is to comprehend that which is beyond the obvious. 

We can take this notion a little further. Reflection, for instance, stands appropriately for both the outer physical phenomenon as well as thinking somtehing over. In both manifestations, perspective is a requirement. What you see reflected depends entirely on your position in relation to the “mirror” and its position in relation to the object. So to reflect on something, is to attempt to see where you are. 

Reflection illuminates the unavoidable problem of subjectivity in any contemplation of reality. The question of whether or not the observer can be separated from the observed, is a fundamental philosophical and scientific question leading many to postulate that there is no objective reality outside of subjective conscious experience. Einstein’s response to that was “I like to think that the moon is still there, even if I am not looking at it”. But how we see the moon, the experience and relationship we have with it, is entirely based on what it reflects, rather than that which it objectively is. Though we perceive our nocturnal world to be moonlit, there is, of course, no moon light. We create our lives from a mixture of what is and what it is to me. As conscious beings, we have creative agency. 

As white light is at the centre of the electromagnetic spectrum, insight is at the centre of the spectrum of consciousness. Through this cerebral window, we create the world we see and the world we understand because we are tuned physically and mentally to resonate with wavelengths that pass through this sweet spot. We are happiest there, in the light. We love the light because the light is a reflection of love itself. It gives equally to all and persists regardless. Recent research in neuroscience reveals that when we are relaxed and in a good mood, we are more open and likely to experience intuition, notice patterns, and appreciate the big picture. Studies demonstrate how insight is not arrived at by analytical thinking, nor do we experience it when we are in a state of even mild anxiety. Fear removes us from contact with our essential selves, from our deepest insights and from our highest consciousness. It is the strategy of choice used by the powerful to control people, because it always works reliably and in the same way. When we are in its grip, we fail to see it. 

A spectrum describes all that something is. Between darkness and light, there is a spectrum of illumination. Between the unconscious and the conscious, there is a spectrum of illumination also. An entire spectrum, is the whole and absolute thing. Every part of it, inclusive of its polar opposite manifestations, is connected and essential to the structure of the whole.

If we know that something has a spectrum, and if any part of it exists, then all of it does. 

Catherine Barron, November 2021