Ailbhe Ni Bhriain's second solo show at domobaal takes its title from the Henry James short story The Great Good Place. In James' story, the place that George Dane retreats to as an escape from the pressures of working life is not so much a fantastical paradise as a composite of familiar elements – part country house, convent, hotel – a temporary rest stop where he and other can recharge. The worlds created within Ni Bhriain's latest series of films seem equally recognisable yet impossible. There may be something that feels familiar to us in her scenes of generic office spaces, Irish landscape and Grecian figures. Disquieting too – through the combining of multiple layers of photographs, filmed footage and sound, she creates abandoned worlds. Sand dunes flow through office spaces, through windows we see landscape and the open sea, interior and exterior space existing simultaneously, each fragment combining to create a fictional whole.
At the domobaal exhibition space we move through darkened spaces guided only by the light from Ni Bhriain's works and their soundtrack. Two works occupy the main gallery floor but Ni Bhriain also makes use of the in-between and otherwise transitory spaces within the gallery – the top of the stair, the entrance. Four interconnecting works within the space contain overlapping elements that move from one work to the next. In one film, red and white hazard tape drapes around Grecian figures. We have stumbled upon an incident, but it is one that seems long forgotten and where other elements have subsequently taken over – plastic bags float like jellyfish, dust floats through the space like the ambient scatter of light bouncing from underwater plankton. In another work the hazard tape re- appears, this time a fragment fluttering through the abandoned landscape.
Ni Bhriain's works have drawn comparison with Andrei Tarkovsky in the past and its easy to see why. Like Tarkovsky, there is an overlapping of internal and external worlds, a supernatural quality to the work and neutralizing off colour (her muted palette of greys, browns and reds brings to mind the subdued tones of Stalker in particular). But perhaps just as interesting as the visual elements within this exhibition is the use of sound – abstract and ambiguous and independent of visual reference. Single notes are hit on a keyboard, seagulls caw in the distance. Water drips. Each work's individual soundtrack merges with the next, overlapping much like the different elements within her films.
In Ni Bhriain's works we find a weightless yet abandoned world where many realities have begun to overlap. In this slippage we are transported somewhere else. James describes this transportation in The Great Good Place as a wakening of the inner life. On exiting the darkness of the Domobaal space and re-entering the brightness of the world outside, something has altered, the mind quietened, the stillness remaining.