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Vol. 16 No. 1 (2022): Drawing and Loss

The Parallax Gap: Drawing Spectres in Post-conflict Northern Ireland

1 December 2020


In post-conflict Northern Ireland, the artist Willie Doherty has been active in showing how the memory trace of the Troubles lingers on as a spectral presence. Doherty’s work has been influential to a number of visual artists working in response to this context, whose work can be characterized by a heightened sense of in-betweenness and representational, spatial, or temporal instability (Long, 2019). Such work is concerned with an oscillation between the past and the present in order to convey the sense of an uncertain future. Although filmic, photographic, and sculptural works have been deployed by such artists to harness these conditions of uncertainty, it is the medium of drawing that remains relatively under-explored as a way of showing how the specters of violent pasts remain in this fragile context.

This paper is an examination in the use of drawing to show the spectral presence that continues to haunt spaces marred by histories of violence in Northern Ireland’s post-conflict context. The study is underpinned by theories that relate to haunting, but also to psychoanalysis, as read through Slavoj Žižek’s theory of the Parallax Gap. Theoretical concerns are applied to the filmic techniques of the artist Willie Doherty (2007), and to Richard Hamilton’s painting Trainsition IIII (1954). The resultant drawing and textual analysis responds to the spectral-turn in post-conflict art in Northern Ireland, making a case for drawing as a practice of haunting.