With his new “Inundation” series, Kevin O’Connell shifts his signature photographic views of the expansive Western landscape toward the contrasting tumultuous seas which in their vastness push the edge of the artist’s picture plane. O’Connell’s previously exhibited landscape views included series of stately energy wind turbines, transmission towers and oil separators as seen through a formal lens. O’Connell’s “Inundation” series brims with an emotive visual energy. While the theme of water, or the lack of it, has often been conceptually pivotal throughout previous O’Connell series, this is his first body of work devoted to water for its shape-shifting emotional content; its very fury a potential source of contemplation. Without his customary centric compositions and anchoring horizon line, O’Connell’s precipitous, nearly abstracted views in a muted palette instead explore a psychologically-charged and philosophically-influenced view of water and in doing so, the artist acknowledges humanity’s universal connection to the sea. For O’Connell, the sea is tempestuous in nature, but simultaneously, there is also a kind of surrender; a release to the inundating waves even as the sea’s allure might prove to be emanating a siren song. The video’s random abstraction, activated by the ocean’s ebb and flow, possesses both recognizable bubbling sounds and mysterious pressure noises that are an intentional juxtaposition to the sweeping romantic sound of waves crashing on the shore.
With the eloquent accompanying text as poetic as his photographic imagery, O’Connell shares the personal within the exhibition:
“I dreamt of the ocean. There was no gentleness – only ferocity.
I was floating on my back struggling to breathe, but there was no panic.
The waves breaking over me were beautiful.
Every minute detail of the water was crystalline – droplets, currents, sensations, sounds and an array of color.
I felt as though I would wash out to sea but was continually pushed back onto land.
I kept returning to the water hoping for an epiphany or the possibility that I would somehow become the water.
Finally, I walked inland up a dune, often stopping to look back.
I was initially filled with a deep sadness at the loneliness of the scene,
but soon realized that the water was following me inland.
The sound of the surf grew louder.” - Kevin O’Connell 2016