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When lockdown walks inspire a photography exhibition

helen kirwan

When all you have is a few hours outdoors a day, you take advantage of it and somehow, every small detail finally becomes seen. Back when we only had one outing per day during lockdown to go on a walk, stepping out of the house and taking in the sights of the neighbourhood was a big thing. A highlight of the day when spending weeks at home.

Confined and restricted, those lockdown days brought on a lot of inspiration for creativity with their torment and uncertainty. Many turned to art, others documented life. An artistic project that was born during these lockdown walks is taking shape as an exhibition, opening soon in Nicosia.

Come February, Noise Gallery will present its second-ever solo exhibition showcasing photographic work by Helen Kirwan which she produced during what she calls her ‘Covid-exercise’ walks in Cyprus early last year. The exhibition, which opens on February 3, is Kirwan’s first solo exhibition in Cyprus and will comprise approximately 1,500 photographs, postcard size, installed as multiples in linear grids and strips.

The work came about when the Irish-British conceptual artist came to Cyprus at the invitation of the Cyprus Academy of Art Limassol to take up a three-month residency. However, when she arrived in January 2021 strict lockdown measures were in place. She was sent into quarantine at a hotel in Ayia Napa after which she moved to Nicosia for a month, to stay with a friend. When she got to Limassol to start the residency in February various lockdown measures were still in force and remained in place until May.

During her long Covid-exercise walks she took photographs with an iPhone of incidents and scenes she encountered along the way. Perhaps this was her way of making sense of Nicosia and subsequently Limassol. As a prelude to coming to Cyprus, she had been reading Heidegger’s Early Greek Thinking and contemplating his re-thinking of the pre-Socratics whom he considered as representatives of thinking before it was overtaken by metaphysics.

“Heidegger argues that modern philosophy had become corrupted by the narrowness of the metaphysical and purely rational way of thinking,” explain the exhibition organisers. “His analysis of the Anaximander, Parmenides and Heraclitus fragments prompts him to think Being as presencing (Anwesen) in the sense of coming into presence, lingering and returning to absence.

“This idea of Being as a process of transformation and a particular way of being Heidegger refers to as Gelassenheit: Being as releasement ‘toward the unsaid’. Kirwan thinks of the 1,500 little iPhone photographs which she took during lockdown as expressions of Being in this Heideggerian sense – of her presencing; and within such presencing there is a potential for releasement ‘toward the unsaid’.” Hence the title of her exhibition Presencing.

At the opening of the exhibition, photographer and associate lecturer at the University of Nicosia Nicos Philippou will give an introduction to Kirwan’s work. Then, visitors will be able to explore the pieces on their own, reminisce and until February 12, re-visit scenes from daily lockdown walks.



Photography exhibition by Helen Kirwan. February 3-12. Noise Gallery, Nicosia. Opening day: 6pm-9pm. Daily: 1pm-7pm.

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