Victor Sloan: Drift

Place and Placenessness in Victor Sloan’s Photographs of Craigavon

Dr Justin Carville

  Vietnamese Boat People, Moyraverty Community Centre, Craigavon, giclée print, 60.96cm x 41.2cm, 1984

Chris, Drumgor, Craigavon, giclée print, 60.96cm x 41.2cm, 1985

Victor Sloan’s photograph Central Way, Craigavon, 1981, depicts the combined visual markers of place and ‘placelessness’ that characterise the 1960s configuration of the New Town as a familiar, yet alien, built environment. The assembly of tarmacadam, concrete, stainless steel street-lighting and road signage that converge at the circular intersection are all motivated to facilitate the continuous flow of movement and mobility of the automobile. The looping form of the roundabout had become an increasingly standard system for managing the flow of traffic through high density urban and suburban developments throughout Britain and Northern Ireland during the 1960s, just at that period when Craigavon was beginning to be conceived in the minds of its planners as a linear city linking the towns of Portadown and Lurgan following the introduction of The New Towns Act (Northern Ireland) in 1965. Existing originally as a representation in the draftsman’s sketches of the proposed new suburban environment imagined by urban planners and engineers, spaces such Central Way were designed to be easily and quickly passed through on the way to somewhere else. There were no foot-paths or pedestrian crossings to distract drivers or slow the flow of traffic, only road-signage designed to encourage the driver of the automobiles passing through to move-on swiftly without delaying to observe the terrain around them. The intersection of roads at roundabouts such as that represented in Sloan’s photograph Central Way, facilitate the navigation of vehicles to any number of different places, but there is no time or space to dwell in this particular location.

Central Way, Craigavon, giclée print, 60.96cm x 41.2cm, 1981

Spaces such as Central Way are what the human geographer Edward Relph observes as “the casual eradication of distinctive places and the making of standardized landscapes” that encourage a sense of ‘placenessness’. More recently the French anthropologist Marc Augé has used the term ‘non-place’ to describe such spaces of transience and circulation, but Relph’s concept of ‘placelessness’ refers not only to the physical spaces themselves, but also to their broader impact on human experience of belonging and attachment to place. The effect of spaces such as Central Way extend beyond their own particular configuration of the built environment, and reflect for Relph the condition of the experience of place in the last quarter of the twentieth century. The everywhere of intersecting roads “imposed on the landscape rather than developing with it, are not only features of placenessness in their own right”, he observes, “but, by making possible the mass movement of people with all their fashions and habits, have encouraged the spread of placenessness well beyond their immediate impacts”.  For Relph, therefore, ‘placenessness’ involves not only “a weakening of the identity of places to the point where they not only look alike and feel alike”, but also offer people the limited “same bland possibilities for experience”.

Central Way, like the many other roundabouts and labyrinthine road networks that cut their way through Craigavon, was designed as a space to be experienced only through the windscreen and wing and rear-view mirror of the automobile. Coming into sight through one rectangular frame as the car approached the roundabout, it receded from view in the other as the driver passed through on their journey to somewhere else. It was a landscape designed with the specific purpose of dissolving in the motorists gaze. As a planned environment it is a space that generates a sense of what Relph identifies as ‘incidental outsideness’, an attitude that arises in relation to places that are mere backdrops to other social activities and are detached from the need to form a bond to place. Sloan’s photograph, however, provides an alternative perspective to the automobile driver’s mundane, uniform visual experiences of Central Way. The banal emptiness of this circuitous space from any distinctive markers of place is clearly conveyed in the photograph, as is the sense of the roundabouts isolation from the numerous locations that it connects the commuter to as they pass through it on their way to some other place. However, the vantage point and angle of vision adopted by Sloan in his photograph of Central Way, makes the viewer aware that the photographer was situated in this space rather than passing through it or standing outside of it. The elevated vantage point, to the left of the road, slightly de-centres the rational configuration of the straight, asphalt traffic lanes carved into the landscape, and ruptures the smooth completion of the circular formation of the roundabout. The foliage of bushes, and branches of trees in the foreground, also interrupts the normative organization of the pictorial space of the photograph which would allow the viewer unfettered visual access of the space contained within the frame of the image. Society has become accustomed to photography’s technical inscription of linear perspective in which the frame of the camera’s viewfinder is the window through which the world is rationally transferred onto the flat, two-dimensional plane of the photograph. In this technical configuration of the cultural conventions of the two-dimensional representation of three-dimensional space, the viewer is fixed in relation to the photograph. In the words of Christian Metz, “the spectator can do no other than identify with the camera”. By photographing Central Way from this slightly elevated, de-decentred perspective, and allowing the environment to encroach into the frame of the image, Sloan brings the viewer with him into the planned landscape of the roundabout, providing an opportunity to experience the world depicted in the photograph not as some objective space detached from experience, but as a lived environment, a space vying for attention between the social forces of place and ‘placelessness’. 

As a photographer and artist, or more properly an artist who uses the medium of photography in his reaction to the subject he takes a photograph of, before reacting to the resulting photographic print, Sloan has had a long, and sometimes unsettled, relationship with Craigavon. It is a relationship that could have easily generated an overly sympathetic view of the plight of Craigavon’s inhabitants in the early decades of its development, or at the opposite end of the spectrum, a cynical and detached documentation of the New City’s isolated environments of shopping centres, housing estates and community centres. The sensitivity towards those communities living in Craigavon is evident in Sloan’s photographs, as is the innate sense of alienation arising out of the disconnect between the city’s architectural forms, configurations of ‘community centres’ and the lives of those who inhabit the environments planned remotely by urban planners. To categorize Sloan’s photographs of Craigavon through such polarised perspectives, however, would be to over simplify what is a much more nuanced approach taken by him through the medium of photography towards representing the architectural and social peculiarities of the area over a period of three decades. During that time, he has produced a series of visual statements on the current state of affairs of this planned development at particular moments when relations between the alienating spaces of the New City and the community animated the struggles between place and ‘placelessness’. In series such Craigavon and Vietnamese Boat People during the 1980s, Fireworks Craigavon in the 1990s, in individual works such Stay Out, Craigavon, 1991, and his most recent large scale colour works of Craigavon’s shopping and community centres such as Moyraverty Community Centre, 2014, Sloan has not so much provided testimony to the areas changing social configurations as place, rather he has issued a set of visual declarations on the relationship between the built environment and the community. In a number of respects this durational engagement with Craigavon as a photographer and artist has ensured that Sloan has kept true to his word. In an early text and image piece published in Circa with the writer and historian Gerry Burns titled ‘Craigavon – The Heart is Missing’, he commented that he would “continue to work on the project as long as he lives in the area”. Despite the early reservations expressed in the article that the buildings erected for the community of Craigavon bore “no relationship to the lives of the people who live here”, his photographs are no less attuned to the attempts by the community to establish as sense of belonging amidst the socially constructed places of poorly designed housing, leisure and consumer spaces. His personal vision of the area is an inescapably human geographical imagining of place through the photographic image. 

Vietnamese Boat People, Moyraverty Community Centre III, Craigavon, giclée print, 60.96cm x 41.2cm, 1981

Vietnamese Boat People, Moyraverty Community Centre I, Craigavon, giclée print, 60.96cm x 41.2cm, 1981

Perhaps unwittingly, or perhaps intentionally, Sloan has become something of a visual chronicler of Craigavon. However, his account of the transformation of the city is not one that allows for a transparent reading of his visual statements. Sloan’s various series and individual images of Craigavon require the viewer pay attention to the photograph, to concentrate on its surface as well as its pictorial illusion of depth. His photographs reveal a series of relations – the photographer and the place; the artist and the photograph; the photograph and the viewer – which unsettles some of the complacency that resides in looking at photographs. Photographs are violent observed Roland Barthes, not because they show “violet things, but because on each occasion it fills the sight by force, and because in it nothing can be refused or transformed”. In most contexts photographs coerce the viewer to look straight through their surface directly to the object contained within the pictorial frame of the image. They compel the viewer to rush to interpretation; ‘this is a house’; ‘here is my car’; ‘there is the park’; ‘that was at the party’. Such common interpretations of photographs are more than a prescribed lexicon for responding to the experience of looking at the transparent surface of the photograph as if it wasn’t there, it is a condition of the relationship we have with photographs. These responses oscillate between presence and absence – the object is both ‘here’ in the photograph and ‘there’ in reality – and spatial and temporal distance; what is photographed is in ‘another time’ and ‘another place’. Photography is madness, observed Barthes, precisely because of such vacillating responses to the experience of looking at photographs. Amongst such delusions is the anticipation that although the photograph reinforces the viewers separation from the time and place of the object photographed, this separation may be overcome by the representation of the place as a photograph, that photography might provide access to that ‘other time’ and ‘other place’ which the photograph strives to separates us from.

Sloan’s photographs intervene into these complacent responses we have with photographs, precisely through making the relations between the photographer and the place; the artist and the photograph; and the photograph and the viewer, visible. Instead of simply being allowed to look through the photograph to quickly access what is transparently represented within its frame, as if the photograph itself didn’t exist, his photographs require an acknowledgment of their conventional and material presence as images of place. The more conventional documentary work from the early and mid 1980s – a period when Sloan’s fascination with the forms and designs of Craigavon’s shopping centre, Marlborough House (Craigavon Housing Executive Office) and civic centre as an artist were tempered with his social awareness of their alienating affect on the community – are taken from vantage points that reveal the photographers relationship to place. Photographs such as Shopping Centre, (Children Playing), Craigavon, 1985, Bus Stop, Ridgeway, Craigavon, 1982 and Ridgeway, Craigavon, 1982, are taken from vantage points and framed by the camera’s viewfinder in ways that draw attention to the photographer’s conscious organization of pictorial space to illuminate the architectural forms of buildings, boarded up windows, street lighting and signage. These conventions of vantage point, framing and angle of vision, are not employed to produce sterile compositions that reinforce a sense of distance from the built environment, nor are they to establish a separation between viewer and image. They are mobilised instead to draw the viewer into the space of the photograph by revealing the photographer’s self-conscious juxtaposition of squares and rectangles, the rectilinear lines of modern European designed housing and the rolling forms of green spaces. An errant form of vernacular modernism, there is an awareness of the photographer’s positioning himself in relation to place to draw attention to the ‘photographic-ness’ of his visual statements of the environment.

Bus Stop, Ridgeway, Craigavon, giclée print, 60.96cm x 41.2cm, 1981

These are not simple formal exercises, however, the particular framing of this built environment by Sloan through the camera’s viewfinder subtly teases out the alienation of the environment to the community. This combination of the forms of the built environment and their alienating affects, were identified by Sloan early on in his documentation of Craigavon during the 1980s. Commenting on this early engagement with the area he observed “One could be forgiven for thinking that no overall view was ever taken of Craigavon’s development. Some of the buildings are interesting enough, as far as shape and design go ... I suppose you could say that Craigavon fascinates me, insofar as it represents a supposedly planned environment which has gone almost totally wrong. People want a structure and meaning in their environment that will reflect, and in part create, structure in their lives. Craigavon has completely failed to provide them with this”. The slightly awkward juxtaposition of the lamppost and commuters waiting at the bus stop in photograph Bus Stop, Ridgeway, Craigavon, and the flash-lighting in Shopping Centre, (Children Playing), convey the detachment of everyday life from place. The pictorial organization of body and spaces are inelegantly coalesced within the frame of the photograph in a visual articulation of the alienating relations between place and community.

Sloan’s series of toned photographs marked with oil pastels bring to the surface relations between artist and photograph, and photograph and viewer that similarly question the normative responses to photographs of place. In his discussion of ‘insideness’ and ‘outsideness’ in experiences of place and ‘placenessness’, Relph identifies the visual arts, literature and poetry as modes of imaginative geographies of place that can provide what he terms as ‘vicarious insideness’; a deep seated engagement with place experienced second hand through various modes of representation. The anticipation that photography might ameliorate the sense of separation between viewer and the place represented in the photograph is an exemplary instance of the image providing vicarious experiences of place and belonging. If we are to take Barthes at his word, the brute opticality of the photograph – its violent saturation of the eye – has the potential to transport the viewer to the place contained within its frame unfettered by any obstacles. However, Sloan’s intuitive marking of the photographic print, the red squiggled lines in images such as Funfair, City Centre Craigavon, 1984 and circles in Community Minibus with Senior Citizens, Brownlow, Craigavon, 1984, interrupts the unrestricted access to the world viewed in the photograph. Although Sloan’s use of oil pastels and his subtractive and additive markings on the surface of the photographic print are very much in the realm of his reaction to the photographic print, it is a process that intervenes into the relations between viewer and image; it generates an alternative geographical imagining of place. Writing on Sloan’s use of toners, bleach, paint and scalpel to mark the surface of photographic print, Brian McAvera has commented that; “The manipulated image is the method by which he bypasses the soiled coinage of photographic ‘honesty’, ‘truth’ and ‘authenticity’. In the image Road, Rathmore, Craigavon, 1985, something more nuanced is taking place than rupturing the photographic codification of realism. The conventional practice of looking at the photograph would be to follow the perspectival lines up to the graffiti across the road and into the disappearing horizon. The red circles marked by oil pastels in the right-hand foreground, indicating bullet holes, force the viewer to check themselves, it transforms the normative expectations of photography’s power to ameliorate the separation between viewer and place. Such images constantly distract the viewer, pulling them toward the slightest of details that charge the experience of place with unseen political tension.

Sloan’s recent large-scale colour photographic prints such as Moyraverty Shopping Centre, Craigavon, 2014 and Shopping Centre, Craigavon, 2014, are both a continuation of his fascination with the disconnect between planned development and community, and mark a return to his original engagement with its architecture as a sort disjointed exhibit of objects in a museum. However, there is a sense now that such structures, individual in their own way, are points of intersection that bind Craigavon together as place. They stand as architectural monuments to a modern vision of community that was yoked constantly between place and ‘placenessness’. Indeed there is a feeling of redemption in Sloan’s most recent work on the tensions between place and ‘placenessness’, one in which he photograph might just ameliorate the sense of separation between viewer and the place depicted in the photograph.

Ka Fue Lay from Victor Sloan on Vimeo.

Sloan’s video Ka Fue Lay, shot in 2014, depicts one of the many Vietnamese migrants who arrived in Craigavon in the 1980s. Sloan’s series Vietnamese Boat People, perhaps more than other work on Craigavon, reflected the alienating effects of the area and the struggles to establish an authentic sense of belonging and community in spite of the disconnect between the built environment and the people who lived there. In the video, Ka Fue Lay looks through a series of photographs of friends and family which are shown to the viewer. Hands hold the photographs, fingers point to individuals, stories are told. Although Ka Fue Lay’s voice moves between identifying individuals, places and stories of life in another time and another place, the photograph is visible at all times. It is a material presence and a vehicle to express a sense of attachment to place. When Barthes wrote of his search for an authentic experience of memory, he encountered it while sifting through photographs; holding the material object in his hands, moving one photograph in his grasp to the next, he encountered an authentic sense of attachment to the person in the photograph. In Sloan’s video, this sifting through photographs is combined with what Martha Langford identifies as an “oral-photographic performance”. For Langford “The accumulation of photographic moments does not replace memory; rather, it overburdens recall with visual data that explodes in the retelling”. Ka Fue Lay’s stories told through the material touch of the photograph generate a recitation of another time and another place, bodies and places are coalesced within the pictorial frame of the photograph in expressions of belonging and attachment to this seemingly alienating environment. Despite the sense of placenessness associated with Craigavon to the outsider passing through on their way to some other place, Craigavon, it would seem, is redeemed.

 Justin Carville, 2014

Justin Carville is a lecturer in the history and theory of photography at the Institute of Art, Design and Technology, Dun Laoghaire, Ireland. He is the author of Photography and Ireland, publishes by  
Reaktion Books. He  has also written extensively on the subject of photography for journals including Photography and Culture, Source and The Journal of Popular Visual Culture.

Victor Sloan/ Drift

Ken Grant

Pinebank Community Centre, (Slide),Craigavon, giclée print, 60.96cm x 41.2cm,1981

It looks like we’re not quite through the winter. Long after trees have shed their leaves, three children sit atop a playground slide. At its foot, a friend waits, with her hands hitched to her waist, whilst another -at the edge of the drama- runs through the dappled shadow towards the fun. To the left of the picture, a younger child is cupped on an elder’s lap, intensely watching the joy she will grow into. A sharp patch of light nips the child’s young face, bringing it into bright and uncomplicated life. Children live in the moment, perhaps they don’t notice the cold, their world is a playground and home is a breath-heavy drama from one dash to the next. No matter where they land, they get to their feet. All is ideal, with everything to hope for. Prospects are good. 

To those settling in Craigavon a decade or so after the original planning had begun in the mid-1960s, the emphasis of play and recreation amongst the clean designs of connecting pathways and traffic-free routes might have seemed an ideal relocation. Conceived as a mix of homes and parkland- with countryside never too far from the doorstep- the distinctive design and the promise of a semirural ideal must have been a convincing prospect. Perhaps the area was understood as a new frontier – or as a self-contained island, pleasantly adrift from the urban tensions and territorial division that urban Belfast would continue to endure. 

Those taking on this new start would be joined, in September 1979, by a group of Vietnamese families, who had themselves made their own life-changing slow journey from their home country and its austerity. They would travel by boat and eventually be picked up by larger ships before reaching the UK -where a welcome invitation to the newly established ideal of Craigavon was offered. As the families established themselves, Victor Sloan was on hand to photograph family groups at their homes and again at the local leisure centre. A forthright flashlight subdues the brown and yellowness of a dull interior, the civic colours of the late 1970s. They are new arrivals, standing isolated and different -but children all the same -and they seem happy enough to respond warmly to the photographer’s engagement and the possibilities of making a new world. The aspiration to start again must have felt a common one, shared by those many families who had decided to take part in this new and untested phase of Ulster’s development. 

Victor Sloan’s earliest photographs of Craigavon tend to speak to the dominant photographic forms of the day. Often wide and inclusive, they are free of the layered, abrasive reworking of the print surface that he would later become more widely known for. Instead, they seem carefully populated and precisely seen black and white frames, made with a warmth and sensitivity that manifests itself as a gentle, respectful humanism. They are dexterous frames, pictures that place children -and the new population- against the structures and skies to which they have been prescribed. 

As a photographer, it might have been enough to dwell on the confusing road systems, endless roundabouts and sterile planning ideals that proposed the car over anything that might encourage community interaction. Although the work Sloan made at that time moves beyond such understandable preoccupations, the asphalt rings of new traffic systems would appear now and then, as circular grassed mounds flanked by newly planted saplings. Low-rise, uniform housing estates and quiet, rain-washed roads seem dormant–almost as if waiting for the car-less population to catch up.  Elsewhere, there is a strong sense of how families engage with the new clean-lined pathways. Long before desire lines will be established (-those pressed down vernacular trails that wear away the grasslands in spite of planners wishes), locals would have to negotiate new and confusing link bridges and walkways. Victor Sloan articulates this: In a picture that shows a handful of young people whose paths may never cross, he frames shadow, bollards and litter –organizing the straight lines of roofing and flagstones into a picture that is nearly an architectural study, save for the un-tethered dog that goes one way and a child, lagging behind as it tries to keep close to the pack, which goes the other. 

The early photographs relate the sense of coming to terms with a new terrain. Moving from one section to another with a young family in tow would always prove taxing to those learning to navigate by the north star of a shopping ‘super-mall’ –that dead centre that seems to mark the soulless heart around which new town models are most often constructed. There’s a sense of the wider farmland and space that marks the edges of the development, but also a suspicion that, whilst it’s there, whilst it’s almost close enough to touch, lived experience might mean that it is less easy to ever truly reach. Waiting at a bus stop in front of a low modern estate, low enough to be held by the weight of the sky, high enough to obscure the view of any wider nourishing landscape, a photograph of a group of residents -waiting to move on with their day- is a gentle picture. It seems about little more than a nod to a patient limbo. Yet beyond this, it remains a picture that perfectly acknowledges the quiet and dignified effort of modest travel through an obstructive landscape. Such brief moments of strangers passing give the ordered topography of a new landscape its pulse. In light and dark, the photographs offer precise accounts of the structure of Craigavon, yet often with the trace of youthful inquisitiveness and, eventually, the more growing marks of anger that so often accompany troubled adolescence.

Shopping Centre,(Punk), Craigavon, giclée print, 60.96cm x 41.2cm, 1985

Outside of Craigavon throughout the 1980s, tensions were apparent across the UK and Ireland. Hunger strikes would see 10 men die in protests a whole world -or just a few miles- away in Belfast. All lives have soundtracks and the second wave of punk, with its more politicized targeting of the Thatcher government- would become acutely focused around adjacent unrest, social opportunities and the declining models of youth training and employment. We might remember how some of the key industries had earlier relocated to serve as local and sustained employment initiatives for these remote new towns across the UK and Europe- and we may recall how many would become unviable and eventually pull out. Craigavon’s own example, Goodyear, would close in 1983. Coupled with the unsettling tinder of Ulster’s Troubles, as they permeated and influenced daily experiences, the ideal of a new and uncomplicated start -of a new life of nourishment and opportunity- would remain an ideal forged by planners and architects -rather than something experienced without complication. Against such an economic terrain, Sloan’s photograph of the young punk with the hand painted leather jacket perhaps really did believe he was living out the Partisans song ‘17 years of hell’ - whilst he stands facing a watchful policeman… each playing their part in the flash-lit carnival that would interrupt another Craigavon night. 

Victor Sloan’s own children occasionally appear, as he follows the events that include trips to the shops or mark another Halloween. There is a sense of the seasons turning and rituals punctuating the darker nights. His flashlight reaches scrambling kids as they move through the unrefined grass banks at the edge of a newly established estate. Quite naturally, for a father whose path and time might be shaped by the demands of those he cares for, some pictures betray something of the mundane routines and sparks of exhilaration that parenthood presents to us -none more so, perhaps than in a photograph taken outside the large shopping centre, with it’s clean ceramic tiling and a welcoming logo -so familiar across so many new towns that it somehow means nothing. Ahead of passing shoppers and an entwined waiting couple, three acrobatic children spin head over heels on a tubular safety barrier, like hanging bats on a steel branch. They are protected by duffle coats and fearless, too slight to ever hit the ground. Somehow in this experimental landscape of Craigavon, with flat roofs that will eventually collect rain and need to be adapted and redesigned by resourceful inhabitants, Victor Sloan records the immersion of youth and the quiet integrity of those now navigating their new land.

As Sloan’s working process evolved, so did its form and, as with the territory he would draw source material from, complications arose. The structural pins of the council offices, once photographed from a discreet distance as a topographical study to mark the establishing of local authorities, would eventually return in the work, its Meccano-like frame now held in a tight cold-blue composition. As just one element in a compressed assemblage of caravans, passing traffic and foliage, it is part of a stifling, boxed-in geometry. Against the blue wash of the print, red pastel mark-making pronounces itself. Whether an echo of the notations of architects, or scrutineers–or whether a natural borrowing from the graffiti that increasingly marked the roadways and walls in this new land, the red markings seem troubling additions. Sloan also exploits photography’s privileged rendering of scale and perspective. In one of the most curious of these works a handful of people seem to huddle close together in some intimate parliament. They seem so closely engaged, yet so helplessly exposed by the rising slope that conspires to place them, doll-like, atop a paint-daubed wooden shed…weathered forms, ragged against the waning daylight. 

Victor Sloan’s revisiting of the earlier material overwrites a less complicated time and Drift as an exhibition privileges us with this knowledge and context. In a photograph of a play area, now closely cropped and congested, a child is neck deep in the sandy soil of a play pit, head and limbs now ringed by the marks of some more knowing deliberation. Against a roadside junction box, hand-painted with the logos of paramilitary groups, small red circles seem to mark where something troubling may have come to rest. In another picture, the red line draws out an individual from a softly focused crowd at night, as they stand a few steps from what maybe a police jeep. Pastel marks alert us to the places where danger may lie, where evidence was found or innocence lost.

 Bus Stop, Craigavon, silver gelatin print, toner and oil pastel, 24cms x 25cms, 1985

The Craigavon photographs mark a moment of departure on so many levels. To those seeking a new beginning, to those escaping a past…the work Sloan made over that time follows an era of optimism, through uncertainty and ultimately to the onset of tensions that would lap at the tarmac shores of this newly built island. Whether it would ultimately be understood as the Promised Land or as another jigsaw piece in a region that comprised the Murder Triangle, will be answered in time. New beginnings, it would seem, are not exempt from older reckonings…

Pinebank Community Centre, Craigavon, giclée print on dibond,106.68cm x 55.8cm, 2014

In recent months, Victor Sloan has return to photograph Craigavon. The brick and tile shopping centre and wider precincts seem to have weathered but are mostly intact. Commerce and livelihoods have survived the many storms that would blow across the decades. Yet now, the buildings seem subdued in these quiet, colour photographs–perhaps even looking somewhat smaller than we might have believed them to be in the wide-eyed early frames Sloan made nearly 40 years ago. After the first swells of a new tide have stilled, after the children had themselves moved further along on that universal journey from innocence to parenthood, Craigavon is no longer a new start but instead a complex and sprawling conurbation. Now it has its own history and deeper shadows. Victor Sloan seems conscious of this – why else might he take a photograph of an overgrown, abandoned playground, a picture that can only be a counterpoint for a much louder moment, one made early in his long engagement with Craigavon, when he saw children run joyful and free, on a more cared for, open ground?

Ken Grant
November 2014

Pinebank Community Centre, (Sandpit), Craigavon, giclée print, 50.8cm x 35.56cm, 1984 
Legahory Shopping CentreCraigavon, giclée print, 50.8cm x 35.56cm, 1982

Shopping Centre, (Children Playing),Craigavon, giclée print, 50.8cm x 35.56cm, 1985
Ridgeway, Craigavon, giclée print, 50.8cm x 35.56cm,1982
Lake Road, Craigavon, giclée print, 50.8cm x 35.56cm, 1984
Hospital, Craigavon, giclée print, 50.8cm x 35.56cm,1987
Shopping Centre, (Sign)Craigavon, giclée print, 50.8cm x 35.56cm,1982
Building the Civic Centre,Craigavon, giclée print, 50.8cm x 35.56cm,1982
Statue Unveiling, silver gelatin print, toners and oil pastel, 26cms x 26cms, 1985

Ka Fue Lay, giclée print on dibond, 29.7cm x 42cm, 1984
Moyraverty Community Centre, Craigavon, 182.88cm x 95.67cm, giclée print on dibond, 2014

Moyraverty Shopping Centre, Craigavon, giclée print on dibond, 106.68cm x 55.8cm, 2014

Cafe, Moyraverty Community Centre, Craigavon, giclée print on dibond, 106.68cm x 55.8cm, 2014

Shopping Centre, Craigavon, giclée print on dibond,106.68cm x 55.8cm, 2014

DRIFT: Victor Sloan was exhibited at the F E McWilliam Gallery and Studio, 6 December - 28 February 2015,