Joe Comerford’s involvement with filmmaking began at Dublin’s College of Art in the late 1960s. He made his first short there, Emtigon, about an elderly homeless man intimidating a young woman social worker. It had what became a characteristic of his work, a blend of film narrative and abstraction.
Over time the director’s engagement with both personal and social themes, and developing a film language to serve these themes, continued with his film Withdrawal (1973) an experimental work set in a Dublin psychiatric institution.
It was followed by a community project, Down the Corner, filmed in Ballyfermot, Dublin, in 1976. More realist in style than the earlier films, it focused on a few days in the life of a group of teenage boys and their families
In 1981, Comerford made his first feature, Traveller. An ‘anti- romantic road movie’, it followed the journey of a young newly-wed traveller couple sent to smuggle goods from the north of Ireland, back into the south.
The 1984 short, Waterbag, experimented with forms of narrative and painting on film, to tell a simple story of misbirth, set on board a fishing trawler.
In the late 80s and early 90s, Comerford released two features, Reefer and the Model (1988), a comedy-crime- thriller shot through with the director’s political and social analysis, and High Boot Benny (1993), a deeply personal political drama.
After lengthy experiment, RoadSide (2008) resulted in what is a vivid meditation on the events leading to a prison suicide. It was re-launched, in 2012, as a large, prison-like installation.
Alternating between feature films with a narrative bias, and shorts which tend towards abstract painted imagery, the longer term objective is to tell a story by combining the two strands into a ‘painted feature’.
(Written by Eugene Finn, sourced from the artist on Thursday August 4th 2016)