Articles on this Page
- 05/13/11--03:04: _VAN: May/June 2011
- 08/21/11--11:46: _Sergei Sviatchenko,...
- 08/21/11--11:59: _‘Collective Conscio...
- 08/21/11--12:03: _Harin Farocki ‘Reco...
- 08/21/11--12:12: _Niall De Buitlear ‘...
- 08/21/11--12:15: _Ian Burns ‘supreme ...
- 01/21/12--12:34: _Jim Ricks ‘Death an...
- 01/21/12--12:38: _‘In Other Words’’ L...
- 01/21/12--12:46: _Dermot Seymour ‘Fis...
- 02/23/12--03:36: _VAN: November/Decem...
- 02/23/12--04:38: _VAN: January/Februa...
- 03/21/12--13:54: _Sylvia Grace Borda ...
- 03/21/12--13:58: _John Ryan ‘Polyptyc...
- 03/21/12--14:01: _Ben Reilly ‘Cyclops...
- 03/21/12--14:03: _‘The mind was dream...
- 03/21/12--14:06: _Isabel Nolan ‘A Hol...
- 03/21/12--14:09: _Richard Gorman ‘Koz...
- 03/27/12--07:53: _VAN: March/April 2012
- 06/20/12--08:14: _‘Convergence: Liter...
- 08/07/12--08:10: _VAN: May/June 2012
- 05/13/11--03:04: VAN: May/June 2011
- 01/21/12--12:38: ‘In Other Words’’ Lewis Glucksman Gallery 22 July – 30 October 2011
- 02/23/12--03:36: VAN: November/December 2011
- 02/23/12--04:38: VAN: January/February 2012
- 03/27/12--07:53: VAN: March/April 2012
- 08/07/12--08:10: VAN: May/June 2012
The Visual Artists News Sheet
1. Cover Image. Sean Lynch ‘Me Jewel & Darlin’ installation view, O’Connell Street, Dublin. (featuring a reproduction of Harry Clarke’s The Last Hour of the Night 1922)
5. Roundup. Recent exhibitions and projects of note.
5. Column. Mark Fisher. In Defence of Genius.
6. Column. Emily Mark-FitzGerald. All Change.
7. Column. Jonathan Carroll. Bretzels & Beer.
10. News. The latest developments in the arts sector.
11. Regional Profile. Visual arts resources and activity in Donegal
15. Profile. Approaching Critical Mass. Jason Oakley takes a virtual
walk-through of the main exhibition spaces for Dublin Contemporary 2011 with the curators Jota Castro and Christian Viveros-Fauné.
16. Profile. Good from Bad. Ciara Peters profiles the aims and achievements
of Creative Limerick
17. Art in Public. Everyday Friction. Sean Lynch discusses his project ‘Me
Jewel & Darlin’ (Archived in our Articles Section)
18. Introducing: Critique. Critical Critique. Later this year The VAN will
launch a new reviews section entitled ‘Critique’. By way of introduction, we
present the winning entry of the recent OBG / VAI critical writing
19. Profile. Gifting Shock. Tonya McMullan discusses her project ‘Give &
Take’ that featured a collaborative process involving 10 artists from
Scotland, Northern Ireland and the USA
20. Art in Public. Unabashedly Instrumental. Jason Oakley reports on – The
ethics of collaboration within socially engaged arts practice – a seminar
devised by The Fire Station Artists’ Studios, Dublin and hosted by
The National College of Art and Design (11 March 2011). (Archived in our Articles Section)
21. Profile. Lost in Leitrim. Joanne Laws reports on The Leitrim Sculpture
Centre’s recent exhibition entitled ‘Commons’
22. Profile. Manhattan Microscope. Ben Crothers and Rebecca Gilbert (1)
Discuss their curation of Goldenm Thread Gallery’s showing at the 2011
edition of Scope art fair in New York (2 – 6 March 2011)
23. Opportunities. All the latest grants, awards, exhibition calls and
27. Career Development. Ongoing & Roundabout. Ailbhe ni Bhriain tells the
story-so-far of her career as a professional visual artist. (Archived in our Articles Section)
28. Regional Contacts. Visual Artists Ireland’s regional contacts report from
29. Profile. In & Out of Place. Paul Murnaghan introduces Place, a new
contemporary visual arts venue in Gorey, Co. Wexford
30. Conference. Buzz Phrases & Brainstorms. Sara Baume reports on ‘MOOT VII:
Inno-vision – Art, , Education and Innovation’ an event held at The Butler
Gallery, Kilkenny on 4 February.
31. Discussion. Powerpoints & Brass Tacks. Curt Riegelnegg reports on “What
Do You Stand For?” a forum for independent and alternative visual arts
spaces, held at The National College of Art and Design, Dublin on 12 March.
Sergei Sviatchenko’s Mirror by Mirror is a tribute to Andrei Tarkovsky’s Mirror. The installation takes up three gallery spaces; two for the artist’s 14 large printed photo-montages and one for screening Mirror. In the middle room, a black and white grainy two-minute film by Sviatchenko, Street and White, follows a girl dancing happily down a side street, waving a strip of white paper and making it float across the screen as she moves while behind a curtain next door, Tarkovsky’s autobiographical Mirror plays again and again, a moving reminder of how your attention can be drawn to small things and to a personal dimension within the expanded time of continental film-making. As well as a screening of Mirror, on 30 July the show also hosted a lecture by Marina Levitina of TCD, exploring history and memory in Tarkovsky’s film.
The large format exhibition catalogue, which includes even larger folded posters, is an indispensable key to the exhibition, to its background and relation to Tarkovsky; so necessary that its texts (by Tarkovsky’s sister and others) should also be pasted on the walls of the gallery. The catalogue contains many of the same images montaged in the installation (but on some sheets not exhibited the stills are themselves cut out into shapes, pasted onto card, as objects handled by people in a three-dimensional space who are in turn photographed). There are also poems by Sviatchenko, a Ukrainian living in Denmark, which help to understand this work. The selection displayed on the walls, featuring a child, mother, father, a couple, are abstractions, combinations of black and white frames from Tarkovsky’s film, discarded at the time and now in Sviatchenko’s possession, cut out from their context and juxtaposed to colour photographs of people and to flat saturated colour backgrounds.
Although Sviatchenko wanted to: “create connections between fragments of consciousness and unconsciousness, and to show how important those flashes of feelings are to our existence”, as he says in a note in the catalogue, it is the homage aspect which dominates the installation, because ultimately his construction is overshadowed by the achievement it is celebrating. In Mirror, abstract history is brought into a live conversation with the everyday and with the witness’s own experience, childhood, and family history, as Tarkovsky’s sister explains in her essay of reminiscences and commentary. Sviatchenko’s homage serves as an architectural frame to the film, above all memorialising his experience which, in my view, remains very private. Montage here is far from the dynamic, cinematic form theorised by Eisenstein, Vertov and practised by Godard; but it does manage to bring into the gallery space something about the towering figure of Tarkosky.
It so happens that Mirror by Mirror coincides with ‘Sound and Vision’, the film strand of this year’s Skibbereen Arts festival which includes Gerard Hurley’s The Pier, just premiered in Galway, Marine Court Rendevouz, an intriguing installation between documentary and fiction by Chris Petit and by the amusing English writer Iain Sinclair, with voiceovers of texts and combinations of documentary footage and imaginary stories and, among other works, Nebula by Mary Wycherley and Hah by Wycherley and Mary Noonan. The problem is that the implicit minimalism of such works, rarely leading to metaphor or symbol or worthwhile formal experimentation, reduces the opportunities of cinematography to exploring the movement of a hand out of focus or dancing along a surface. In this respect, such works are a cipher of ‘canonical’ moving image for the (art) academy; of what it deems acceptable. However, this type of practice is challenged here by other works also featuring in this year’s Skibereen Arts Festival; the more substantial The Window, by Julius Ziz, a Lithuanian who lives in Clare and exhibits internationally. I say ‘substantial’ because The Window explores cinematic language more than the installations by visual artists in the festival, but also Albert Lamorisse’s fiction film short, the classic Red Balloon (1956) and Pierre Perrault’s and Michel Brault’s quasi-ethnographic documentary Pour la Suite du Monde (1962); an important cinéma vérité filming of old fishermen of Quebec.
The hinge for viewing ‘Mirror by Mirror’ is Michail Bakhtin’s “dialogism” translated into “intertextuality” by Julia Kristeva –how a text or an image is not a standalone, but dialogues with other works, intentionally or unintentionally. Both theorists explored creatively how artists create and works are received. The dialogism, real or imagined, of Tarkovsky and Sviatchenko, and the inevitable internal dialogue of any work, and the external overlapping, I have already described. Maybe this is where active participation begins.
Dr Brancaleone teaches at LSAD. He has contributed articles to Circa, Enclave Review, Stimulus Respond, Vertigo, and Experimental Conversations, Muse, Italian Studies, Per Leggere, Artists Newsletter, Arts Business Exchange, British Journal of Sociology of Education, and Irish Educational Studies Journal. He has recently made four art documentaries and is currently researching Godard and planning to translate into English texts on film by Cesare Zavattini.
Galway’s oldest and most established artists collective, Artspace, marked its 25th birthday at the Galway Arts Centre, with ‘Collective Consciousness’ a month-long exhibition of selected members work, running alongside a programme of workshops, talks and discussions. Sixteen artists exhibited works over two floors of GAC with one room designated as a satellite space for the studios – transposed from Artspace’s home in the industrial suburbs of Galway into the heart of the city. This adjunct studio space functioned as a publicly visible and accessible art- laboratory; occupied by Artspace members in relays. These mini-residencies provided visitors with intimate encounters with various art making processes – as well as producing the context for a series of workshops and talks. These pedagogic and discursive events included sessions on collaborative drawing and a Sumi Ink Club workshop with Anne O’Byrne – intriguingly entitled Drawing to fortify social interaction. These events also aimed to entice debate and interaction with sister art collectives in Galway, such as 126 and Lorg Printmakers.
The characterisation of the show as a ‘collaborative event’ mirrors the trajectory of Artspace over 25 years. As a collective, its mission has been to evolve an artistic community with shared values of creative support and cultural exposure. Its arc of experience spans the studios founding in a city centre location (neighbouring the GAC); to moving to the utilitarian Liosban commercial estate. The studio has 21 current members, who each enjoy international careers and established practices. The current show revisits the original ideological intentions of the collective, as senior founder Catherine Ó Leanacháin asserted in her opening speech, to represent and confirm the collectivism and collaboration of Artspace.
The works in ‘Collective Consciousness’, curated by Maeve Mulrennan, displayed some ingenious interpretations of the title, which was derived from the terminology of the French sociologist Émile Durkhiem(1858–1917). Dukheim used the term to refer to shared beliefs and moral attitudes that “form a determinate system with a life of its own. It can be termed the collective or common consciousness.”(1) It is an idea that brings to mind notions of the ‘hive mind’. An illustration of this latter concept was wittily expressed in Lisa Sweeney‘s Hive, a small shack or hut sized construction in salvaged wood encasing the recorded sound of buzzing bees. The ‘entrapment’ alluded to in this sealed scrap-cabinet, problematised the acceptance of a hive mind in society or politics.
Political systems were satirized more furiously in Ben Geoghegan’s Notice to the Public, a framed copy of a local government public notice hung ominously in the stairwell of GAC confronting the visitor with this mandate: “You cannot participate in any debate…” This piece proved an effective antithetical manifesto for the exhibition, evincing the obvious benefits of enlightened and accessible approaches to public engagement. Geoghegan’s exposure of the methodologies of power, relating to suppressing discourse and exchange, directly contradicted and complimented those of Artspace’s expressed mission.
Simon Fleming’s assemblage Lo que hago para my vecino el lo hara para mi, a miniature favela of cardboard lean-to’s, floated high above a debilitated ladder, alluded to dysfunctional collectives in the wider world. The implied inhabitants of Fleming’s favela are poorly served in this imagined zone, its ground an industrial pallet loosely strewn with a mat of Astroturf. Fleming’s work offered a dystopian metaphor, which pricked the conscience – as we all know our world is one where most must live in very unsympathetic conditions.
Social or collective turbulence was lyrically regarded in Louise Manifold’s Flock of Falling – an animated film portraying cascades of falling birds, a phenomena she encountered in the US where reported showers of birds plunged from the skies. This work could be read as an analogy for reversals of the natural order and other environmental upheavals. Intense relationships with nature were explored by Laura Brennan in her mysterious landscapes – three paintings on canvas were redolent of contemporary tropes of abstraction. But the works were also sometimes accidentally figurative – via the play of paint on surface. In Brennan’s Wild Wood a perfect forest of intricate trees emerged from the physical, material suction of oil paint off the surface of the canvas.
The most gratifying works in this show were those that responded to the theme – and overall the diversity of interpretations prompted humorous and unexpected connections. Some of the more provocative translations of the notion of ‘Collective Consciousness’ included Kathleen Furey’s Once in a Lifetime – a ‘wonderkammer’ of compiled objects and imagery. The deceptively child-like simplicity of Furey’s motifs revealed a complex psychological depiction of states of awareness and belief. Mariann Hughes Browne’s paintings of swimmers appeared suspended in pools of consciousness. Dave Finn’s All my Shite Ideas, was a collection of his worst artistic ideas on scrunched up paper, thrown high up into a suitable corner of the gallery. This was the perfect resolution for some bad art by a good artist – executed in a spirit of consciousness about what being in a collective means.
Dr Áine Phillips
1. Emile Durkheim quoted in Kenneth D. Allan (2 November 2005). Explorations in Classical Sociological Theory: Seeing the Social World Pine Forge Press. p. 108.
The Model, Sligo has a good track record of introduc- ing Irish audiences to important international artists and Harun Farocki, once described as “Germany’s best known unknown filmmaker” is a good example of this. Harun Farocki’s long career spans several dec- ades. The Model is showing a selection of Farocki’s key installation works, along with weekend cinema screenings of his films.
The title of the show – ‘Recognition and Tracking’, is apt when describing Farocki’s work as he has spent over 40 years tracking and critiquing how the technology that produces images has developed; and how these images are utilized by powerful insti- tutions. This technology is eventually subsumed into the leisure and entertainment industries in the form of computer gaming, Sat-nav and the recent unset- tling use of voice and face recognition in gaming and other social network sites.
Farocki employs a range of filmic techniques ranging from montage, surveillance, military and video game footage. His earlier work bears all the hallmarks of agitprop cinema and some engaging pieces are to be found for viewing in one room, but it is Farocki’s video installation work that makes it worth the trip to The Model. Since the early 90s Farocki has consistently engaged with the space of the art gallery or museum as a place to encounter his work. As such his work has been hugely influential on at least one generation of video / film installation artists.
Farocki’s films are in a constant dialogue with images and image making, and with the institutions, which produce and circulate these images. What is most compelling about Farocki’s work is the way he uses images to critique the production and consump- tion of images.
In the galleries are four of Farocki’s best known video installations including the intriguing Deep Play (2007). First shown at Documenta XII Deep Play is a 12-screen projection documenting the 2006 world cup final from multiple viewpoints and from a varie- ty of media sources: FIFA footage, artist’s own footage, stadium surveillance footage and 2D animation sequences. Deep Play, which runs for the actual length of the football match is a visual slice and dice of imagery, a dozen different perspectives from various technologies shown simultaneously (including pre- sumably Zidane’s infamous head butt.) It could be described as visual overload but in fact the display of multiple screen showing multiple forms of images is becoming commonplace for the sophisticated viewer of today and for the general user of visual media. Deep Play is a complex and engaging piece that asks the viewer to consider the nature of what we are seeing and also whether by seeing too much are we missing the ‘actual’ event?
It is widely accepted that military technology has filtered down into the leisure industry. However, in Serious Games I – IV (2009-2010) Farocki examines how computer animation and video game technolo- gy is used to train American soldiers before battle and also used therapeutically by allowing soldiers to re- enact previous combat trauma again in the virtual world. Each sequence explores a different facet of the central themes of the work; the connection between the computer game, real war and therapy.
In one sequence – entitled Immersion, a series of double screen projections show soldiers / players and the virtual world they are engaging with as a form of preparation for the real combat terrain they will eventually enter. The soldiers, sitting at screens, guide their avatars through the eerie terrain, themselves guided by a therapist who prompts them to explore their feelings as they relive the trauma of the event. In another sequence Watson is Down a trainee’s avatar is killed, the soldier watches as his avatar’s fic- tional death is referred to with the term “down” or “out” as if in a game. The soldier’s reaction is one of dismay and frustration yet his expression shows how impossible the simulated “down” of a fictional death will ever prepare one for the real thing.
Perhaps the most chilling of the pieces in the exhibition is the installation The Eye/Machine (2000- 2003). Farocki’s eye, unlike Digov Vertov’s Man with a Movie Camera examines the mechanical gaze, an unknowing eye that sees. ‘Man’ is taken out of the equation, as it is the machine eye that roves, seeing all but knowing nothing. Farocki gained incredible access to footage from so-called “intelligent machines” used during the Gulf War. Bombs with cameras attached to them relayed images straight to a compu- ter that was able to adjust the bomb’s trajectory as it headed towards its target. Machines talking to machines was once the realm of science fiction. “Eye Machine” skilfully examines, how all to quickly the human eye can become irrelevant.
The fourth work Workers leaving the factory for 10 decades (1995) is an engaging montage of some moments from recognisable films such as Lar’s Von Triar’s Dancer in the Dark of people doing just that. As well as positioning a chronology of images of repre- sentations of workers, Farocki alludes to nostalgia for a traditional type of work, to cinema as a mode of production, and the “dream factories” of Hollywood’s golden era.
It has often been said that great art has the potential to change the way we look at the world and Farocki’s work is not for the rushed museum visitor. Each of Serious Games I_IV last for 15–20 minutes, Deep Play is the longest piece about two hours but a lengthy stay is a richly rewarding one. Farocki’s work deserves a wide audience here in Ireland and he is certainly something of a coup for Model Arts Centre. Farewell to the tag “Germany’s best known unknown filmmaker” – Farocki is arguably Germany’s most important and influential filmmaker.
FROM afar, on a window, the drawing looks like a tribal pattern of circles and white contour lines. It is so smooth it could be a transfer or a large window sticker. When I come up close I can see that it was not made by a machine – as I had initially thought – but by hand with an ordinary white paint marker. Thus begins my experience of Niall the Buitlear’s show ‘Out of Order’ at the LAB in Dublin; an exhibition that presents a body of work that operates on two levels: from a distance and up close and personal.
Entering the main gallery I encounter what feels like the heart of the exhibition, a series of dark small-scale sculptures, carefully displayed inside three glass vitrines. They seem like solid, heavy objects, perhaps made of clay or ash and perfectly geometric, though with slight variations in height, shape or width. They resemble miniature buildings, slightly alien, with expertly twisted turrets and towers, or a series of experiments of someone trying to build a new contraption.
Viewing these works at close quarters, one can see traces of the artist everywhere, in the silver working lines of a pencil or on a small edge where one strand of paper (for they are made of ordinary black paper) meets the next. It’s enjoyable to see this indication of process, the slight irregularities. De Buitlear has stated that, “the [works] are not perfect or geometric, that is not their purpose. If they were, that would be something a computer could do” (1).
The other work downstairs consists of a series of framed drawings with white lines on the same black paper. At a distance they look like ground plans or maps and at the same time remind me of Mayan or Aboriginal art, the primitive patterns evoking something mysterious. On closer inspection the lines are slightly transparent and not so rigid. It is hard to gain access to the meaning behind this work, because it is so focused on the surface, as if the artist was totally absorbed in the process of making.
On the walls in the upstairs gallery hang another set of drawings, black ink on white paper in the shape of cartoon speech bubbles. They are based on a misreading of a photograph of a three- dimensional sculpture, pictured from above so that,
to the artist, it appeared to be a drawing. From afar the drawings look almost tangible yet after zooming in they become interesting in their unevenness, the overlap of marker on marker, the slight quiver of a line. I’ve started to look for these marks now, minuscule signals of the artist.
In an interview conducted after I’d seen the exhibition Niall and I briefly spoke about the type of art some men make, ‘macho’ art, the art of biennales – shows of power and might. This work isn’t about making grand, sweeping statements. It doesn’t talk about war, poverty, sex, love, lust or desire. All the works in his show are small, quiet, refined even, a continuation of previous work. Niall didn’t want to make large works with a ‘wow’ factor, the kind of work people enjoy purely because of its scale or complexity.
I asked Niall if he avoids direct references. He stated there are no obvious reference points, rather, there is an elemental aspect to this work that could relate to a number of things: minimalism, aspects of craft, design and utilitarian objects. But also symbolism, the occult, Neolithic stone engravings, ancient Irish mark-making – “The process is to discover something rather than to project something out, so it’s bound to hit on similarities to other things.”(2)
The works in this show focus on the act of making – so much so that the materials, unlike some of Niall’s earlier work, cease to talk about the outside world. They become tools of expression and of process, functional and formal, as if they exist only to give shape to drawings and sculptures. Niall agreed, “now it’s just about materials from an art shop, so that the other elements can take over” (3).
This work is undoubtedly about process – and it is highly personal; the artist followed a nearly instinctive and subjective path, each piece referencing a specific thing, an earlier work perhaps, or a chance encounter. It might have been a challenge for some visitors (who didn’t get the chance to interview the artist after seeing the show) to fully experience these nuances in the work – to get into them, so to speak. What remained for the viewer were marks, traces, echoes of the artist’s physical presence on the outside surface of works that describe an inner world.
1. In conversation with the artist.
How did he do that? All nine pieces in ‘Supreme Fiction’ – Ian Burns’ show of works from 2005 to 2011 at the Butler Gallery, Kilkenny pose that question. Each is an assemblage of wires, video screens and ‘stuff’—a mirror ball, a dustpan, a chair, and a light bulb—brought together to create visual, aural and kinetic experiences where the whole is definitely greater than the sum of its parts.
In six of the works, video is at the core. But these are not video pieces in the traditional sense. The screen is integrated into the sculpture and the works question your perception of what you think you see. There is, as Burns put it during his talk at the gallery, a tension between what his video imagery and sculptural elements suggest and their actual make-up from found objects and various assorted ‘stuff’. Burns thus draws the viewer into an active, rather than passive relationship with his works. The key question isn’t just merely, “how?” – when you realise that what you thought was a polar icecap, is in fact a scratch on the wall. Instead you begin to wonder about our unquestioning acceptance of what we see on screen. The fact that Burns challenges us to do so in a way, which is neither patronizing nor disdainful of the viewer, is a testament to his openness to the viewer, as well as his technical skills.
And skill is a keyword for this exhibition. For Burns, one of the intriguing issues in contemporary art is the relationship of art making and skills. As the artist explained in the gallery talk, in the studio he “creates his own dilemmas”, plays around with and “gives in to” his materials. For example a wooden ruler, which he found on a window ledge at his studio at IMMA, was –re-purposed as a flagpole in The alternative you have when you are not having an alternative; in Spirit, hurleys and spirit levels serve as struts and supports.
But the role of re-deploying ‘stuff’ in his work goes beyond that of merely challenging ideas of perception or making skills. Specifically, Burns’ work embeds and references various ideas and meanings. For example, the crystal plate in Glacier is part of the internal narrative of the piece – referencing items carried on fatal Arctic expeditions. The number of editions – 15 – Burns made of Making an Image is not arbitrary. The work, which references Olafar Eliasson’s Waterfall Project for New York, references the value of the commission – $15 million (www.nycwaterfalls.org). A recent work, In Increments, created specially this Butler Gallery exhibition, is according to Burns, something of an exception – in that it isn’t concerned with delivering ‘meaning’ in terms of references, but rather engages the viewer through the artfulness of the construction. The work comprises a series of light bulbs that project through magnifying glasses and incorporating a timing system, that project a number of random words onto the wall. The mechanism produces clicking sounds as the switches for the bulbs go on and off. The construction and aesthetic of this work makes it a viscerally appealing piece.
For this viewer, it was one of the more satisfying pieces. Another was Colony Cam. One of Burns’ earliest works – this assemblage contains fewer physical objects than are found in the others. Here the focus is the image on the screen, which you gradually discover to be neither the real-time representation of a coloniser’s flag, nor the creation of one by the artist. Rather it is an illusion produced using a piece of paper on a pin. What In Increments and Colony Cam have in common is a kind of autonomy, a separation from the artist and his intent, which allows the viewer greater freedom in responding to the work.
It may seem impertinent to suggest that an artist of Burns’ calibre, with an already established international reputation, is not quite there yet. But Burns is a relatively ‘young’ artist, having graduated from art college less than 10 years ago, and it is not unreasonable to suggest that he is still exploring his materials and honing his technique. In all his pieces, there is a sense of intelligence and engagement with materials, the viewer and the world. And there is also a certain playfulness, never flippant. But in my view, some of his works seem to be too tightly controlled. For example – the four- wheeled drive turning the globe in Makin’ Tracks is a bit of a one-liner – consumerism making the world go round. In my opinion, Burns approach could be looser, allowing some instinct to take over from intellect.
Overall though, Given Burns’ engagement with issues of process and his exploration of issues around viewership, I believe that the evolution of his work is well worth following—an evolution that will, I suspect, shift viewers’ engagement with his work from questioning “how?” on to an admiring “wow!”
Mary Catherine Nolan
The recent exhibition ‘Death and Sensuality’, shown this fall at the Mina Dresden Gallery in San Francisco, succeeded in its intended purpose: to promote Irish culture within an American context. Curator Jim Ricks utilized a curatorial framework, loosely inspired by George Bataille’s Eroticism: Death and Sensuality. He presented a diverse range of contemporary Irish artists, unified by their tactical use of appropriation to dismantle and rupture traditional notions of place, political failure, the representation of war, artistic licence, identity, longing, and desire. From the outset Ricks identifies common themes such as uprootedness, constructions of identity, the dislocation of memory, shadowy presentations of history, and ambiguous attachments to place or country.
Roisin Byrne, Not Abel and Benjamin DeBurca re-envision previously completed artworks by other artists, inserting themselves into a direct dialog with these works. This elevates the artworks beyond their original context and the broader concerns of each artist. Roisin Byrne interrogates ethical considerations within art through her work, Massage, which implicitly questions ownership. Byrne aggressively appropriates Ryan Gander’s work Massage; thereby subjugating it to her own line of questioning, wildly beyond Gander’s original intentions and without his permission.
In Romantische Reise Durch Das Alte Deutschland (A Romantic Journey Through Old Germany), Benjamin DeBurca cuts structured frames of clean lines into images of romantic German landscapes from the 1800s. He physically inserts a new subtext of geographical and cultural dislocation into remote representations of place, entrenched in an idealised past.
Nina Amazing and Alan Butler examine pop culture’s fascination with social media, self-representation and parody. Beneath these lie a dark undercurrent of superficial beauty and garish displays of assumed American exoticism. They are reflective of a larger global culture gone awry, a lost world of hypocrisy set against a heightened backdrop of war. Amazing’s digital collage presents an army of plastic pastiche-horror troops, dressed in ironic costume and weaponry, vying for the camera’s gaze. Butler recasts characters from a promo for Sex in the City as unwitting, oblivious targets, in a video lampooning consumer culture.
In The Logical End of All Media, James McCann tackles the themes of sensuality and death. Excerpted YouTube videos of excessively overweight men – stroking and caressing their ample flesh anonymously – are transformed into a series of ambiguous, visually sumptuous filmic episodes. They demonstrate an annihilation of the body, beyond health, into erotically charged flesh that hovers between states of extreme neglect and desire.
Alan Phelan’s Watch with Brian the Birth of a Nation is a pointed commentary on the political climate of present-day Ireland. His crafty mask of former Taoiseach Brian Cowen, a face that may not be readily identifiable to an American viewer, satirizes political accountability and degeneracy. Phelan’s depiction of Cowen has exaggerated features that recall Honoré Daumier’s timeless caricatures.
Painter Leo McCann portrays a Fauvist, deeply personal narrative of comical isolation and insularity in (Protected Corner) Under Arm Alarm (Table) and Doing No Great Harm. Breda Lynch and Tom Molloy re-interpret violent shared histories in fiction and in Europe’s recent past, respectively. Meet Your Doppelganger Then You Die by Breda Lynch comprises two rendered portraits of the same film still of Jane Fonda in period costume, with a hang man’s noose around her neck. By creating two images of the same scene, Fonda’s image is doubly locked in a highly rendered state of trauma, mimicry, and a self possessed, outward gaze of infallibility. Tom Molloy re-frames a photograph of Joseph Goebbels surrounded by his family, and a drawing of Benito Mussolini with his wife, at their hanging. He forces the viewer to confront the subject’s humanity, to consider Goebbels in the context of familial life and Mussolini on his passage into death.
There is coherence between these Irish artists, many of whom made new works specifically for this exhibition. The individual works carve out their own space, but remain relevant to a more general discourse on the global arts. Jim Ricks’ thoughtful curation allows the viewer to perceive transgressive notes of both death and sensuality, and American audiences seeing work by these artists for the first time, will discover a new reference point for contemporary Irish art.
‘In Other Words’, the group exhibition at the Lewis Glucksman Gallery, transforms the 26 letters of the alphabet into fugitive non-conformists. Neon letters cling indecipherably to a wall, three- dimensional letters are projected falling down the face of a building, other letters seem brash and bolshy, taking the place of the art they are supposed to describe by inflating their own titles. Above all, this exhibition is concerned with the artist’s physi- cal use of text and the potent ability these humble symbols have to light fires in our brains.
Kay Rosen’s work has a spare and pared-back aesthetic. Phantom Limb in Gallery 1 comprises the over-sized white letters ‘p’ and ‘b’, spaced some distance apart against an otherwise black wall. Her strategy, using the work’s title to explore the viewer’s ability to fill-in and complete an artwork, continues in her work Tent in Gallery 2. Rosen examines our ability to construe meaning, while traversing the slippery boundary between reading and seeing. Peter Downsbrough, using a similar aesthetic, utilises our movement through the gallery as a means to heighten communication between his two works. Downsbrough’s pieces are physically slight and, like Rosen’s, ensure the complete work is visible in the mind’s eye of the viewer.
One of the strengths of this exhibition is the man- ner in which it expands upon a subject matter predominantly associated with cerebral activities. ‘In Other Words’ examines the means by which our bodies and their location in the world are implicated and contribute to word formation. Short Cuts, by Erica Van Horn and Simon Cutt, is a walk-in installation derived from an earlier publication. The artists collected verbal expressions from areas around England that describe a narrow passageway between buildings. The quantity and diversity of the words are remarkable but their colour and flair are flattened by an intentionally homogenised presentation in the gallery space.
In White Calligraphy Re-Read, Takahiko Limura explores how nuanced tones can become manifest when words are embodied. In this video work, Limura returns to a 1967 film in which he scratched characters from Kojiki – an early Japanese text – into 16 mm film. The original film has been digitised and is played in the gallery at a slower speed, enabling the artist to voice charac- ters which the video pauses upon.
Many of the pieces in the exhibition use the words of their titles to form the fabric of the artwork. Michael Stumpf’s Massive Angry Sculpture renders these words, expressively, as heavy three-dimen- sional objects stacked upon each other, while the light resin material and timber supports provide contrast through their inherent vulnerability. In Sema Bekirovic’s video work How To Stop Falling, the letters in the title are filmed falling, one at a time, down the facade of a tall building. Tim Etchell’s two part neon work, Will Be, has the viewer scanning the wall of splayed, brightly coloured letters in search of the strident assuredness of neon. The letters re-assemble on a nearby wall, coherent but somehow frustrating. In all these cases, the manner in which the artworks are executed tugs at and resists the direct self-referentiality implied by folding the title into the artwork.
On the window next to Will Be is a small rectangle of text printed onto transparent adhesive. This tract is one of three ‘provocations’ written by Gra- ham Allen, the co-curator of the exhibition. Allen uses these provocations to complicate a piece of work and to emphasise the many academic disci- plines relevant to the exhibition. In this particular text, Allen cites William Blake’s comments on the unsettling quality of words carved into stone, and their terrifying irreversibility. Central to this ex- hibition is a similar commitment to resisting the fixed shape of words. There is enormous scope to expand upon the ideas in this show, stretching and testing the visual power of words, but ‘In Other Words’ embraces the challenges of the subject matter with energy and rigor.
‘Fish Flesh and Fowl’ at the Golden Thread Gallery in Belfast is a retrospective of Dermot Seymour’s painting, spanning four decades. The show is large, with over 50 paintings and to see his work en masse in this way, it is hard not to be impressed by his singular, unchanging approach to the subject matter: the politics and culture of Ireland.
The politics of Northern Ireland has shaped much of the identity of the arts scene there since the 1980s, and Seymour has managed to carve out a particular niche within that canon. His detached, starkly realist style of painting, populated with animals and headless figures tottering precariously on precipices, sit somewhat uneasily with Northern Irish political artwork. The curator, Jim Smyth, remarks in the accompanying catalogue:
“In the sense that Seymour considers painting to be a means to an end, a way of transforming ideas into tangible form, he stands outside the mainstream tradition”.1
Seymour himself sees his work as closer to the tradition of magic realism, which would seem a much fairer assessment than the largely conflicting critical responses to his work, which have situated him within the realms of photorealism, surrealism and even postmodernism. Echoes of Frida Kahlo’s straightforward representational approach to imagery is evident in much of Seymour’s work. Yet, where her work focuses on the deeply personal, Seymour’s cool detached eye never seems to turn towards the self. His personal vision charts the world around him, the politics and landscape of Northern Ireland in the 1980s and the 1990s examined with unflinching rigour.
For this exhibition, the curator has examined what he considers the four distinct phases in the development of Seymours’s work. The first phase is the early works that explore ‘the troubles’ and the conflicting identity of Northern Ireland, as seen through the eyes of a young man from the working class, loyalist Shankhill Road community. The second phase – from the mid 1980s to the early 1990s – explores the political landscape of Northern Ireland, which perhaps to an outsider, is a bewildering and densely tangled affair. As Smyth says
“It is the juxtaposition of symbolic images, historical references a rag bag of illusions, an upended cabinet of curiosities that draw the confused viewer into these paintings”.2
One particular painting from this era, View from a helicopter with sophisticated surveillance equipment, is a particular comment on the British military presence in Northern Ireland. The image is split between a close-up of a woman’s legs and an aeriel view of fields. This impossible dual perspective could be read as a metaphor for the convoluted politics of Northern Ireland. The third phase of Seymour’s work sees his move from Belfast to the rural west of Ireland. Here the paintings explore wider issues of man’s inhumanity to man with themes of war and politics set in a wider context, albeit through twilight zones populated with animal and bird metaphors and allusions. His more recent phase, in particular the ‘Eyed’ series, focuses on portraiture. Through it, he has explored the corruption and excesses of Irish society and politics under the ‘celtic tiger’. Portraits from politics and media, such as those of Brian Cowen and Irish footballer Roy Keane, sit happily beside all manner of beasts and fowl. In one particular painting, from the series ‘Hiberno God’, a baboon stares wistfully out of the frame, not at us the viewer but beyond, perhaps at the world at large or his place within it. His eyes glint with an uncanny humanity that is absent from many of the human faces.
The exhibition is collated from both public and private collections with contributions in the catalogue from Ireland’s leading literary figures, Seamus Heaney and Dermot Healy. The show will travel widely in Ireland and also to the Centre Culturel Irlandais in Paris.
Many critics have commented on the literary nature of Seymours’s work and his work has graced the covers of literary anthologies. But perhaps it is best to let the pictures be pictures and express something in that way, rather than be reduced to language. Seamus Heaney says of the work, “What I admire about Seymour is that he has no obvious design upon me but leaves me alone with things that are entirely persuasive in their own right”3
One of the more recent paintings, Hiberno Head, expresses something of what Heaney describes. A headless figure presents a fish to us – the viewers – from a twilight landscape. The image is in one way powerfully literal, but also expresses something nameless, something beyond words. Heaney writes: “His [Seymour’s] technique in the immediate painterly sense seems to me unquestionable, but he has a technique in the more important sense that the poet Patrick Kavanagh once assigned to it , when he defined it as ‘a method for getting at life’. And the fact of the matter is that getting at life is extremely difficult”.
1 Jim Smyth Dermot Seymour ,‘Fish, Flesh and Fowl’: A Retrospective, 2011, 11
2 Ibid. 12
3 Seamus Heaney on Dermot Seymour 2011
The Visual Artists News Sheet
5. Column: Emily Mark-FitzGerald. Renaissance Realities
5. Roundup: Recent exhibitions and projects of note
6. Column: Mark Fisher. Maoism and all That
7. Column: Jonathan Carroll. Love Lyon
8. News: The latest developments in the arts sector
9. Editorial: Noel Kelly. All great truths begin as blasphemies
10. Issue: Alex Davis. The Artists’ Resale Right (Archived in our Articles Section)
11. Regional Contacts: Western Contact Point—Aideen Barry and Pauline Hadaway Interview—Laura Graham
12 . Profile: Helen MaCormick. The Gold Coast
12. Profile: RobertPeters. SeacourtPrintWorkshop
14. Profile:GaynorSeville. Landmark Public Art Programme
15. City Limits: The Garden Shed. John Kelly
16. Residency: Unknown Territories. Sinead O’ Donnell
17. Residency: Public House. Maeve Mulrennan 18. Critique. (Archived in our Articles Section)
19. Profile: Drawing on Rocks. Michael Timmins
20. Opportunities: Grants, awards, exhibition calls & commissions
The Visual Artists News Sheet
5. Roundup. Recent exhibitions and projects of note.
5. Column. Jonathan Carroll. Smells like Postmodernism.
6. Column. Emily Mark Fitzgerald. State of the Arts.
7. Column. Mark Fisher. Towards a New Mainstream.
8. News. The latest developments in the arts sector.
10. Regional Profile. Arts Officers. Sarah Searson looks at the status of Arts Offices across the country.
12. Profile. Estate of Mind. Mary-Ruth Walsh discusses her recent performance/installation ‘Real E- State’. Archived in our ‘Articles’ section.
13. Interview. PAC Man. James Merrigan talks to Cian O’Brien about his new role as Director of Project Arts Centre, Dublin.
14. Profile. Message in a Bottle. Vera McAvoy discusses the ‘Honeycomb’ project, achieved during her residency at Stradbally, Co. Laois on the Arthouse NCAD award and bursary.
15. Critique. This four-page section features six reviews of exhibitions, events, publications and projects – that are either current or have recently taken place in Ireland. Archived in our ‘Articles’ section.
16. Opportunities. All the latest grants, awards, exhibition calls and commissions.
19. Interview. New Context. Marianne O’Kane Boal talks to Aileen Burns and Johann Lundh, the new co- directors of Context Gallery, Derry. Archived in our ‘Articles’ section.
20. Regional Contacts. Visual Artists Ireland’s regional contacts, Laura Graham and Aideen Barry, report from the field.
22. Profile. The Performance Process. Pauline Keena discusses her performance process with Estonian artist Sorge (Margus Tiitsmaa).
‘Churches’ is an exhibition by Canadian photographic artist Sylvia Grace Borda. What is usually an open plan exhibition space has been radically altered to accommodate this show, transformed literally into a foyer and a large black box. Even the ceiling has been lowered and covered with large black tiles. A slightly claustrophobic atmosphere prevails. In the foyer a glass-covered display table houses ceramic ware loaned from official government collections as well as antique shops – a kind of political memorabilia, which also represents the kitsch tourist souvenir one might have carried home 50 years ago to hang on the wall. There is also a table with books, provided by Borda, which have influenced her practice or relate to the subject matter.
A walk along a short corridor leads into the black box, where the main works are situated. The first, entitled Churches, is a video featuring 100 images of churches across Northern Ireland, which is projected onto the back wall of the space. The second is a beautifully executed installation, Coming to the Table. It comprises a long, boardroom-type table, covered in black fabric, with three black pendant lights hanging low over it, creating three pools of light on the black cloth. On this table are 16 ceramic plates, photo-printed with images from the projection. Although there are seats, and the audience is clearly able to handle the work (and has, I’m assured, moved the plates around themselves) I feel somewhat alienated. There is a sombre presence to the work, a feeling that these seats are already taken, that I am excluded from whatever discussions might take place here. The projection, however, draws me in immediately. These unnamed mid twentieth-century churches are displayed very formally in circles, echoing the plates on the table; they are surrounded by black and devoid of people. I find myself looking for clues in the closely framed images. Every so often, the denomination or some details about the community become clear – through a small sign or bold lettering across a church door. There is a really fascinating array of shapes and sizes, some incredibly ugly and plain, others quite interesting architecturally.
Borda has made it very clear that she is framing this work from the point of view of an outsider, but not that of a tourist. In an insightful essay by Robin Laurence, which accompanies the exhibition, he states that she works “not from a documentary impulse but from a conceptual one”.1 There is no doubt that many historical and social contexts are referenced in these works alongside references to many previous photographers including Eugene Atget, Walker Evans and Bernd, and Hilla Becher. The word ‘church’ refers not only to the buildings, but to the institutions and their clergy, as well as to the service itself. Borda appears to be interested in the aims of Modernist architecture, especially in relation to churches, where design was reduced to function and form.2 Most were ambivalent and ambiguous in terms of denomination. The churches shown come from this Modernist tradition, and demonstrate a stripping back of materials and ornamentation. In the context of Northern Ireland’s recent history this is especially interesting. Focusing on churches from unspecified denominations, for tourists to collect, points at Northern Ireland’s growing tourist industry since the Troubles ended, while the table metaphorically refers to the peace process. Northern Ireland’s ceramic production industry is also represented in the display cabinet and referenced in Coming to the Table. What is also worthy of note is that these churches are all closed, they appear inaccessible, unpopulated, and inward looking. This juxtaposition is an area Borda exploits.
In this ‘Churches’ project, which Borda began in 2009 and worked on for two years, she attempts to explore what churches represent and perhaps to understand a situation that she herself had no innate knowledge of. Some of the references are a bit literal, but she has been successful in identifying the perfect vehicle for this exploration and displaying it beautifully. Borda has uncovered a much-overlooked area of Northern Irish culture, as well as cleverly turning some traditions on their head. It is difficult not to bring a certain amount of baggage to our reading of this work, but that, perhaps, is why Borda’s perspective is so valuable. The circular lens of her camera simultaneously invokes both distance and focus.
is an artist and writer. She is Associate Editor at JAR (Journal of Artistic Research) and teaches at IADT, Dublin.
1. Robin Laurence, Silvia Grace Borda: Erasing the Divide, pamphlet accompanying the exhibition at belfast Exposed 2. Many of the churches shown were built by Liam McCormick, born in Derry, who was widely regarded in the second half of the twentieth century as the ‘father of modern church architecture in Ireland.’ See the Irish Architectural Archive: http://www.iarc.ie/exhibitions/0010.html
As an exhibition, ‘Polyptych Subsets’ questions whether an artist can allow an artwork to ‘cause’ itself. John Ryan outlines his own practice in terms of contingency, what might or might not happen, experimenting with “what paint can do itself when exposed to the elements, air and gravity”. Broadly speaking, the moment an artwork is made can been seen an intersection between disjunctive and conjunctive potentialities. Artists use the world as material, they make objects into things: things that could push apart, and things that could come together, things that work, and things that do not work (together). But Ryan’s art practice undercuts systems of art making which insist that events can be predicted, or proceed from some sort of necessity. He transforms our understanding of artwork by allowing the paint itself to think autonomously of the subject (the artist), who also thinks. Ryan’s experiments in and with paint can be understood as an experimentation with points of control and points of exposure; exposure meaning an opening where a unknown aspect can come in, and control meaning the artist’s decision to use paint, to use frame or floor or plastic bag, and the decision to allow gravity, time, and other external forces to decide the outcome of the work. The frame no longer determines the text or context.
In the case of Painting 2, these points of control and decision mark the historical and referential dimensions of the work. They reuse terms already known to us: the frame, the gallery, and even oil paint as a medium in itself. But these terms are coloured by a seepage, an oozing, a sliding down. Through a lack of intention that has been ‘let in’ these works grant access to potential that could not have been forethought or foreseen by the artist in their entirety. It is as much about what paint itself can do as what Ryan can do with paint.
Ryan’s exhibits take up Slavoj Žižek’s challenge, “to discover trash as an aesthetic object”.1 In Hanging Bag and Pile he succeeds in objectifying paint, forcing painting and sculpture, artwork and material together in a new synthetic excrescence. As we enter the gallery space, we feel that what’s before us is the posterior residue of an unknown activity that appears to have no sense behind it. However, what Ryan’s practice embraces is not senselessness, but rather the demand of sense unto itself. These works create new economies of meaning and value out of what seems redundant – paint, card, plastic bags, insulating tape, shampoo – forcing the medium (oil paint) to be recognised as an object in its own right, rather than simply the means to create an object: paint as paint not paint on a painting. Objects that were originally functional, and deemed useless, are given meaning, as Ryan re-creates and re-enchants them. For Žižek, uncovering the aesthetic dimension of trash is “the true love of the world”.2
Theoretically speaking, Ryan’s work – his haptic, sentient, and viscous art – challenges the idea that paint is passive matter. His object-oriented art articulates a jumpy materiality where paint has efficacy, can do things, and has sufficient capacity to produce effects, bring about events, interrupt, and become an obstacle (it would be quite easy to walk into Ryan’s floor painting for example). This method lends ‘Polyptych Subsets’ an open structure where indeterminacy and the incompleteness of form are celebrated. Ryan revels in viscosity; he is intrigued by mess, disarray, that which leaks, sticks out, or is sticky. This exhibition, like Nikolas Gambaroff’s ‘Male Fantasies’, which ran recently at the White Cube Gallery, is peopled by a variety of objects entering into new relationships, which turn the gallery space itself into a landscape of vibrant materialities. The Joinery became a space where human and nonhuman actants were intermeshed, a place where contingencies played out (or didn’t).
What sets Ryan’s style apart is, perhaps peculiarly, what he does unintentionally. Paradoxically, allowing space for contingency within the work is what gives this exhibition, and Ryan’s practice as a whole, its edge. The stuff of his practice is essentially decomposable, biodegradable, fated to pass away, to lose its identity as thing and to become again no(n)-thing. Looking at this exhibition, another question takes shape: What will remain of it? What will float on the surface? What will survive of ‘Polyptych Subsets’? This, finally, is what’s left to chance, and we are left with the giddy feeling that some of Ryan’s work might never dry.
is an artist and writer working in Dublin.
teaches Continental Philosophy at Independent College, Dublin.
1. Slavoj Žižek,‘Ecology’, Astra Taylor (ed) Examined Life: Excursions with Contemporary Thinkers, New york, The New Press, 2009, 163 2. Žižek,‘Ecology’ , 2009, 166
Two shows opened at the Courthouse Gallery, Ennistymon, in the new year. Inside the main gallery were the prints and sculptures of Ben Reilly, and in the Red Couch Space upstairs, the ceramics of Jackie Maurer and paintings by Fiona Woods.
In the dimmed lights of the main gallery space, the sculptures in Ben Reilly’s exhibition appear like manifestations of an ancient surrealism: there is Fog, the union in wax of a horn and a traffic cone; there is
Barge, a rather large fish floating over a small boat, both covered, not in pitch, but black wax; perhaps most striking is Tank, a mummy-like figure whose distorted limbs, either bandaged in rubber inner tubes or covered in gold leaf, protrude at odd angles. These objects look halfway between religious relics and archaeological finds and their embalmed appearance relates to the artist’s enduring fascination with bog bodies.
Reilly’s series of prints, which use photographs or x-rays, are lent a similar decayed, organic look, through the graininess achieved in the photo etching process. In Cancer Head, for instance, the acid bites are linked to the disease, the moss-like growth on the print becoming malignant cells. Sharing similar territories with Hughie O’Donoghue’s paintings, Christian and mythological themes frame the enhanced materiality of Reilly’s bodies, giving them a transcendental horizon.
The name ‘Terrascope’ ties together the two words ‘terra’ and ‘scope’, reflecting upon the work of the two artists showing in the exhibition. Terra, the physical substance of the earth, and scope, to bring the breadth of the planet’s events into focus. As a ceramist, Jackie Maurer’s primary site of engagement is the earthly substance, although the art of ceramics might be conceived as removing the clay far from its primal origin to achieve exquisiteness. Three series of thrown porcelain pieces are presented here, variations on two simple forms: the pot Converse, and the cut out rim Transverse. They have then been twisted and folded, pinched and sealed, lightly brushed with glazes or left raw. The circularity of the rims has been disturbed by a wave-like movement, the capacity of the vessels sealed as a form of self- fulfilment. Maurer’s objects keep close to the function of the craft, while challenging their supposed purpose.
Fiona Woods’ series of paintings present a different approach to her interest in the transitional space between art and life, which she previously explored through posters, publications, installations, or sculptural projects in the public realm. In a folk- like, naive style, the works on paper and reclaimed wood spin together visual elements and references from mythology, history, and contemporary media, to reflect upon our contemporaneity with a simultaneously facetious and earnest purpose. The recurring Babylonian theme, for instance, has direct resonance with our financial woes, as these words in Study for Babylon Landscape suggest: “The eye of Babylon turning everything to gold”. As eyes multiply across several paintings, however, one wonders if the eye-like knots in the wood did not come first after all, suggesting reciprocity between subject and medium. In Wildlife Documentary, the hunting scene is depicted in a style recalling cave paintings, but the TV-set brand name, carved at the bottom of the panel, makes it more likely to be the recorded experience of a viewing audience than a hunter. The paintings on reclaimed wood work particularly well. This support not only offers the specificity of shape, size, and grain of each piece for the artist to elaborate upon, but it also furthers the recycling strategy developed through the imagery.
Although very different, the two exhibitions invite some comparisons. Both Ben Reilly and Fiona Woods have made use of mythology and materials that are found rather than made; the bog oak aspect of Reilly’s sculptures have a counterpoint in the raw, salvaged pieces of timber used by Woods. Furthermore, they both introduce modern elements – image or material – as counterpoints. But, where Reilly grabs the modernity of an x-ray image and plunges it back in the ageless darkness of the Cyclops myth, Woods goes the other way, having the archaic speak to our most recent actuality. In The Black Queen of Ennistymon, for instance, there is a playful interplay between title, form, and style in the effigy of the British monarch as a Black Madonna – an allusion to her recent visit to these shores, which reignited unresolved issues from Ireland’s colonial past.
is a writer on art based in Galway. She is currently collaborating with James Merrigan on the art publication, Fugitive Papers.
Dreams typically take us into the realm of wonder, horror, or a mixture of both. They leave us feeling elated, pensive, gasping for breath, or shortchanged when we wake. The selection of paintings, watercolours, sculpture, and video, that constitutes Solstice Gallery’s ‘The mind was dreaming. The world was its dream’ reminds viewers of these experiences by immersing us in a series of parallel realities, each one curiously out of sync with our own. Curated by Jacqui McIntosh, the exhibition presents antique boxes haunted by miniature illusions, absurdly proliferative bodies, and numerous instances of shadowy environments and blurring atmospheric effects.
In the exhibition, viewers experience a series of transitions taking them from a bright, light filled area into darkness. The journey begins with Diane Copperwhite’s high-keyed canvases that employ various configurations of rainbow-like colours. Here, sequences of prismatic tones imbue cloud forms, obscure detail, and reference objects lodged in semi-realistic spaces. An Abstraction of You translates facial features into a vivid atmospheric display, and a descending fog envelopes indistinct figures in The Scene Stealer. Viewers must make sense of the distortions and incomplete details, the references to refracted light, and the collections of abstract, natural, and domestic elements: features that often dissolve into one another. Moreover, atypical relationships of time and place, exemplified in An Island from the Day Before or Electronic Fossil on the Beach, force us to consider their emblematic nature.
The second gallery holds one of Michael Kalmbach’s paper-maché sculptures, plus a host of his mysterious figurative watercolours depicting bodies sprouting bodies, scatological excrescences, and other semblances. In Frau mit mehreren Kopfen / Woman with Many Heads, the human form becomes a tree-like organism bearing an affinity with the vegetation that surrounds it. The image is at once poetic, primitive, and subtly perverse. His sepia toned Großer Männlicher Mensch / Tall Male Human Being engenders similar responses. It features a human smokestack out of which a massive dense plume of swirling heads and limbs ascends, as well as smaller independent figures who are oblivious to the fleshy turbulence above them. Such enigmatic and evocative scenarios conjure up a host of associations. Do they represent nightmarish phantoms, visions of an outsider artist, or family trees? Standing out among the selection is the humorous Erde Verschluckt / Swallowed up earth, a diminutive rendition of a pear-shaped man with a sickly expression across his face. “Oh Scheiße ich hab die Erde verschluckt,” (Oh shit I have swallowed the earth) he says. A diminutive female, next to the subject, possibly represents the man’s conscience. She retorts “du Sau!” (You pig!). More illustrative than moralistic, this cartoon-like depiction of gluttony offers a marvelous inversion of scale.
The plaintive strains of an accordion and sounding of chimes condition responses to the work by adding a meditational air, and help draw visitors through the exhibition to the third and final space – a darkened sanctum holding Hiraki Sawa’s videos, and the source of the soundtrack. Sawa’s projections mingle domestic interiors, miniature objects, and outdoor views to create dreamy incantations that induce marvel and restlessness. Regretfully, one consequence of being exposed to a multitude of blurred details and drifting clouds of dust and smoke is an impending sense of tedium. The jerky movement of cogs in Sleeping Machine 1, derivative of work by Jan Švankmajer and others, tends to reinforce this impression. But Sawa’s contribution still offers many rewards. Some of the surrealistic tableaux, for example, witnessed in the miniscule Within are visually stunning. Moreover, the deceptively uncomplicated. For Saya, a small two- channel black and white video of a skipping woman that plays in a stereoscopic format, makes an even stronger impression. Rather than enhance the action, the intentionally unsynchronised pair of feeds create a most engrossing disjunction.
The title of the exhibition, a quote that McIntosh borrowed from the Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges, reminds us that that there are no limits to what can be experienced through dreams. The exhibition, on the other hand, provides a glimpse into this realm. While the works convey a potent dream-like aura, they also make us aware of how difficult it is to come to terms with such illusions. In the memory, dreams exist as visual fragments; their relevance typically remains unclear. The images in this exhibition allow the viewer to revel in the processes of remembering and deciphering. This adds up to a highly rewarding experience.
is a graduate of the Ontario College of Art and the University of Toronto. Currently based in Dublin, his writing has appeared in Sculpture, Framework – the Finnish Art Review, Art Papers, and other publications.
A dignified brown donkey greets the viewer at the entrance to Isabel Nolan’s solo exhibition at The Model, Sligo; its seductive implacable eyes gaze out from the large-scale photograph presaging the qualities and properties of the work to come. Nolan writes in the elegant catalogue accompanying the exhibition, “I am able to articulate afresh an ambition for a work of art. I wish it to be compelling, somehow appealing, powerful, inscrutable, and vulnerable but obstinate, much as is a donkey”.1 The diverse collection of sculpture, drawing, painting, and collage that comprise this show fulfills her ambition well.
Nolan’s dramatic sculptural works, some like scrambled spaghetti doodles, others like frenetic geometric puzzles, dominate the spaces of The Model. They are variously sized articulate scribbles demarcating space, constructed with hard steel tubing but covered with soft delicate fabrics. Nolan’s precise, feminine sewing over-dresses the machismo of these formalist and minimalist reference points. She quotes the conventions of minimalism with her repetitions of single symmetrical objects, while subverting, utterly, Sol Le Witt’s dictum of “least emotive forms”.2 Through her titles, With Shadows All About Us (2011) (steel, cotton, silk-blend, thread), Entering the Eye of the Dream (2010) (steel, cotton, silk, thread), and the taut Holding It In (2011) (steel, paint, MDF), she draws us into her inner world – an emotional space of expression and desire.
The notion of sculpture as an enclosed category of things, separate from objects in life, is debunked in Nolan’s work. She expresses cerebral and optical ideas about objects that have physical relationships with the real world. Her eloquent forms rest on cushioned poufs, indenting their obtuse and sprawling bodies on the soft upholstery. Others stand on pert plinths reminiscent of trendy Scandinavian furniture. Everything is beautiful, both sculptures and their stands are hand crafted with an obsessional regard.
Nolan has a lust for pattern; we see it in the manufactured fabrics with tiny geometric motifs clothing her metal loops, or the embroidered, appliquéd wall hangings created on bolts of woven, patterned textiles. Pattern is also evident in her repetitions of white plaster, mixed media spheres in The Slow Movement (2011) (plaster bandage, polystyrene, paint), a series of hand shaped balls strung together, spread out on the raw floorboards dividing a space. The low winter sun blushing over the powdery spherical surfaces and casting long shadows into the room held this reviewer in poetic thrall, reminiscing on Miroslaw Balka’s diagonal version of this concept – a string of fragrant, pastel soaps entitled Hanging Soap Woman (2000) (soap bars, string).
In The Model’s white rooms her works are fully at home: an intelligent, humorous index to the history of sculpture and design. The public works, however, lose meaning and are neutralized in the civic space. They don’t refer to the lived-in, urban environment around them in an accessible way. The Outward Form (2011) (mild steel, paint) is a public sculpture commissioned by The Model, which stands at the base of the building’s historic facade. It appears incoherent and somehow lost there, set off to one side, not large enough to vie with The Model’s architectural grandeur, and difficult to access physically and intimately on the sloping gradient. I suspect the general public is wondering what it means, and why it is there, in much the same way that the users of Dublin Airport, Terminal 2, are nonplussed by Nolan’s monumental Turning Point (2010) (rolled steel, paint). This piece has been widely criticized as a confusing object without meaning or relationship to its site, although powerful in scale. Nolan could do some valuable work here in communicating her intentionality and the meaning of her work more effectively with local audiences outside the gallery context.
The 2D works she explores are full of longing. In The Time Yet to Come (2009) (pencil, water colour on paper), Miracle of the Sun (2008) (water colour, acrylic on canvas), and Fear of the Future (2009) (water colour, pencil on canvas), the artist invests all the content that is sucked from the more formal sculptures; she explores the figure, animals and the natural world in scratchy, fragile lines and violent colours with a demure, illustrative style. As we look through Nolan’s ‘hole’ into the future we see animals performing our human roles in a post global-warming, apocalyptic environment.
A short drive from The Model to Carrowkeel, and the Sathya Sai donkey sanctuary elucidates further some of the donkey-like qualities of Isabel Nolan’s work.3 She has a bold, wild streak, despite the careful formalism of her work. Stubbornly true to itself, at times articulating itself with a startlingly loud and deep voice, there is a loyalty to rigorous practice in her work and a solid grounding in the natural world. All in all, just as deserving and fascinating as a lovely donkey.
is a mulitmedia performance artist. Recent exhibitions include Kyoto Art Centre, and NON Festival Bergen. She co-curates Live@8 and is Head of Sculpture at the Burren College of Art.
1. isabel Nolan, Intimately Unrelated, The model Sligo and musee D’Art moderne Saint-etienne metropole, 2011, 176 2. Sol le Witt, quoted in Andrew Causey, Sculpture Since 1945, Oxford paperbacks, uK, 1998, 122
3. Sathya Sai Donkey Sanctuary, Carrowkeel, http://www.donkeys.ie/
‘Kozo’, currently showing in the Kerlin Gallery, comprises a body of work created by Richard Gorman on textured paper, handmade by the artist himself in Japan, after which the show is titled. “Just buying the paper doesn’t seem to be enough. I like to give value to the object I’m going to paint.”1
From a visual point of view, there are two distinct parts to the show. Three of the gallery walls are filled with a sequence of 19 works, each featuring a unique combination of coloured shapes. The final wall displays 40 works of equal size, but with a strictly muted and limited palette, which are combined to create one large piece.
Unframed and lightly pinned to the wall, my first impression of these 19 individual works was of a progression of dynamic, coloured shapes, hovering along the perimeter of the space. The palette varies, alternating between strong, bright colours, more muted colours, and the potential in juxtaposing the two. In Slice Blue, the more active yellow and orange shapes advance towards the viewer, compared to the more recessive blue and green shapes, creating a sense of balance. Having also previously worked in oil, Gorman’s use of gouache here adds a richness and weight to the coloured shapes.
Within the boundaries of the paper, these shapes overlap into a series of singular compositions. K Flick fans out like a rather fantastical pack of cards, while in Slice Blue a green ball squeezes against a blue capsule shape which is partly covered by a yellow half-capsule, all contained within an orange background. Intricate in arrangement, portraying Gorman’s sense of spatial and compositional awareness, a number of works also exude a certain playfulness. There is no apparent pattern to the sequence of images, which become an experiment in the limitless potential combinations.
In some of the works, upon closer inspection, the under-drawings become visible, and it is interesting to note that the coloured blocks do not always adhere to the preliminary drawing; perhaps a first layer has been covered over by a later one so that none of the colour remains, only a suggestion of the shape. Regimented as they may seem, it becomes apparent that the process is still organic and that the works may not always have been fully imagined before
Gorman began working on them. The unique combinations of geometric shapes – both curvilinear and angular – ensure distinct overall contours in each work. In Lime Lean, an almost traditional ‘X’ made of capsule shapes is thrown off balance by a more angular shape imposed on top, creating an asymmetrical contour and slight visual imbalance.
This approach recurs throughout the sequence, where the ends of shapes are unexpectedly chopped off, leaving a hard edge. The negative space created between the bold shapes and the boundary of the paper effectively assumes almost equal importance, becoming a secondary shape in itself, and momentarily allowing the coloured shapes to emerge as more three-dimensional forms.
At first, All Wall – created by pouring dyed paper pulp into moulds and onto freshly made wet paper – seems somewhat at odds with the rest of the show, perhaps a little overpowering after the intimate close up viewing of the smaller pieces. However, on closer reflection, the maze-like effect of the combined works becomes equally engaging as the eye is drawn to the white spaces between the shapes, trying to find a logical route through them, and invariably reaching an impasse. This alternative way of considering the spatial dimension between shape and paper’s edge opens a dialogue between All Wall and the gouaches.
Contemporary Irish art is not without its abstract painters. While the work and surrounding literature of many artists still evoke the subtle influence of, for example, landscapes – Sean Scully and Felim Egan, amongst others – Gorman’s works are distinctly non-objective, existing in their own reality. Released from relating to anything else, the works become purely a celebration of expression through the fundamentals of colour, line, and shape in the space they co-inhabit.
‘Kozo’ offers the viewer a visual treat. The sequence of gouaches displays a consistency in approach but without repetition. Each work merits close inspection regarding its particular compositional attributes, while the handmade paper is itself an important feature of the show, culminating in the prominent All Wall. The visual elements and their compositional arrangements are the subject of the show, and we need not look beyond them, but merely enjoy them for exactly what they are.
lives and works in Dublin. She has worked in Talbot Gallery & Studios and the Oisín Gallery, as well as having curated independently, and currently manages 9 Bond Street Photographic Studios. Her writing has featured in Paper Visual Art Journal and Circa online.
1.C Dwyer,‘The Art of reinvention’,The independent,15 January 2012
The Visual Artists News Sheet
5. Column. Emily Mark Fitzgerald.
5. Column. Jonathan Carroll.
6. Roundup. Recent exhibitions and projects of note.
7. News. The latest developments in the arts sector.
9. Regional Profile. Visual arts resources and activity in Limerick.
16. Issue. When Trust Proves to be Misplaced. Noel Kelly discusses best practice for artists faced with a lack of payment from galleries.
17. Profile. An Gaelaras. Marianne O’Kane Boal discusses Irish language arts resources in NI.
18. Profile. Quantified Self. Sheena Barrett, Cliona Harmey & Kieran Daly discuss the recent collaboration at the LAB, part of Innovation Dublin 2011.
19. Critique. Our 4 page Critique supplement features six reviews of exhibitions, events, publications and projects – that are either current or have recently taken place in Ireland.
23. Seminar. Trade Secrets. Ruth McHugh profiles the Trade:Artists in Conversation seminar. Archived in our ‘Articles’ section.
25. How I Made. Pure Imagination. Angie Duignan describes her recent exhibition at the V&A Museum of Childhood. Archived in our ‘Articles’ section.
26. Seminar. Talking Shop. Rayne Booth discusses two recent seminars on repurposing vacant space.
27. Interview. The Artist’s Retreat. Sarah Searson talks to Robbie McDonald of the Tyrone Guthrie Centre.
28. Opportunities. All the lastest grants, awards, exhibition calls and commissions.
30. Residency Profile. Thou Shalt not Covet. Aoife Collins discusses her recent residency at IMMA.
31. Issue. The Artists’ Charter. Alex Davis discusses the new artists charter compiled by VAI.
32. Profile. Curating in a New Light. Marianne O’Kane Boal describes her curation of the Wexford County Council Art Collection.
33. Regional Contacts. Visual Artists Ireland’s regional contacts report from the field.
33. Art in Public. Public art commissions; site-specific works; socially-engaged practices; and other forms of art outside the gallery.
34. Interview. Collective Memory. Colin Darke talks to Manuela Pacella and IlariaLoquenza about an upcoming exhibition at Golden Thread.
35. Residency Profile. Cardboard Cities. Anna Wnuk profiles Sinead B Cashell’s residency in Poland
‘Convergence: Literary Art Exhibitions’
Golden Thread Gallery, Belfast
16 June – 6 August 2011
Curated by Dr Christa-Maria Lerm Hayes, ‘Convergence: Literary Art Exhibitions’ attempts – and I would argue, succeeds – in exploring the way(s) in which many contemporary artists appropriate from; and are inspired by, various works of literature. It considers the many relationships between art, literature and exhibiting, opening up potential ways of thinking about and / or of seeing these relationships. The narrative is of a cyclical nature, reflecting the process of making work from work, which in turn gives rise to other work and so on.
The exhibition is divided into four rooms, with an additional two reading spaces, and two more separate works – one of which, by Michalis Pichler, serves as an introduction to the exhibition, as a kind of prelude or prologue. The second, by Eric Zboya, emphasises the cyclical nature of the show, joining beginning and end and signifying a visual invitation to start again. Another element of the show was simple shelf in the foyer housing the sort of tourist material often associated with visiting literary monuments or museums, highlights the distance between that kind of material and the conceptual works in this exhibition.
The first work encountered is a Michalis Pichler’s Un Coup de Dés jamais n’abolira le Hasard (2009) – a musical piece represented on video. The title refers to a visual poem by Stephane Mallarmé, which had been made into a new work by Broodthaers, blacking out the words into a graphic pattern. Broodthaers’ piece in turn was reinterpreted by Cerith Wyn Evans (who has work in another room), who cut out these black lines. Finally (or maybe not) Pichler has mounted these cut out pages on an automatic piano mechanism, essentially making the poem a piece of music. This intriguing and satisfying piece exemplifies the kind of layering and multiple readings of work which underpin Convergence.
There is a quiet logic to the layout of the show, relationships which link one room to the next or refer back to other ideas already expressed. The tendency is to lose yourself minutely in each individual work and come back to the space to realise the broader connections between that piece and others in the room, an overview of how things fit together, a sort of micro and macro view. Julie Louise Bacon’s intriguing works, Lonesome No More (Or An Homage to Kurt Vonnegut) and The Twins (both 2011), reflect this double perspective on the world through her two viewfinders, one of slides of the New York skyline, the other of the earth from space. The jigsaw puzzles of war-torn remains in Afghanistan are re-assembled as swirls on the wall, reminiscent of galaxies in space or being sucked into a vortex. A looking from without and within. Vonnegut’s black humour is reflected in the afghan carpet with motifs of tanks and guns and the twin tower plinths on which the puzzle boxes sit
Several trains of thought run through this exhibition, which sometimes accentuate the separate rooms, sometimes override the distinctions between them. The concept of monument is teased out in several of the works, especially those of Sean Lynch and Andrea Theis, exploring how writers or works of literature are honoured, questioning how the canon is understood, challenging that and re-interpreting it. These explorations highlight the need for multiple readings of work, that no single interpretation should or could be absolute or final. A piece of work made from or inspired by a writer or work of literature may after all be the most appropriate form of tribute. Monuments imply fixed, final, dead. That cannot be said of literature which is renegotiated, reborn with each new reading, encouraging critical consideration of the world we inhabit, when we re-emerge from this other space.
Re-writing, close reading, drawing practice, inscribing and writing by artists: all are represented. The relationship between writing and art has a rich and broad base and although it is not new, as evidenced by the various generations of artists (and writers) represented (and referenced) in this exhibition, it owes much to the work of writers, artists and even composers from the 60s and 70s, including John Cage, James Joyce, Stephane Mallarmé, Kurt Schwitters, among many others, who were then beginning to explore interdisciplinary practice. Curators such as Harold Szeemann have explored this area, but only in the last few years do we see these references to literature curated into international and highly regarded exhibitions. What was once considered sterile or non-political is now being appreciated for its depth and breadth, its ability to consider the human condition, how we think, how we communicate with each other. The relationship of language to human existence is central and in my opinion this exhibition, which brings such a diverse range of works and artists together with this central concern, is an important one. It is an exhibition which demands time, but one which is dynamic, inspiring and long overdue. You will want to see it a second time.
‘Convergence: Literary Art Exhibitions’ is on show at Limerick City Gallery of Art during September 2011.
5. Column. Emily Mark Fitzgerald.
6. Column. Jonathan Carroll.
7. Column. Mark Fisher.
7. Roundup. Recent exhibitions and projects of note. The latest developments in the arts sector.
8. News. The latest developments in the arts sector.
9. Regional Profile. Visual arts resources and activity in Cork.
14. Regional Profile, Iron Age. James Hayes Discusses his Iron R Research Project. Archived in our ‘Articles’ section.
16. Profile. A Red Thread. Joanne Laws discusses ‘working. drawing’ at the Dock, Carrick-on-Shannon
17. Issue. Audience Development. Dr Ian Fillis puts forward his ideas on audience development in the arts. Archived in our ‘Articles’ section.
18.Interview. Bob Collins. Pauline Hadaway interviews Bob Collins about his new role as Chair of the Arts Council Northern Ireland.
19. Critique. Our 4 page Critique Supplement features six reviews of exhibitions, events, publications and projects – that are either current or have recently taken place in Ireland.
23. Profile. The Artist-Led Scene in Sligo. Shane Finan looks at developments in the Sligo art scene.
24. Residency Profile. I’m Squatting in Your Condo. Keef Winter describes his recent residency in Tokyo
25. How I Made. Hall of Mirrors. Ann Cleary talks about Connolly Cleary’s collaborative exhibition at Farmleigh House.
26. Residency Profile. Ebb and Flow. Katie Holten discusses her recent residency at A Studio in the Woods, New Orleans. Archived in our ‘Articles’ section.
28. Opportunities. All the lastest grants, awards, exhibition calls and commissions.
30. Interview. Sarah Pierce talks to Annie Fletcher about curating eva International 2012.
32. Profile. Labour Intensive. Liz Burns profiles the day-long performance/live art event, LABOUR.
33. Regional Contacts. Visual Artists Ireland’s regional contacts report from the field.
33. Art in Public. Public art commissions; site-specific works; socially-engaged practices and other forms of art outside the gallery.
34. Residency Profile. Fire Away. Claire Muckian discusses her recent residency at Guldagergaard, Denmark.
35. How I Made. In Vitae Fantastic. Milada Bacik considers her recent exhibition at The Drawing Room.