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VAN: July/August 2012


Cover Image. Doireann Ni Ghrioghair, Ruins, 2012, image courtesy of eva International

5. Roundup. Recent exhibitions and projects of note. The latest developments in the arts sector.
5. Column. Jonathan Carroll.
6. Column. Mark Fisher.
8. News. The latest developments in the arts sector.
9. Regional Profile. Visual arts resources and activity in Fermanagh.
12. Interview. New Directions. Kerry McCall talks to Orlaith McBride, Director of the Arts Council. Archived in our ‘Articles’ section.
13. Issue. Art and the Law. Monica Flynn and Vivian Meacham report on a recent seminar.
14. Profile. Monster Truck. Padraic E Moore looks at the development of Monster Truck Gallery and Studios
15. Profile. Pallas Projects. Mark Cullen talks about Pallas Projects/Studios’ new space and programme.
16. Collaboration. Featherweight Portable Museum. Alissa Kleist profiles a project initiated by Catalyst Arts.
17. Festival. Around the Block. Grace McEvoy reports on Link Culturefest, a BlockT initiative. Archived in our ‘Articles’ section.
18. How Its Made. Factory Direct. Jeannette Doyle discusses her recent work at the Andy Warhol Museum.
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. Critique Special. Static. Emma Mahoney critiques the critics at the ‘Exit Limerick’ graduate review.
24. Event. Get Together. Lily Power gives an overview of the VAI Get Together 2012.
25. Issue. Bite-Size Licensing. Alex Davis discusses licensing and copyright for artists.
26. Seminar. Document! Sabina McMahon reports on a recent seminar that took place at NIVAL.
27. Profile. Model Youth. Marianne O’Kane Boal profiles a recent exhibition put together by young curators at The Model, Sligo.
28. Opportunities. All the lastest grants, awards, exhibition calls and commissions.
30. Profile. Fair Game. Kathleen Madden reports from the first Frieze, New York. Archived in our ‘Articles’ section.
31. Interview. Dublin to Liverpool. David Jacques talks to Mary Cloake, Director of Bluecoat, Liverpool.
32. Education. Drawing Conclusions. Baibre-AnnHarkin looks at 2012 National Drawing Day events.
33. Art in Public. Public art commissions; site-specific works; socially-engaged practices and other forms of art outside the gallery, with a special focus on Mayo Co Council’s ‘Landmark’ project.
34. Regional Contacts. VAI regional contacts report from the field.
34. Issue. Noel Kelly discusses the HEA’s Creative Arts and Media Programme Review announcement.
35. Profile. Forget Fear. Jonathan Carroll reports from the 2012 BerlinBiennale.

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* About Critique


Critique supplement appears with each edition of the Visual Artists News Sheet. In 2011, it was decided that a self-contained section of critical engagement with exhibitions that feature in Irish venues or which feature Irish artists internationally will be a valuable addition to the wide range of vibrant critical writing that exists in Ireland today.

Each Critique features six reviews of exhibitions, events, publications, and projects that are either current or have recently taken place in Ireland or abroad. Critique reflects the broader aims of The Visual Artists News Sheet to be relevant to the broad spectrum of visual artists working in all disciplines. The reviews are commissioned to reflect upon and critique a diversity contemporary Irish visual arts practice – in terms of media, generation and geography. Based on these criteria, the exhibitions that are featured are taken from the extensive listings that are provided to Visual Artists Ireland for inclusion in our eBulletin and online media.

Critique relates to VAI’s commitment to developing the professional contexts and infrastructures for artists working in Ireland, that have included talks and critical writing bursaries developed in partnership with The Lab, Dublin, and are are a key feature of our National Get Together.

The review writers have been drawn from a panel that was assembled from an open call out held earlier in 2011. A rigorous analysis is made of each writers approach to critical engagement. We have strict guidelines that are based on international standards that each writer must adhere to.

Please note that whilst we are very open to being made aware of exhibitions, events, publications, and projects by the provision of press releases and announcements for our eBulletin, Critique only publishes writing which has been commissioned specifically for each edition.


VAN: September / October 2012


Cover image: Colin Darke. For Courbet III (2011)

5. Roundup. Recent exhibitions and projects of note. The latest developments in the arts sector.
5. Column. Treasa O’Brien.
6. Column. Christopher Clarke.
8. News. The latest developments in the visual arts sector.
9. Regional Profile. Visual arts resources and activity in Leitrim.
13. Profile. Space Time Travel. Artist Sara Haq writes about her unique use of barter and exchange.
14. How I Made. The Artist’s Studio. John Beattie describes his upcoming exhibition at the RHA,Dublin. (Archived)
15. Profile. Night School. Áine Macken introduces her unusual night club art classes(Archived)
16. Event. Of Other Spaces. Aoife Desmond reports from Manifesta 9.
17. Conference. Like a Buck. Alan Phelan gives his impressions of a recent heritage conference at the University of Gothenburg.
18. Issue. Are you Re -entering the Art World? Noel Kelly provides advice and guidance for those who are.
19. Critique. Our four-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. Long-term Let. Emma Loughney assesses the long-term sustainability of vacant space initiatives.
24. Interview. First Resort. Jack Nyhans interviews the initiators of a new residency in Donegal.
26. Seminar. Art Law Canada. Kathleen Killin reports from the CARFAC Art and Law conference.
27. How I Made. A Congregation of Vapours. Sound artist Fergus Kelly writes about the production of his new album.
28. Opportunities. All the latest grants, awards, exhibition calls and commissions.
30. Event. 100 Thoughts. Jonathan Carroll reports from Documenta.
31. Issue. In Sync. Maeve Mulrennan details a recent project aimed at engaging autistic children in the visual arts.(Archived)
32. Art in the Community. From Context to Exhibition. Michelle Brown illustrates Create’s Learning Development Programme.
33. Art in Public. Public art commissions, site-specific works, socially-engaged practices and other forms of art outside the gallery.
34. Regional Contacts. VAI’s Northern Ireland Manager reports from the region.

VAN November/December 2012



Cover Image. Dreaming of the Celestial Mountain. Agnes Conway, 2011.

5. Roundup. Recent exhibitions and projects of note. The latest developments in the arts sector.
5. Column. Mark Fisher.
6. Column. Jonathan Carroll.
8. News. The latest developments in the visual arts sector.
9. Regional Profile. Visual arts resources and activity in Antrim.
13. Art and Politics. Living Museum. Brian Kennedy on a recent trip to visit artists in Syria. (Archived)
14. Project Profile. In to the Light. Fiona Fullam talks to Karen Downey about a new exhibition showcasing the Art Council Collection.
15. Festival. Landscape, Change and Flux. Ciara Peters talks to Gregory McCartney about his role as Curator of the Tulca Festival 2012.
16. How is it Made? A Sleeping Face. Agnes Conway on her recent commission for Marlay Park.
17. Career Development. Some Possible Infinities. Alan Bulfin describes working as an artist in Finland.
18. Education. The Artist’s Apprentice. Lily Power talks to Siobhán Parkinson about a new children’s book inspired by Velázquez’s Las Meninas.
18. Policy. Here and Now. Una Carmody gives findings from a recent study of Irish arts audiences.
19. Critique. Our four-page Critique supplement features six reviews of exhibitions, events, publications and projects – that are either current or have recently taken place in Ireland.
23. Festival. The Art of Communication.Yvonne Cullinan profiles the Trans-Art Festival, Cavan.
24. Residency. Artelier. Nick Kaplony describes the Artelier residency programme, run by ArtQuestUK.
24. Profile. John Carrick. John Beattie profiles Firestation’s….JohnCarrick.
25. Policy. Cultural Strategies. Ray Yeates discusses Dublin City Council’s up coming plans for the arts.
26. Artist-led Project. Subject to Ongoing Change. Fergus Byrne profiles The Performance Collective. (Archived)
27. Advocacy. Issue and Impasse. April Britskion CARFAC’s debate with the National Gallery of Canada.
28. Opportunities. All the lastest grants, awards, exhibition calls and commissions.
30. Debate. Remains of the Present. Michelle Browne reports from performance symposium,’Remnant’.
31. How is it Made? Outside In. Suzanne Mooney describes recent work developed in Seoul and Tokyo.
32. International. Notions of Hospitality. Anne Mullee reports from the 2012 Liverpool Biennial. (Archived)
33. Art in Public. Public art commissions, site-specific works, socially-engaged practices and other forms of art outside the gallery.
34. Regional Contacts. VAI’s Northern Ireland Manager reports from the region.
35. Studio Profile. Sustainable Spaces. Maria Tanner profiles a new studio space in Dungarven,Waterford.

VAN January/February 2013


Cover Image. Machteld van Buren, Lady Germany, 2012, collage on paper, 140 x 100cm.

5. Roundup.Recent exhibitions and projects of note.
5. Column. Emily Mark Fitzgerald. Philanthropy and the Arts.
6. Column. Chris Clarke. After the Fact.
7. Column. Treasa O’Brien. Knowing Me, Knowing You.
8. News. The latest developments in the visual arts sector.
9. Regional Profile. Visual arts resources and activity in Clare.
13. Policy. A Structural Necessity? Claire Power considers the issue of internships.
14. International Profile. Collective Citadel. Brenda Moore McCann profiles Cittadellarte in Piedmont.
15. Institution Profile. Go Where There is No Path. Mechtild Manus, the new Director of the Goethe-Institut Ireland talks about intercultural exchange and the Institut’s upcoming programme.
16. Art in the Public Realm: Profile. Home as Universe. Jennie Moran profiles her collaborative art/architecture project with architect Laura Harty, for older people’s housing in Naas, Co Kildare.
17. Debate. Autonomy or Not to Be? Jonathan Carroll reports on ‘Autonomous Practices, Autonomous Objects, Autonomous Institutions’, a debate held at the NCAD Gallery, Dublin (6 Nov 2012).
18. Residency. Unpredictable Rhythms of the Earth. Siobhan Macdonald reports on her residency at the historical seismic observatory of Emil Wiechert in Gottingen, Germany.
19. Critique. Reviews of recent exhibitions, events, publications and projects.
23. Project Profile. Fighting Amnesia. Zineb Sedira discusses her exhibition ‘Becoming Independent’ at the Royal Hibernian Academy, Dublin.
24. Art in the Public Realm: Profile. From Landscape to Artscape. Terre Duffy, Public Art Manager for Donegal County Council, reflects on 21 years of public art commissioning in the county.
25. Career Development. Participation, Process & Partnership. Lisa Fingleton discusses the fundamental values and ideas that have directed her career path. 26. How is it Made? Testing the Limits. Art critic Marianne O’Kane Boal talks to Adrian O’Connell,about the his recent exhibition ‘Off Limits’ at Platform Arts, Belfast
27. Seminar. Who Speaks on Whose Behalf? Dorothy Hunter reports on the seminar ‘On Conflict, Memory and Commemoration’, held at Belfast Exposed on 31 Oct 2012.
28. Opportunities. All the latest grants, awards, exhibition calls and commissions.
30. Project Profile. I’ve Got a Notebook (and I know how to use it). John Gayer discusses the ’Artist Notebook Project 2012′, at the McKenna Gallery, Riverbank Arts Centre, Newbridge.
31. How is it Made? Migration & Transformation. Anthony Haughey discusses’Citizen’, his cross-border exhibition, shown at Highlanes Gallery, Drogheda and Millennium Court Gallery, Portadown.
33. Art in the Public Realm: Roundup. Public art commissions, site-specific works, socially-engaged practices and other forms of art outside the gallery.
34. Residency. Roam Home to a Dome. Linda Shevlin reports on her residency at the Organic Centre, Rossinver, Co Leitrim.
35. Regional contact. Processes of Change. VAI Northern Ireland Manager Feargal O’Malley discusses recent public art projects and commissions.

VAN March/April 2013: ‘Into the Light: The Arts Council – 60 Years of Supporting the Arts’



Mark Garry, Folds, 2010, ‘Into the Light’ Installation view, Model Niland, Sligo

Crawford Art Gallery, Cork
(4 Dec 2012 – 23 Feb 2013).

Dublin City Gallery, The Hugh Lane
(28 Nov 2012 – 24 Feb 2013)

Limerick City Gallery
(30 Nov 2012 – 18 Jan 2013)

The Model, Sligo
(7 Dec 2012 – 24 March 2013).



‘Into the Light: The Arts Council – 60 Years of Supporting the Arts’ marks the sixtieth anniversary of the Arts Council and comprises a series of four exhibitions at Crawford Art Gallery, Cork, Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane, Limerick City Gallery and The Model, Sligo, respectively. ‘Into the Light’ was developed by Lead Curator, Karen Downey and is accompanied by a publication, which features illustrations of works by over 100 artists and commissioned essays by Diarmaid Ferriter and Caoimhín MacGiolla Léith. Each of the four partner curators was invited to select works from the Arts Council collection to create a discrete exhibition that would reflect the interests and the ethos of each specific institution. Partner institutions were chosen, which themselves had a history of collecting and, in two cases, works from the institutions’ own collections are on view side by side with works from the Arts Council collection.

It is interesting that, although the four partner curators were free to select the works that they felt best reflected their own concerns, and a variety of curatorial approaches is certainly apparent, there are still some overarching themes that run through the four shows. For example, all four venues address the concept of the institutional frame, albeit from different perspectives.

‘Into the Light’ also commissioned four contemporary artists: Mark Clare (Crawford Art Gallery), Karl Burke (The Hugh Lane), Emmet Kierans (Limerick City Gallery) and Sean Lynch (The Model) to respond to the works selected at their particular venue and all four commissioned works are very different in form and approach. Nevertheless, of the four, three are quite focused on the concept of framing and the relationship between viewer and object and how that might be activated.

At Limerick City Gallery, director Helen Carey considered the selection from the point of view of a city gallery with the possibility for citizens to become involved and chose a long list of 120 works from which a panel selected 67. There were two public talks, with Oliver Dowling of The Arts Council and a second with John Logan (historian and author) and Paul Tarpey (lecturer at LSAD), who, together with Ann Horrigan (Askeaton Contemporary Arts) and Baz Burke (visual artist, dancer), made up the panel. This very democratic selection process was filmed and is being shown in the space, while Cliodhna Shaffrey’s essay on this selection is available in an accompanying booklet.

Carey framed the exhibition in relation to unlocking a connection Limerick had with psychedelic rock and beat vibe in the 1960s and 1970s. There was, at the time, a strong music scene to which a lot of artists had connections, so this space and time have particular local relevance. Commissioned artist Emmet Kieran’s work responded to this vibe and to the process, exploring the limits of what painting can be. The works selected are almost all from the 1960s and 1970s, although bookended by two landscapes, The Black Lake by Gerald Dillon (1940s) and Green Landscape by Basil Blackshaw (1980), and exemplify the period of transition taking place at the time. Many connections are made forwards and backwards in history, from the wonderful archival material on the first Rosc exhibition at the RDS in 1967, for which Patrick Scott did the graphics as well as designing the space (1), and of which Mr Gill, New York art critic, said at the time, “it is a marriage of room with paintings”, “a tour de force of architecture in terms of museum design” (2) to the rebellion against Academic Realism by students at NCAD in the late 60s, backed up by artist Alice Hanratty, whose work is also on show. This exhibition performs a role; it is celebratory, highlighting contexts and relationships between works and artists, covering abstraction, modernism, landscape and how they were treated. There is an energy around it, a real sense of knowledge and history being transferred, and this is evident in the large numbers of students and school tours visiting the space.

The exhibition at the Crawford Art Gallery, where Dawn Williams was the partner curator, examines a very different period of Irish art history. The Crawford’s own collection was well represented by much of the Arts Council Collection up to the 1990s and Williams wished to complement that, resulting in a selection made entirely from works since 2000. Williams’ selection is comprised of works which she feels look backwards in order to go forwards in their work. Among these, Gerard Byrne’s 1984 and Beyond (2006) explores and exposes assumptions and predictions made at a discussion in 1963 about what the future post-1984 might hold. Eoghan McTigue’s Empty Sign TU (2002), a to-scale photograph of a now empty institutional notice board, questions accepted notions of display and context. Commissioned artist Mark Clare’s The Two Horns of Phaedrus (2012) is a kinetic work in two pieces, which becomes activated when a viewer comes close. This work raises questions about the resonance of art works, how certain pieces might work together in groups or in a collection, and explores the importance of context and framing, as well as the perspective of the viewer.

At the Model Niland in Sligo, curator Emer McGarry incorporates three collections, as some of the works shown, are on loan from the Graeve Collection to the Niland Collection. In this respect McGarry was able to pull at threads to see what connections exist between different works from the same time period, as well as between works spanning three generations and at least three different periods in Irish art: contemporary works, works displaying a modernist approach and works of early twentieth century painters, who were associated with the school of Academic Realism.

McGarry’s curatorial approach was to take Mark Garry’s Folds (2010) and Kathy Prendergast’s The End and the Beginning (1997) as a starting point, visually and thematically, from which to highlight trains of thought, threads which connect various approaches and concerns central to the artists whose works are on display here. The three main strands emphasised are: the use of craft, with its references to domesticity and by extension the work of Irish women artists over this period; the different approaches to landscape; and the inner world of reflection and emotions. The intergenerational nature of the selection allows themes to be drawn together in unique ways, mapping possible routes and progressions through recent Irish art history.

A number of artists represented in the Arts Council Collection also had pieces from the Niland Collection exhibited. These pieces, often from a different period of work, had the effect of joining the dots, of showing how a single artist could embrace various or similar themes with different approaches, tying in and crossing over with other works by other artists hanging in the same space. This resulted in a very satisfying overview of Irish art practice, with many doors through which to approach the work on show.

A reading room featured four films, supported by the Arts Council and RTE, which respond to the collection, including a film on reactions within The Model to Alice Maher’s Nettle Coat, and a film on the making and hanging of Karl Burke’s Arrangements at The Hugh Lane Gallery.

Sean Lynch was the commissioned artist at The Model and his work A Church without a Steeple (2012) – a series of slides with voiceover – explores the responses of the Irish public to modernism in Ireland, examining how the changing views of the artwork itself vary depending on the position of the viewer in relation to the piece, whether that be physical, social or economic: a mutual reflection or lack thereof between viewer and work. One anecdote recounted in this work is that of a form, floating down the street looking for the exhibition, looking to “enter the frame”. This piece also ties in very well with the curatorial approach of Michael Dempsey at Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane and Karl Burke’s framing devices.

The curatorial approach of partner curator at The Hugh Lane, Michael Dempsey, was to think of the exhibition as one installation. He saw this as a rare opportunity to put two collections together and, as the Arts Council Collection contained a lot of abstract work, began to think about themes in 1970s post minimalism and wall and floor relationships. Dempsey’s interest in the creative process of exhibition-making is apparent throughout. Using the institutional frame, literally, as a backdrop, he draws attention to the content of the frame, the architecture of the institution through the painting of walls, moving them optically around corners and creating vanishing points on walls behind the works. This strategy has multiple effects. First it creates rather than informs, making this a very experiential exhibition. It has the effect of debunking rigid, chronological categories, raising questions for the viewer about the nature of abstraction and art history. It also creates echoes with many of the works, making them seem almost hyper-real and heightening the viewer’s awareness of the flat wall.

This sensation is emphasised still further by the work of commissioned artist Karl Burke, whose Arrangements (2012), sculptural framing devices which intervene dramatically into the space, subvert and frame the works. These steel and wooden frames create spaces between viewer and frame, beyond the frame, between frame and work(s), and force the viewer to experience the space differently, to look at the work differently, singly and in groups. These very successful pieces might draw the viewer in, and out the other side and heighten the sense of self and of position in space. Dempsey’s research included Richard Wollheim and this exhibition certainly has that kind of intimate intensity (3).

Dempsey sees the collection as a resource, which could be engaged with on many different levels and emphasises the importance of “making it current. This collection still has relevance to artists and audiences today.” These four exhibitions, in four very different ways, have achieved that.

Fiona Fullam

1. Dorothy Walker, Modern Art in Ireland, The Lilliput Press, 1967, 114
2. Rosc ’67, RTE Archives, film shown at Into The Light at Limerick City Gallery, November 2012 – January 2013
3. Richard Wollheim, Art and its Objects: An Introduction to Aesthetics, Harper and Row, New York, 1968


VAN March/April 2013


Cecily Brennan. Man with Eczema. Egg tempera on gesso. Image courtesy of the artist. Recently shown at ‘Living Loss’, Lewis Glucksman Gallery, Cork (23 Nov 2012 – 10 March 2013).

5. Roundup. Recent exhibitions and projects of note.
5. Regional Column:
Northern Ireland. Feargal O’Malley. Artist Residencies.
6. Column.
Jonathan Carroll. The Life of Ryan.
8. News.
The latest developments in the visual arts sector.
9. Regional Profile.
Visual arts resources and activity in Mayo.
12. Tribute.
Valerie Earley. On these pages, with friends and colleagues, we celebrate Valerie Earley, Visual Artists Ireland’s Membership Manager, who sadly passed away 9 January 2013, after a two-year fight with cancer.
14. Art writing award.
Commemoration – A Forward-Looking Act. Joanne Laws, winner of the Visual Artists Ireland / Dublin City Council Arts Office critical writing award (2013), addresses the subject of the visual arts responses to the ‘decade of centenaries’ (Archived)
16. How is it made.
Time, Liberty And Atonement. Remco De Fouw details the conception, fabrication and installation of his commissioned work ‘A Voice’ for the Irish Prison Services headquarters in Longford.(Archived)
17. Art and philosophy.
Art & Philosophy – Why Now? In the first of three articles prompted by a growing interest in certain strands of philosophy by artists and curators, Sinead Hogan considers the nature of the relationship between art and philosophy.
18. International.
O’Doherty Un-Freezes A Beating Heart. Mary-Ruth Walsh reflects on Brian O’Doherty’s keynote address ‘Strolling With The Zeitgeist: Five Decades’ at last year’s Frieze Art Fair (11 Oct 2012).
19. Critique.
Reviews of recent exhibitions, events, publications and projects. (Archived)
23. Advocacy.
Moving Beyond Token Fees. Noel Kelly, CEO Of Visual Artists Ireland reports on how the findings of VAI’s ‘Survey On Payments For Visual Artists’ show the direct results of the cutting of public funding for the arts. (Archived)
24. Residency.
Language That Tells. Bridget O’Gorman profiles ‘Dig Where You Stand’, a year-long residency-based project in South Tipperary.
25. Career Development.
Creating Work & Context. Peter Richards tracks the development of his career as an artist, highlighting how he has combined this with his work as a curator.
26. How is it Made?
Doctor in the House. Ciara McMahon discusses the concepetion and delivery of her project The Aesthetic Screening Clinic.
27. Project Profile.
Productive Perambulators. Michelle Browne discusses some of the initial outcomes of ‘Walking (with a buggy) in the City: A Research Project in the Public Realm’.
28. Opportunities.
All the latest grants, awards, exhibition calls and commissions.
30. International.
Breaking Bread. Sheena Barrett, Arts Officer And Gallery Curator For The Lab, Dublin profiles Break Bread Open, an event held at the 2012 Liverpool Biennale as part of Liverpool and Dublin’s Cultural Corridor.
31. Art in the Public Realm.
The Mercurial Challenge Of Collaborative Arts. Annette Moloney reports on ‘AIC10’, an event held at IMMA (27 Nov 2012) marking a decade of collaborative art projects funded through the Arts Council Of Ireland’s Artist In The Community Scheme and managed by Create.
33. Art in the Public Realm:
Roundup. Public art commissions, site-specific works, socially-engaged practices and other forms of art outside the gallery.
34. Career Development.
Alphaville to Anti-Tour. Dennis McNulty retraces some formative projects and experiences that have contributed to the evolution of his working methods.

VAN May/June 2013


5.Column. Get Together 2013. It’s For Everybody.
5.Roundup. Recent exhibitions and projects of note.
6.Column. Emily Mark-FitzGerald. The Feedback Loop.
8.Column. Seán O Sullivan. Visual Arts Workers’ Forum.
8. News. The latest developments in the visual arts sector.
9. Regional Focus. Visual arts resources and activity in Sligo.
12.International. Ireland in Venice 2013:  Richard Mosse. Jason Oakley talks to Richard Mosse about representing Ireland at this year’s Venice Biennale. (Achived)
13. Residency. Interventions and Transformations. Sue Morris on her residency at AIR Krems, Austria. (Achived)
14. Institutional Profile. DIY Support. Miranda Driscoll, co-director of the Joinery, Dublin, offers an account of the venue’s ethos and activities.
15. How is it Made? Belief and Conviction. Rory Tangney describes how he funded and created his large-scale installation at Camden Palace Hotel, Cork.
16. Career Development. Art and Opportunity. Dougal McKenzie on balancing preparedness with understanding the importance of the ‘lucky break’ in his art career.
17. Symposium. Inspired Not Hindered. James Merrigan reports on ‘Pathways to Practice’, a symposium organised by Arts & Disability Ireland and the Fire Station Artists’ Studios  (28 Feb 2013).
18. Art & Philosophy. New Objects, New Realism? Sinead Hogan interviews Paul Ennis on two recent philosophical concepts, Object Orientated Ontology & Speculative Realism.
19. Critique. ‘The Artist’s Overcoat – Exploring the Studio and Collections of F E McWilliam’; Ffrench/Harte, ‘The Sovereigns’ Mermaid, Bray; (Achived) ‘Analysing Cubism’ IMMA; ‘Monuments’, Lismore Castle Arts; Anthony Haughey ‘Citizen’, Highlanes Gallery; Seamus Nolan ‘10th President’, TBG&S.
23. How is it Made? Border Post. Nick Stewart discusses Which is The: 49 Views, a publication that evolved from a week spent driving along and across the Irish border.
24. VAI & DAS Residency. Questioning Viewership. Joanna Hopkins, 2012 winner of the VAI & DAS Residency Award, discusses her experience of the residency. (Achived)
25. VAI / TGC Residency Award. Details of the Visual Artists Ireland / Tyrone Guthrie Centre Valerie Early Residency Award.
25. Residency Profile. Exploring Hidden Histories. Margo McNulty  on her one-week residency utilising the print facilities at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre, Co Monaghan.
26. Professional Development. A Hungry Ear. Kati Kivinen, a Helsinki-based curator, discusses working on VAI’s Professional Development Programme.
27. International. Growing Connectivity. Anne Mullee interviews Barcelona-based curators Mariana Cánepa Luna and Max Andrews  about their on-going #OpenCurating project.
28. Profile. Engagement & Innovation. NeXus Arts, an independent artist-led curatorial team based in Drogheda, outline their projects to date and future plans
29. Discussion. More Than a Second Glance. Jonathan Carroll reports on ‘Dialogues on contemporary art, discourse & collaboration’ a panel discussion (24 Jan 2013) held at Pallas Projects / Studios, Dublin.
30. Regional Contacts.  VAI’s Northern Ireland Manager Feargal O’Malley and VAI West of Ireland Representative Aideen Barry offer accounts of activities and issues in their areas.
31. Project Profile. Agency & Child-Adult Connectedness. Susanne Stich discusses ‘Small Worlds’, a series of moving image arts workshops for children, which she has run at Void, Derry since 2011.
32. Artoons. Pablo Helguera’s Artoons – the foibles and ironies of the art world.
32. Professional Development. VAI professional development training and events programme for spring / summer 2013 onwards. Book now to avoid dissapointment!
33. Opportunities. All the latest grants, awards, exhibition calls and commissions.

VAN May/June 2013: Critique Supplement | Ffrench/Harte ‘The Sovereigns’


Ffrench / Harte, ‘The Sovereigns’, 2012. Image courtesy of the Mermaid Arts Centre

‘The Sovereigns’
Mermaid County Wicklow Arts Centre, Bray
7 March – 11 April 2013

Rope bridges incite all sorts of responses. Linked to recollections of playground fun, tree house adventures or daring action movie escapes, they trigger feelings of excitement and fear. Encountering Ffrench / Harte’s rope bridge in the Mermaid Arts Centre’s bright and spacious gallery not only conjured up such impressions, it also helped relinquish them because this bridge could not be experienced in the expected way. Lumped on the floor and only partially extended, it came across as a weighty and cumbersome object; more an obstacle to movement than a conveyance. The only intimation of suspension occurs at one end. Here the terminus has been draped over a wooden partition and dangles freely on the far side of that wall. In this configuration the bridge seems to lie in temporary visual storage: a functional object temporarily, if not permanently, devoid of purpose. Housed in this climate controlled environment, it can readily be accessed for perusal and consideration.

The bridge was originally constructed for the provisional joining of The Sovereigns, two small and barren islands along the West Cork coastline – where it was installed and removed in the course of one day. In the Mermaid gallery the bridge is accompanied by a video and a selection of photographs that show the rope bridge in situ between the islands and document the people that contributed to the project’s realisation. The islands, which are isolated, enshrouded in light mist and provide a habitat for sea birds, exude a mysterious aura and have a lurking presence. Their proximity to one another actually proposes some kind of connection, but for whom and for what purpose? It quickly becomes obvious that the bridge really goes nowhere. Though it is accessible from the smaller of the two islands, the opposite end meets a wall of rock. The images also effectively relay a sense of the project’s scale and the challenges that confronted the artists. Evidence of the difficulties also derives from the photo of five team members. It is written across each of their wet and weary faces as they huddle together in a small inflated craft.

Ffrench / Harte, ‘The Sovereigns’, 2012. Image courtesy of the Mermaid Arts

Visitors respond to the exhibition in many ways. One individual walks into the space, sees the picture of the suspended rope bridge and questions if it’s the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge in County Antrim. The image also reveals a host of materialistic differences. The span’s open mesh structure, elegant curve, inherent flexibility and strength, for example, contrast sharply with the density, rigidity and jagged contours of the stone. Some are drawn to the level craftsmanship – the artists tied each and every knot, and resorted to cutting up wooden pallets to make the deck – or make historical associations. Not only did the artists pursue a labour intensive process, they also immersed themselves in a centuries-old technology. Still, others became transfixed by the wooden deck and its unusual array of colours. The multi-coloured bars actually reminded me of an oversize children’s xylophone, but the predominantly sombre tones, which range from discoloured whites, muted yellows, ochre and a touch of violet to a multitude of dark green-greys and browns, advocate an altogether different relationship. It turns out that each tone replicates one of the hues produced by a computer translation of Edouard Manet’s Le déjeuner sur l’herbe, a work chosen for its strange depiction of modern life.

Much like Christo’s Valley Curtain, the rope bridge hovers between being a functional entity and an art object, but with its placement in the gallery its complexity is compounded. Seeing it in this ‘uninstalled’ state poses a dilemma for the viewer. One expects to see it suspended or inventively displayed, not collapsed on the floor. The lack of access and sense of purposelessness are unsettling and initially distance viewers from the structure. And yet there is something very powerful about the bridge’s presence, in the way that it grabs and holds attention. That power derives, in part, from the degree of workmanship, the physicality of the materials and the congruence of its constituent colours and textures. The fact that it cannot be traversed changes our relationship to the structure. We can, for example, imagine seeing the bridge as the artists saw it when they completed its assembly. We can also, with the help of the accompanying images and video, envision its transport across the water and hanging. The realisation that it connects to vertical walls in both contexts confirms that alternative explanations must be sought. The passage offered by this richly evocative object takes us out of the literal realm.

John Gayer is a writer and artist based in Dublin.


VAN: March/April 2011


The Visual Artists News Sheet

Remco de Fouw 'Voice' (Work in Progress)

Remco de Fouw 'Voice' (Work in Progress)


1. Cover Image. Remco de Fouw. Voice (Work in Progress)
5. Roundup. Recent exhibitions and projects of note.
5. Column. Mark Fisher. Creative Capitalism.
6. Column. Paula Naughton. New York Overview.
7. Column. Jonathan Carroll. Art Versus Weather.
10. News. The latest developments in the arts sector.
11. Regional Profile. Visual arts resources and activity in Co. Carlow
14. Workshop. Making Connections. Michelle Horrigan reports on ‘The
curatorial intensive’ a New York based workshop organised by independent
curators international.
15. Engaged Art. From The Amazon to the Sahara.  Augustine O’Donoghue
reports on her recent work with the Artifariti project in the Western Sahara
and Algeria.
(Archived in our Articles Section)
16. Residency. Samkura Residency. Claire Halpin and Lisa Flynn reports on
their experiences of the Samkura Artist Residency Programme (Oct / Nov 2010)
held in Tbilisi, Georgia.
17. Art in Public. Necessity, Mother of Invention. Laura Graham Profiles
‘Switch’, an initiative to present contemporary are in public contexts, that
has taken place in Nenagh. Co Tipperary and Bangor, Co. Down.
18. Seminar. Practice. Seán O Sullivan reports on ‘Practice: The Ormond
Studios Lecture Series’
19. Career Development. Floating Notes. Andy Parsons discusses the why and
wherefores of his artists book publishing Project ‘Floating World Books’
21. Education. Responsibile Driving. Ruth E Lyons profiles ‘Mercedes Fire’
an artist-led seven-day touring summer school.
(Archived in our Articles Section)
22. Collaboration. Transitions & Ambitions. Maria Tanner Profiles
‘Ar+=Adding 2010’, Szczecin, Poland.
23. Opportunities. All the lastest grants, awards, exhibition calls and
27. Conference. Productive Reflection. Anne Lynott reports on ‘The Museum
Revisited’ held at the Science Gallery, Dublin 16 October 2010.
(Archived in our Articles Section)
28. Regional Contacts. Visual artists ireland’s regional contacts report
from the field.
29. Residency. Honouring Rothko. Anne Harkin-Petersen reports on her
residency at the 2010 edition of the Mark Rothko International Plein Air
event, held in Daugavpils, Latvia.

VAN July/ August 2013

cover JA13

Cover Image. Thomas Brezing, Carpet Man on Disappointment Bay, digital


5. Roundup. Recent exhibitions and projects of note.
5. Column. Emily Mark-FitzGerald. The Feedback Loop. Cultural democracy in the age of the Internet.
6. Column. Jonathan Carroll. The Generals Assemble.
7.Column. Mark Fisher. Imperfect Loops & Screen Memories. Agency, Freud and eerie GIFs.
8.News. The latest developments in the visual arts sector.
9.Regional Focus. Visual arts resources and activity in Derry.
12. Project Profile. A Herculean Task. Jakob Livgine Kreek reports from VISIT 2013.
13.Residency. This is Pseudo Nature. Amanda Rice discusses a recent residency undertaken at Ateliers Rondo, Graz, Austria.
14. VAI Advocacy & Supports. Our Best-Kept Secret? Niamh Looney profiles VAI¹s help desk services.
14.VAI Advocacy & Supports. Group Think. Alex Davis introduces VAI’s local groups initiative.
15. How is it Made? Almost Fit to be Hugged. Christodoulos Makris writes about Thomas Brezing’s performance-based project ‘Carpet Man’. (Achived)
16. Institution Profile. It’s Complex. Annemarie Kilshaw details the development of The Complex, a multidisciplinary artist-led space in Dublin.
17.Art in Public. Anorthoscopic Effects. Anne Cleary profiles Cleary +Connolly’s digital public art commission ‘Look Both Ways’.
18.Project Profile. Enemies of Good Art. Martina Mullaney discusses her ongoing project ‘Enemies of Good Art’, which interrogates the invisibility of mothers in art practice. (Achived)
19. Critique. ‘Points of View’, Monster Truck, Dublin; Eamon Colman ‘Scattered Showers’ Triskel, Cork; ‘Northern Ireland: 30 Years of Photography’ The MAC & Belfast Exposed Gallery; ‘Octagon’ West Cork Arts Centre, Skibbereen; Magnhild Opdol ‘Point of No Return’, Butler Gallery, Kilkenny; Gillian Fitzpatrick, ‘Die Welt von Morgen’, Goethe Institut. Dublin.
23.Project Profile. Turning Outwards. Gail Ritchie explores how and why Queen Street Studios, Belfast has moved to a new location.
24.VAI Membership Activities. Focus and Expose. Sara O’Gorman reports on VAI’s third Show and Tell event, which featured seven Belfast-based artists.
24. VAI Advocacy & Supports. The Pursuaders. Niamh Looney outlines VAI’s engagement with academic research into cultural policies, arts audiences and the proffessional status of the artist.
25. Career Development. Letting the Work Lead. Laura Gannon discusses three recent projects to illustrate the progression of her practice.
26. Residency. Into the Unknown. Clare Breen discusses ‘Winter Resort’, an artist-led, self-initiated residency in the Scottish Highlands. (Achived)
27. Institution Profile. Generational Dialogues. Fionnuala Ardee profiles Kilruddery Arts, Wicklow.
27.Institution Profile. Celebrating the Local and the Global. Desima Connolly introduces Roe Valley Arts and Cultural Centre, Limavady.
28.Project Profile. Residual Character. Maria Tanner and Deidre Southey outline their project ‘Idionumia’, which took place in Graignamanagh, Kilkenny.
29. Regional Representatives. Aideen Barry and Feargal O’Malley report from the field.
30.Discussion. Owing Me, Knowing You. Sarah Allen reports on the round table discussion held to accompany the exhibition ‘I Know You’ ­ prompted by Ireland’s presidency of the EU ­ currently on show at Earlsfort Terrace, Dublin.
31. Public Art. Public art commissions, site-specific works, socially engaged practices and other forms of art outside the gallery.
32. Artoons. Pablo Helguera. Artoons. The foibles and ironies of the art world.
32. Professional Development. Developing Development. Monica Flynn profiles recent highlights of the Professional Development Training Programme.
33. Opportunities. All the latest grants, awards, exhibition calls and commissions.
34.Professional Development. The VAI professional development training and events programme.
35. Institution Profile. Productive Process. Alison Pilkington profiles Black Church Print Studio, Dublin.

VAN September/October 2013


Cover. Augustine O Donoghue Has the artist been paid? Self-initiated performance – distribution of handmade flyers (pen, ink, watercolour paint, markers etc), Dublin August – November 2013.Documentation and a statement relating to this work was exhibited as part of ‘Circulation’ an open submission exhibition devised by the Black Church Print Studio, Dublin and curated by Paul McAree shown at Monster Truck Gallery and FLOOD (9–24 August 2013).


5. Roundup. Recent exhibitions and projects of note.
5. Column. Gaynor Seville. Why Apply? Gaynor Seville addresses some misconceptions about the public art application process.
6. Column. Lily Cahill. Making It. The realities of living and working as a visual artist.
7.Column. Jonathan Carroll. Nouvelles Vague: What a Drag. Disappointment at the Palais de Tokyo.
8. News. The latest developments in the visual arts sector.
9. Regional Focus. Visual arts resources and activity in Waterford.
12. Project Profile. Other Halves. Caragh O’Donnell on ‘Duo Days’, an event in Belfast featuring collaborations between artists who are in relationships with each other.
13. Project Profile. Ten Years Later. Katie Holten revisits her 2003 exhibition for the Venice Biennale. (Archived)
14. VAI Advocacy & Support. Responsible Recognition. Bernadette Beecher outlines some best practice guidelines for arts internships.
14. VAI Members’ Event. Show & Tell. Adrian Colwell introduces this new members’ event.
15. Workshop Profile. Descend, Bold Traveller. Fergus Kelly reports on his participation in a sound recording workshop held this June in Iceland.  (Archived)
16.Public Art Case Study. Let’s Take the Class Outside. Christine Mackay introduces ‘A Year in the Field’.
17. Project Profile. Curious, Active & Adventurous. Ceara Conway discusses ‘Burning Bright’, a programme facilitating visual arts projects for older people across County Galway.
18. Project Profile. Collective Creativity. Joanne Dolan and Allison Regan introduce artist collective Expanded Draught.
19. Critique. Pádraig Timoney, Raven Row, London; Helen O’Leary, Catherine Hammond Gallery, West Cork; ‘Labour and Wait’, Santa Barbara Museum of Art; ‘New Irish Works’, catalogue; ‘The Drawing Box’, Ranelagh Arts Centre, Dublin; ‘Russian Dolls’, Golden Thread, Belfast.
23.How is it Made? Contrapuntal Landscapes. Monica de Bath discusses her project ‘Plot / Ceapach’.
24.Institutution Profile. Michelle de Forge introduces Dunamaise Arts Centre, Portlaoise.
24.Institution Profile. Emer Ní Chíobháin profiles Sample-Studios, Cork.
25.How is it Made? The Raison D’être of Objects. Saidhbhin Gibson outlines her project ‘Sojourn’ at Carlow County Museum.
26. VAI Event. Getting Together Again. Lily Power offers an overview of VAI’s Get Together 2013.
28. Institution Profile. Institutional Impermanence. Brian Birtles looks at 20 years of Catalyst Arts, Belfast. (Archived)
29. Regional Representatives. VAI representatives, Aideen Barry (West of Ireland) and Feargal O’Malley (Northern Ireland) offer accounts of their current concerns and activities.
30. How is it Made? Understanding Place & People. Katie Nolan on her photobook project ‘Neither’.
31. Project Profile. Reflecting & Generating. Sarah Allen profiles The Legacy Project, an art commission initiated by the National Women’s Council of Ireland.
32.Project Profile. Box of Wondering. Susan Montgomery & Sarah Ruttle discuss their involvement in the Early childhood Arts programme,West Cork Arts Centre.
33.Artoons. Pablo Helguera. Artoons. The foibles and ironies of the art world.
34.Opportunities. All the latest grants, awards, exhibition calls and commissions.
34.VAI Professional Development. VAI’s professional development programme for autumn / winter.
36. Public Art. Public art commissions, site-specific works, socially engaged practice and other forms of art outside the gallery.

VAN July/August 2013: Critique Supplement | Eamon Colman ‘Scattered Showers’ at Triskel Christchurch, Cork


Eamon Coleman, A light white iron wind, oil on Somerset paper, 600 x 910 mm, 2013

Eamon Colman
‘Scattered Showers’
Triskel Christchurch, Cork
16 May – 31 August 2013

Time was, when oppositional writers in the West during the Dark Ages (which corresponded with the full Renaissance of Arab culture) investigated happiness in a profusion of writings. Happiness was topical when serfdom and slavery were still normal. If this review could have a title it would be ‘In Pursuit of Happiness: a Painter’s Journey’. That the pursuit of happiness, or affirmative art, is not a mainstream concern of contemporary art – too often issue-bound, topical – is something the philosopher Alain Badiou has criticised (Manifesto of Affirmationism, 2005).

‘Scattered Showers’ is a festival of saturated colour, in the form of scumbled, layered, glazed, distressed pigment, coaxed, dragged or gently wiped across Somerset paper to form abstracted landscapes. These bright colours hardly evoke the desaturated colours of ‘soft’ Irish mornings. Rather, the rebellion of colour defies the real with the kind of palette you can only find in a travel brochure or under a microscope. I don’t know how it is that these 12 landscape paintings, almost poster sized (60 x 90cm), hold their own in the Christchurch gallery space despite the stained glass and dark pews.

It seems to me that ‘Scattered Showers’ and indeed all the work by Colman I have seen is a work of resistance, expressing, in a difficult craft, mostly rejected in favour of lens-based media, what the experience of being happy, vital, grateful to be among the living – something which eludes us most of the time – might look like. Replace, if you will, the word ‘happiness’ with ‘beauty’. There is no sign of minimalist grids or logocentric dogmas of meaning here, so the eye is led to enjoy Coleman’s painted surface and the mind to ask more and more questions. This gaze of mine combines with my personal visual archive, summoning shapes, colours, marks and moods; I see the boldness of Abstract Expressionism, the lyric paintings of the forgotten (Gastone Novelli, the best of Afro Basaldella, and many other gestural, drawn, scribbled, feverish, mark-making moments, especially of European Art Informel). But just before this neat categorising has time to crystalise, my mind remembers Samuel Palmer’s intimacy or the mystical landscapes of Cecil Collins, an unfashionable painter who would get his students to draw blind, directly from the mind.


Eamon Coleman, The astonishing art of cold and snap, 2013

How does one explain this paradox: that other painters are present, yet no one but Colman is there? TS Eliot’s Tradition and The Individual Talent (1920) suggests the idea, transposed, that modern painting too has its vital – impersonal – legacy, which never loses its relevance. This is very different from postmodernist eclecticism. Colman’s are image marks, intensely personal yet entirely impersonal layers of material experience. A painting is a cultural artefact, something which neo-formalist approaches fail to acknowledge.

These observations about language and poetry might seem out of place, until you notice Colman’s long titles. They’re so long as to become more than a discreet form of signing or primeval marking of territory. They read as aspirational, a rope flung across the void of sense, across the gap between private studio and public space.

Colman’s titles evoke, like poetry, rather than describe or narrate. Visual poetry? Wordsworth’s definition of poetry as emotion recollected in tranquility? Well, the hints of sky and land, tree or cloud, remind you of the natural world, so memory plays its part in sifting and abstracting from phenomenal experience, paring it down to stark shapes, geometric patterns, bold marks, daring juxtapositions. It is someone else’s Never Never Land – here, now and neither.

The connection with poetry, as all these titles suggest, has more to do with rejecting a narrative idiom, which Craig Owens once picked out as a new feature in contemporary art, whereby visual art was allegorical (but, I think – never acknowledged then or since – also didactic) (The Allegorical Impulse October, Spring and Summer, 1980). The way a painter might pinpoint a feeling, however slight, or a passing thought, however ill-constructed, can also be conveyed by naming. Names give shape to things, including paintings, attempting a correspondence between empirical experience and the mind’s interpretation of it. But Colman’s titles don’t really name. That is why I’m tempted to call them anxious titles.

Maybe his words are superfluous after all. A phrase from Sam Beckett, “the fragment of fragments”, the sheer impossibility of telling, settling for suggesting instead. Titles which sketch out a story the painter is not going to tell you because he wants you to imagine it for yourself. That’s how he avoids today’s didactic art, so dependent on the artist’s statement that it fails to make (its own) sense.

Dr. David Brancaleone is lecturer at LIT-LSAD. His writing has appeared in Circa, Vertigo, Experimental Conversations, Irish Marxist Review, Enclave Review and VAN. He is also a filmmaker.

VAN July/August 2013: Critique Supplement | Gillian Fitzpatrick at Goethe Institut, Dublin


Gillian Fitzpatrick, Die Welt von Morgen, 2013, polyurethane resin, metal, plastic, wood, paint

Gillian Fitzpatrick
‘Die Welt von Morgen (Tomorrow’s World)’
Goethe Institut, Dublin
8 May – 21 June 2013

Exhibitions in the Goethe Institut’s Return Gallery have the benefit of a beautifully compact and architecturally distinctive space, with a lineage of frequently interesting artistic projects, guided over the years by several distinctive curatorial voices.

Gillian Fitzpatrick’s exhibition (curated by Jonathan Carroll) takes a retrospective look at the influential German band Kraftwerk, using a 1975 episode of Tomorrow’s World as her starting point. Fitzpatrick is interested in the future from the perspective of the past and, in previous works like Dublin 8 Space Project, focused on the restaging of events associated with the early period of space exploration. Emerging from a music scene with its own cosmic affiliations, Kraftwerk provide a parallel fixation on explorative hardware, and a model in popular music that served as a template for much of what came after.

With its exclusively electronic sounds and radio-friendly song structures, Kraftwerk’s 1974 release, Autobahn, transcended its origins in Krautrock and led to the Dusseldorf quartet’s first appearance on Top of the Pops. Not everyone at the BBC believed these ‘Mench Machines’ were fully human, and an incredulous DJ introduced the dapperly deadpan Ralf, Karl, Wolfgang and Florian with the words, “here comes data’s distant relatives”. They were spotted, presumably, by the boffins at Tomorow’s World and soon became television’s favorite future-heads.

In The Future of Nostalgia, Svetlana Boym writes, “The twentieth century began with utopia and ended with nostalgia”. Nostalgia, she suggests, is not just a harkening back to the past, but a yearning for a past that never was. Nostalgia is a superimposition of two images – a reconstruction of the past comprising what we ‘know’ now over what we didn’t know back then.

Presented like a display of music archeology, Fitzpatrick’s rudimentary reconstructions of Kraftwerk’s ‘instruments’ conjures a time, ironically enough, when technology was still shaped like specific objects. Before touch became synonymous with ‘touch-screen’, even Kraftwerk’s pioneering drum-machines bore some resemblance to the stretched animal skins of their origin. The artist’s nattily handcrafted gizmos seem to return technology to a more primordial state.

Schlager 1 is made from polyurethane resin and plywood, a row of four wall-mounted discs recreating a quartet of vinyl records, while Drum-Machine – made from ‘Bellaroma’ coffee tins and foil covered knitting needles – is a neatly constructed assemblage of domestic parts. These objects possess the simple charm of carefully made models from a playschool project; they are not faithful reproductions of technology but more like gestures to make it humble. A roughly made facsimile of a sine-wave monitor, Wave, looks like it was unearthed from a lunar bog. A Bakelite telephone, Kling Klang 1, is remade as an oversized clay sculpture. Its bulky demeanor resembles an item from a Flintstones souvenir shop rather than equipment from Kraftwerk’s onomatopoeically named recording studio. Fitzpatrick’s reconstructed past is childlike, an imaginary world supervised by a Dusseldorf hippy perhaps; one that recognises wonder in the humblest schuh-box.

A short video, Dummy Run, presented on a mini DVD player, shows a female figure (the artist) rehearsing some rudimentary robotics to the accompaniment of a stop-start version of Kraftwerk’s Showroom Dummies. Imitating the song’s promotional video, the DVD’s looming shadows also made me think about how much the famously unexpressive German band learned from German expressionist cinema. I thought of the 1920s film The Golem and, more obviously perhaps, of the ‘Maschinenmensch’ from Fritz Lang’s Metropolis.

Part of the pleasure of Goethe Institut shows can be discovering artworks outside of the gallery space. The ground floor Reading Room contained a magazine rack with a re-imagined cover for the band’s 1978 album Die Mensch-Maschine. Kraftwerk’s albums were often re-titled to fit other languages and here it is given a rebaptism in Irish as An Duine Meaisin, with the artist herself in the guise of the red-shirted Kraftwerkers. I encountered a second telephone on the way to the basement loo. Fashioned in grey felt, Kling Klang 2 evokes the spirit of another famous Dusseldorf resident, Joseph Beuys. What might have happened had the shaman joined the robots in the Kling Klang laboratory? That’s a reimagining of the past I would dearly love to see.

John Graham is an artist based in Dublin.

VAN July/August 2013: Critique Supplement |‘Octagon’ Group Show at West Cork Arts Centre


Marie Cullen, Sceach an Óir, 2013, mixed media on paper

(Alison Cronin, Marie Cullen, Sharon Dipity, Paul Forde-Cialis, Ian Humphreys, Tess Leak, Susan Montgomery and Sarah Ruttle)
West Cork Arts Centre, Skibereen
4 May – 8 June 2013

Something flutters in the corner of my eye and vanishes as soon as I swivel my head. A pair of white hands looms out from the wall. A shadow transmogrifies into a man. A starched shirt collar binds his neck; his face is plastered with a lunatic grin.


Tess Leak, Here, Still (detail), 2013, film

I was 17 when I first applied for art school, and I believed that silence and contemplation were the forces driving creativity. University quickly disabused me of my notions. It taught me that artists need to ‘network’, ‘collaborate’ and ‘discuss’ in order for their work to live beyond the studio. Every day, galleries and art centres across the country set this in motion through education programmes. While these courses, classes and workshops expand the horizons of the people living locally, they also benefit the practitioners who coordinate each programme, providing an opportunity to converse beyond the confines of the artistic community.

West Cork Arts Centre’s schedule of ‘creative learning’ reaches from dance classes to writing groups and embraces people from all stages of experience, from the curious and playful young to the equally curious and playful elderly. The title of ‘Octagon’ is derived from the number of participating artists, and each also works as a facilitator for the centre’s education programme. Unlike the straight lines and fixed angles of its namesake shape, the work is predominantly loose in style and searching by nature. Colour and form undulates from near translucence to blazing intensity, from diaphanous contours to sturdy replicas. Underlying it all there is a distinct quietness; the works compliantly align themselves.

Untitled by Sarah Ruttle consists of 36 pieces of folded paper, each shaped like a toddler-sized shoe with the toe intricately snipped into a pattern. White on white, they tremble gently, reminding me both of the paper chains I made in primary school and the lace-like doilies upon which my grandmother sits her cakes. The memory of sugary treats and childhood is sustained by Susan Montgomery’s reinvented sweet wrappers. As an accompaniment to her twinkling sculptures, there’s a video piece that traces the aimless path of a shadow scuttling and soaring against a wall. Ruttle and Montgomery have chosen to work with the flimsiest materials, yet once combined with movement and light, these fragments take on a silent immensity. The only other video is similarly daydream inducing. In Here, Still by Tess Leak, a compilation of drawings and found images blink by to a soundtrack of field recordings from Cape Clear, the southernmost of West Cork’s inhabited islands. The sounds convey a strong sense of place, a pervading calm.


Susan Montgomery, frame, 2013, cabinet card frame, sweet wrappers

Ian Humphrey’s paintings depict glittering glasses and polished fruit. The forms are bold, but Humphrey’s stolid technique and stark titles belie a quietness of subject matter. Marie Cullen’s abstract triptych displays the boldest colours of all. Her brush strokes writhe and leap out from their imprisoning paper. The people in Paul Forde- Cialis’s photo-transfer collages look as though they too have escaped – this time from old vaudeville posters. There are flickers of psychosis in their achromatic expressions, yet I feel a strange compassion for these long-dead vaudevillians, for the ignominious way they’ve been preserved by history.


Paul Forde-Cialis, Tell me again, 2013, photo-transfer collage

I Found Myself in a World with Two Sons by Alison Cronin is a graceful balance of carbon marks and projected light. Cronin is playing with the word ‘sons’ as what we see are two scribbled, coin-sized ‘suns’ spooling up and down from below the largest of three figures. The piece seems to be saying something about the conducting of family life, that it is as seemingly simple yet realistically tricky as spinning a yo-yo. Finally, Sharon Dipity’s work also concerns itself with the rifts and bounds between people, the frail equilibrium of everything.

Cronin and Dipity’s creations certainly show the influence of their parallel work as facilitators, as most of the selected pieces convey that some aspect of this interaction has been carried over into each artist’s studio practice. The exhibition as a whole exemplifies how this is, ultimately, mutually educational and mutually edifying. An artist working in isolation produces a different kind of work to that on show here; an artist driven solely by the force of silent contemplation makes things which are more detailed, repetitive, process-driven. Whereas the paintings, drawings, sculptures, photographs and films comprising ‘Octagon’ are clearly drawn from the experience of being amongst people, in all their peculiar glory. This work is generally rougher, rawer, and humming with empathy.

Sara Baume is a writer based in East Cork.

VAN July/August 2013: Critique Supplement |‘POV (points of view)’ at Monster Truck


Aisling Kane, Kanezo, 2012, C-type print, 85 x 104cm

POV (points of view)’
Monster Truck, Dublin
17 may – 15 June 2013

‘Points of View’ at Monster Truck is a group show where the artists involved have all addressed how lens based media – mainly photography – functions to represent a subject or a place. They are also connected through having lived or worked in Belfast at some stage in their career.

The Belfast connection is most obvious in the photographs of Aisling Kane. Representations of masculinity and place are intertwined in Kane’s photographs of male friends and members of her family from the Ardoyne area of Belfast. Ardoyne is an area of Belfast that has been frequently represented in the media as a sectarian flashpoint especially with provocative images of Orangemen clashing with the local catholic community. Kane attempts to redress the balance by offering a different, much quieter and intimate perspective of the community.

Kane’s work is very much within the realist tradition of twentieth-century photography pioneered by Walker Evans and August Sander. Her photographs evoke the “tender cruelty” of Evans’s work; there is a palpable vulnerability in James (2012), bare-chested and tattooed, the story of his life written across his body. I wondered what had happened to the ‘Philip 1985 – 2003’ marked in ink across his chest.1


Ciaran Hussey, Dead Air, 2012, three-channel AV installation, Monster Truck

In subtle ways, Section 31, a low point in the history of media censorship in Ireland, comes to mind in Ciaran Hussey’s installation Dead Air. The censorship of the media in coverage of The Troubles is somehow echoed in the found footage of journalists in that ‘in between time’ of broadcasts. The ‘dead air’ of the title suggests the mute voices of the Irish media at a time when discussion and debate was needed more that ever.

Possibly one of the greatest and worst aspects of the Web is the seemingly unmediated dissemination of information. Audiences’ increasing appetite for sensational imagery and an acceptance and desensitised attitude towards violent imagery shows no sign of decreasing.

With this in mind, perhaps, Duncan Ross takes the notorious image of soldier Lynndie England posing with a row of Abu Garub prisoners and has it remade as a kind of ‘Bayeux tapestry’ for current audiences. There is a curious flattening of meaning of the image, which is modest in size and alludes to the domestic labour and retelling of stories. As Marshal McCluhan famously stated, “the message is the medium”.2 Here, the piece becomes more about public attitudes towards imagery of this kind and less about the content: images of human suffering and degradation.

On a lighter note, the photographic projects of Jorden Hutching, Tonya Mc Mullen and Andrea Theis offer different perspectives on the ideals of tourism and what tourists want to take away in terms of a photographic record of a particular place.

Hutchings and McMullen’s participatory postcard project Here You Go invited members of the public to mark and describe a place of personal significance on a postcard mapping a mile radius of Gallery PS2 in Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter. The artists then visited the sites and photographed them. On display in the gallery is a series of postcard-size photos alongside the original marked postcard with comments from the participants. The comments and photographs ranged from the banal to the prosaic, but I particularly liked these two: “where I first kissed a boy, decided I no longer wanted to kiss girls” and “war memorial so much suffering so much resilience”.

Anyone who has ever tried to capture an iconic building or monument as a record of their holiday (haven’t we all?) will smile when looking at Andrea Theis’s photographic intervention Reviewing Image Disturbance. Carried out over five days, Theis placed herself front and centre of Weimer’s famous monument to Goethe and Schiller, frustrating and confusing the public by becoming an interloper in their holiday snaps. She recorded reactions to her intervention and shows these in the gallery. In her pictures, she appears to remain calmly stoic and impervious to requests for her to move. There is a curious tension in her position, which is one of power and vulnerability. I enjoyed her tongue in cheek categorising of the public reaction to the event by what appeared to be anger, confusion, bargaining and amusement.

As a group show, ‘Points of View’ holds together very well, and the Belfast connection is an interesting one. There are tenuous undercurrents of anxiety threaded through the work, hints of a shared trauma. Is this perhaps an unconscious response to living somewhere where violence has tainted communities and everyday life for a long time? Somehow it is impossible to ever know how a place will affect us, but there is something in the lines of Seamus Heaney’s poem Clearences that gives a sense of politics, memory and place:

A cobble thrown a hundred years ago
Keeps coming at me, the first stone
Aimed at a great-grandmother’s turncoat brow.

Alison Pilkington is an artist based in Dublin, she is currently undertaking a practice based PhD in the painting dept at NCAD.

VAN July/August 2013: Critique Supplement | Magnhild Opdøl at Butler Gallery


Magnhild Opdøl ‘point of no return’, installation view, Butler Gallery, Kilkenny, image courtesy the artist

Magnhild Opdøl
‘Point of No Return’
Butler Gallery, Kilkenny
15 June – 28 July 2013

Entry into ‘point of no return’ first brings viewers into contact with four pairs of vintage postcards depicting deer. The pairings, all of which share the title some sort of truth, are striking for their similarities and dissimilarities. For example, one presents two versions of the same picture – in colour and in black and white – but the proportion of the images differ slightly and the names of the locations printed on the postcards do not completely agree. In another set we cannot know which scene is correct. One is obviously right way round; the other has been printed in reverse. A third pairing offers two views of the same animals, but the angles from which they have been photographed are not the same. Looking at them perplexes the viewer.

They operate as visual puzzles, but their exact meaning eludes detection. On one hand these curious and quaintly nostalgic mementos appear meaningless; on the other the array of discrepancies holds my attention. As the eyes dart back and forth absorbed in a comparison of features, the mind attempts to discover the purpose of these works. During this process, I imagine that the images refer to the representation and misrepresentation of animals, or the historical practice of commercialising and romanticising nature, or even the many symbols represented by deer – but none of these ideas seem to capture the gist. Opdøl’s pairings hover in an ambiguous realm. Situated between falseness and verity, these ersatz depictions not only sidestep triteness, they also introduce us to a gnawing tension that pervades the entire exhibition.

What surprised me, though, is how Opdøl explores this sense of unease through vastly divergent themes and materials. She not only expands on the use of deer imagery, but also includes junk food and its packaging, matches and a candle, and scenes of nature and abandoned wooden buildings in works that reference Nordic and North American forests, animated film and the television series Twin Peaks. Her expansive work We’re afraid to go home in the dark features dozens more postcards of deer in which the artist has blacked out all or most of the background. The technique bestows a caught-in-the-headlights kind of look to these animals, which simultaneously proffers feelings of fear and surprise. In the same space, Fawn, a tiny bronze Bambi-like figure imprisoned under a glass dome, seems poised for escape, if only that dome were to be lifted. Its face is oriented not to viewers, but toward the gallery wall.

Further along, 299 stacked pink doughnut boxes evoke hollow sweetness and emotional eating. Titled Invitation to Love, the sculpture borrows its rubric from the fictional soap opera – a show-within-a-show – that appeared in the first season of Twin Peaks. The structure is preceded by Pilot, an unfolded and framed sample box that delineates the product in its original and unassembled state. Themes of light and darkness populate the third gallery. Here Opdøl presents The Silence After, a pencil rendering of a compact and anonymous forest space just after a heavy fall of snow. Illuminated in the weak light of winter, the frosty scene conveys a powerful sense of stillness. This impression is amplified by Being in Darkness, a bronze sculpture of a burnt out candle and two used matches, and the drawing Three days later that represents the same pair of matches. Together they evoke a potential crisis as they intimate a loss of heat and light.

In the fourth and final gallery, the juxtaposition of several old, scratched and faded forest views with a substantial number of bronze doughnuts creates a bittersweet apposition. The dilapidated state of the buildings in the photographs express abandonment, finality and decay, yet the shiny bronze doughnuts offer a powerful distraction to these sombre documents. Calling up cliché jokes about police officers predisposed to consuming empty calorie foods, these objects also immortalise these fluffy, deep fried rings of dough. Their presence not only attracts attention, it also averts it. Unlike Claes Oldenburg’s amusingly soft and oversize hamburgers, which celebrate the everyday, Opdøl’s accurately scaled and weighty trinkets express something more sinister. She has called them The Necessary Lie.

‘point of no return’ is devised of multiple and diverse pairings that consist of likenesses, faint echoes and contrasts, speaking of the richly textured world around us. Presenting examples ranging from the bland to redolent, exact to inexact, and unique to mass produced, Opdøl depicts this world as a place of sudden changes, consequences and risk, obsessive habits and misplaced desires, and where our relationship to and understanding of nature has eroded.

John Gayer is a writer / artist based in Dublin.

VAN September/October 2013: Critique Supplement: ‘Russian Dolls’ at Golden Thread Gallery, Belfast

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Cian Donnelly, Train Stop, live performance Golden Thread Gallery, Belfast, June 2013, image by Chris Campbell

‘Russian Dolls’
Sighle Bhreathnach-Cashell, Cian Donnelly and Matthew Walmsley
Golden Thread Gallery, Belfast
27 June – 3 August 2013


A man stands motionless on the roof of a burnt-out car, silhouetted in the darkened gallery. He has his back to us; his long arms hang limp and his bowler hat-clad head is bent down. Strange child-like figures stand around the space, lit by coloured spots. An eerie soundtrack – threatening pitches, long, low, distorted and lingering – accompanies the scene. A projection in the background shows silent footage of the face of the figure on the car roof, his melancholic eyes blinking behind a misshapen mask.

Thus begins ‘Russian Dolls’, a three-person group show at Belfast’s Golden Thread Gallery that includes an encounter with Cian Donnelly’s The Observatory. For the opening night, Donnelly performed Train Stop, an unsettling and at times nightmarish piece, donning the garb of the mannequin now atop the car. The artist conversed, sang, danced and, in a bizarre collaborative act, performed a duet with a creature vaguely resembling a human girl with a pointy nose, clown face and soiled robes.

Around a corner, mounted on a partition wall, a flat screen monitor plays footage of the performance – which doesn’t quite match experiencing Train Stop. Documenting the live event is an on-going challenge for performance artists. However, even without Donnelly’s presence, The Observatory installation functions effectively as an autonomous work.

Entering the next room, you’re invited to take a clipboard and sit down on a row of chairs lining a harshly lit white waiting room. Words are projected on the wall: ‘shadow’, ‘former’, ‘repeat’, ‘barren’, ‘slither’. Various signs warn of electric shocks and screens display instructions. Visitors are told to wait, then to enter an adjacent space behind the blinds at the next beep. At set times actors wearing doctors’ coats were present here to instruct and chide, but on this visit there were none.

Sighle Bhreathnach-Cashell’s YOU is an immersive, manipulative experiment. Visitors are impelled to participate in a series of unexplained psychological tests. Participants’ rebellion against this may be as much part of the artist’s expectations as their compliance.

Visitors are led through a maze of curtained spaces from one TV screen to the next, which hector: “Me or You?… Choose a face, (a), (b) or (c)?… Suicide? Yes or No? … The Death Penalty? Yes or No?” Answers are to be filled out on a clipboard. Footage from psychological experiments, TV shows and hysterical news bulletins flash alongside other disturbing images: a rotting bovine carcass, someone sleeping, pigeons eating vomit.

Proceeding down a curtained corridor, sounds coming from the various screens overlap with The Observatory‘s unsettling soundtrack, audible in the background. Visitors are confronted by a chair, with the warning ‘Danger, Electricity’ written on a sign above it.

It’s a beautiful object: simple, heavy and functional. Metal plates – electrical conductors – are set into the armrests. I’m told to flick the switch at the back on or off. I agonise – should I sit? I’ve followed all the other instructions so far, why not now? I really hate electric shocks…

Bhreathnach-Cashell creates an uncertain state in which visitors become (unwitting) guinea pigs in what may or may not be a malevolent exercise. What is enjoyable about YOU is the element of doubt, having to second-guess the artist’s intention, questioning the work’s ultimate aim and wondering about the futility of it all.

On the other hand, there is no ambiguity about Matthew Walmsley’s Boat Shed Gallery: a replica of an upturned fishing boat-turned-shed, complete with ropes and nets, functions as a quaint miniature gallery. It houses various works made by local artists on the theme of ‘boats’. It doesn’t quite succeed in exciting me, once the novelty of entering a tiny gallery has worn off. Others have felt differently, as one enthusiastic contributor to the comments book noted, “I’m on a boat! I’M. ON. A. BOAT!”

The exhibition press release text states that the works in this show explore “collaboration, exchange and ownership”. These issues are evident in differing measures in each of the works. Walmsley’s Boat Shed Gallery encompasses the work of others in an obvious way. Bhreathnach-Cashell’s YOU, besides inviting the visitors participation, includes works by Glasgow based artists Euan Ogilvie and Liam Fogerty – but they’re almost anonymously merged with the rest of the installation. Collaboration in Donnelly’s Observatory is a more obscure matter, taking place between the artist’s constructed persona and invented creatures, and what viewers read into his scenario.

Overall the works in ‘Russian Dolls’ are given their own individual space and thus function almost entirely independent of each other. The artists in ‘Russian Dolls’ have certainly presented work on their own terms, creating a distinct set of rules that invite the viewer to negotiate each of their unique, surreal and sometimes alarming worldviews.

Alissa Kleist lives and works in Belfast. She is a visual artist, co-director of Catalyst Arts and a member of artist collective PRIME.

VAN September/October 2013: Critique Supplement | Pádraig Timoney at Raven Row, London

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Pádraig Timoney, Consider the Lillies of the Field, 2009, Untitled, 2003, Swingeing Smithdown, 2008, the artist and Raucci / Santamaria Gallery, Naples; Collection Toby Webster, Glasgow, photo by Marcus j Leith

Pádraig Timoney
‘Fontwell Helix Feely’
Raven Row, London
27 – April – 23 June


Eminent American literary critic Harold Bloom’s concept of the ‘anxiety of influence’ theorised that poets were perpetually in contention with their own precursors, wrestling with the rampant references that inevitably populate art forms burdened by long traditions. The idea’s unhappily combative sensibility and formalist stricture have found it somewhat outmoded, but in an exhibition like Pádraig Timoney’s ‘Fontwell Helix Feely’ at Raven Row in London, its relevance sees a revival. Not unlike that of poetry, the history of painting, even attenuated to the last few centuries, is unforgiving in its immensity, and it looms over the gallery like a storm front over a dinghy.


Whether Timoney, in his evasion of style, falls prey to the inevitability of circumstantial quotation, or simply accepts it as an occupational hazard, is not for me to say, though I would prefer to believe the latter. Nonetheless it becomes difficult to accept his canvas painting on its own terms. Because no one aesthetic trajectory takes primacy, they all seem subordinate, and the viewer reconstructs the sensibilities from what seem to be its likely antecedents – David Salle here, Gerhard Richter there – on the family tree of postmodern painting.

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Exhibition view, Pádraig Timoney, ‘Fontwell Helix Feely’, Raven Row, 2013, photo by Marcus j Leith

Large works like Turns on Top and Meepmeep Popup, in which Timoney employs photographic developer to muddle his painted overlays of cartoons and Neo-Geo, seem to be caught halfway between insouciant misquotation and earnest efforts at newness. Similarly, the atmospheric rendering of Tinned Tomatoes and Bombed Coral, rendered partially through the unusual application of rabbit-skin glue and the more conventional glaze of modern / postmodern visual citation, hang on the wall attractively enough while contrarily winking that this formal abstraction business is all a bit farcical. The modest walls of Raven Row are hung heavily, with a few stray pieces lodged in the less trafficked corridors and interstices. This is of some import here, as the most engaging points of the exhibition are usually small, often crammed into corners, between a pair of doors, linguistically or conceptually extruded from the concrete artwork.

Four identically-sized stretched polyester wool panels, sprayed with green and red sheep-marking paint and entitled Séan’s Greens, are dispersed unevenly throughout the three floors of Raven Row like sheep on a pastoral northern hillside. There are sporadic blossoms of quietly intelligent weirdness like Fried Salt, which is a plate of exactly what it claims to be, and a handful of reminders of Timoney’s various homes, like the Derry recalled in Resistance to Fading, an aggressively republican graphic coffee mug glued to the inside of a doorway. One of three hand-silvered mirrors is titled Automatic Portrait Repeater, while a similarly misty-grey rabbit-skin-glue canvas is called Broken One Way Mirror, no. 3. The plaster panel of The Unforgiven features a glibly scrawled portrait of a capped and bearded man, maybe, or maybe not, an approximation of the subject of the painting from which the plaster cast was reportedly made.

Timoney’s work is indeed boldly eclectic, though the fact that this seems to bear such constant mention, and meet with such consistent praise, may also speak to an excess of engineered focus that is prevalent in contemporary visual art of the ‘oughts’ and of this decade. It doesn’t overstate the case, after all, to suggest that Timoney’s pronounced sense of risk and range would perhaps be the norm in a more functionally discursive art world. Moreover, flirting with failure and incoherence could be seen as the necessary condition of manifesting new ideas and methodologies, but this also demands a standard for how much of this unresolved adventurousness makes it inside the gallery. As not all of Timoney’s creations on exhibition are really successful, they collectively present a polemic on the merits of appreciating failure.

The infamous drill sergeant says of the literate smartass Joker in Full Metal Jacket, “He’s got guts, and guts is enough”. Bloom might disagree, but he would likely not have foreseen the market-instigated motivation for the genuinely curious to affect the attitudes of clowns. The painter’s impertinence, indeed his defection from the rudimentary tenets of gallery success, perhaps cloaks in the guise of irreverence a not un-solemn mission of sharpening the dulled bite of a suite of paintings in a white cube. Flat work hung on a wall can also upset the status quo, and could stand to try a little more often. Remember that shortly before the aforementioned drill sergeant uttered that line, he was slapping Joker across the face. Timoney too, in demonstrating his guts, seems to accept the imperative of taking a few licks along the way.

Curt Riegelnegg is a writer based in London