Archived entries for Reviews

Constellations by Orlaith Phelan

C o n s t e l l a t i o n s
Wolfgang Tillmans, Rebuilding the Future Exhibition | IMMA

I’m photographs, sometimes photocopies, sometimes even photographs of photocopies. I’m taut, stretched and bare. Thin skin on clips balanced on an edge, human in and of paper. I’m framed, bound, sealed and dispersed in my own ordered disorder. I’m not hierarchy. I’m raised, pressed in corners, by door frames, over eyes, scattered flecks along each wall. Patterns colliding with vulnerable intent. I hide and I consume, between hard glass, white edge, and a devouring red that lingers as mirrored traces against the flat planes towards the hand that holds your dripping head.

I’m moments and the interstitial. The infra thin of borders and after borders, leaving both a position and a question. I’m that yellow line down the middle. The stain, the muck; the scratches that are not meant to be. I break, spatter and gather; a box of empties all used up. Systems, fragments and scraps of something dirty and divine. The excesses of the time; the love on the dance floor, the cock in your mouth, and the hands you hold in prayer. I’m the white wave catching colour, the fold that denies and caresses dark and light.

I’m showing you what makes the “me” of this, the pieces of now, and the things not of us. The measures of power, growth and decay at every scale. The cracks in the sand, spilling veins of disruption and collapse. I’m the apparatus and the ties, the plastic tubes that coil and hang. Colours that melt of horizons that must remember not to fade. I’m the light that hits your back, in the glow to the gutter of what came before the morning with the remains smeared at our feet. I’m your hand that rests in the crisp blue.

I’m of an old future looking back. Always changing; a process of medium becoming object becoming body. My body that’s been recorded, crumpled, erased, and exposed, but always rebuilding forward. I’m the black on brown, the tight brace on your flexed muscle reminding. I’m an approach without fear to push or pause. Cravings and thoughts of joy and distress; the singular pluralities of all parts human. I’m the intimacy of the explicit unprotected, and the desire that punctures the mundane desperate to seek and see. I’m all parts human and the need to be expressed.

I’m not a theme and I’m no one thing. I’m the opposite of your reductive thoughts and the will to be the obvious. An abstraction that keeps abstracting, but somehow I manage to hold and hover in the sounds of “just enough to think” and “let’s stop before we go too far”. A life of work from a work in life. I’m a thread of all things, like a constellation that burns in and out of sight; an offering of all points with nothing denied.

Orlaith Phelan is an architect and a current student of Art in the Contemporary World

Emma Brennan’s Heed To The Mound, reviewed by Aoife Banks

Six contorted, heaving bodies, six mounds of dough, arms and legs entwined with lengths of proved flour, yeast and water. Twisting, manipulating limbs and torsos. Cold, thick slaps of bread dough against concrete. Brushing of feet and fingers, the clatter of elbows, palms and kneecaps against the flour sifted floor. Dusty sweeping of limbs. Panting fury. Laboured breaths. Exhausted sighs. Groans of resistance; of perseverance. Our bodies; our battleground.

Emma Brennan’s authored durational performance “Heed, to the Mound”, presents a group of women negotiating space through the movement of mounds of bread dough within the space of The Complex for Dublin’s 2018 Fringe Festival. Taking place over the course of 3 hours, physical exertion takes it’s toll on the performers as they use their bodies to manoeuvre and manipulate mounds of bread dough, equivalent to the weight of their own bodies, across the performance space. Heed brings to the fore the question of space, how it is occupied, who occupies it and how we negotiate our bodies accordingly. Moving mounds through the tumultuous terrain of gender politics proves no easy feat, as the excruciating and exhaustive work quite fittingly erodes these women mentally and physically throughout the duration of the performance. With puffed red faces and sweat glistened necks, the performers roll, twist, knead, push and pull their dough with ferocious determination evoking an emotional response from spectators. As tightly clenched fists punch into dough and miniature mountains inch across concrete we see the slow progression of women’s rights throughout history, we see the everyday instances of aggression and violence toward female bodies, we hear the hurt and fury in the exasperated groans of women on the battleground of Ireland’s sociopolitical landscape.

The undervaluing of women’s labour throughout history and the unseen emotional labour expected of women within contemporary society are brought to the fore in Heed. Taking inspiration from her grandmother’s tradition of baking brown bread for the family, Brennan questions the devaluation of homemaking skills, deemed as “women’s work”, in Irish society. In rural Irish homesteads, the process of baking seemed to go almost unacknowledged and undervalued compared to the work of men’s labour on the farm or outside of the home. Heed, to the Mound points a finger at society’s valuation of the workload associated with the traditional role of the homemaker. Through the poignant actions of a group of women labouring intensively, exhausting every part of their bodies, over masses of dough, attention is drawn to the intensity of this work and respect that must be commanded of the act of making. Heed emphasises the importance of valuing these acts of unseen and undervalued labour in opposition to the emphasis placed on working for monetary gain within a capitalist system.

Brennan refers to her process of preparing the dough as a metaphor for the creation of life. “With flour and water, we can create a living, breathing body, something which can grow through proofing.” The genderless, sexless, mounds of dough present each performer with an opportunity to experience a sense of self without the weight of gender bias, stigma, discrimination, fear or insecurity. With pressed backs, stomping feet and curled fingers these women manipulate their very being across a public platform. Each women tending to their own projected doughy selves; some rip chunks out and squeeze together again, some stretch and roll out for lengths becoming thinner and thinner with each inch, some repeat the pulling and folding of flaps; the slapping of flesh and dough reverberating through the room. When kneading dough you cannot be heavy-handed – it changes the entire consistency and texture, you can taste a bread baked with love or anger. A handful of dough receiving the blunt force, or gentle caress, of emotion; do our bodies receive the same attention from the space we inhabit? Politics are a tactile experience, and the daily micro-aggressive touch of our oppressive sociopolitical sphere lingers in our physicality and psyche alike.

The socio-political landscape of contemporary Ireland has been aflood with dissent regarding the relationship between the state and women’s bodies. In 2018, Irish society saw the culmination of decades of protest in the passing of the movement to repeal the 8th Amendment from the Irish constitution. The year also marks the centenary of women’s partial suffrage in Ireland; 1918 was the first time Irish women (aged 30 or older who were university graduates or owned a certain amount of property) were permitted by law to vote and run in parliamentary elections. Both movements saw women collectively struggling against structures of power that sought to oppress and define them physically, mentally, socially and politically. From the violent beatings of protesting suffragettes at the hands of police forces to the vice grip of the 8th Amendment and the mobilisation of women in the campaign to repeal it, the female body indefinitely exists as a site of conflict in a constant struggle against its aggressive politicisation. Taking place just three months after the referendum on the 8th amendment was held, Heed, to the Mound allows for a form of post-repeal conflict resolution to play out on the concrete floor of The Complex. The struggle of dissent against patriarchal structures of power echoes through the space as violent slaps of an elongated limb of dough reverberate through the concrete floor. Forcefully, in spite of her evident fatigue, a woman thrusts it behind her shoulder to gain momentum before hurtling it down upon the flour scattered ground. Some of the dough breaks away to hit a nearby wall. She repeats her action; the dough catches her behind the neck with a smack to her upper back; there can be no disruption without trauma. She perseveres.

Exhausted, and seemingly close to defeat, one woman halts her movements. The mass she had been inching across the space has begun to stick to the undredged floor and each push is met with increased resistance. As she heaves her body upon the mound to catch her breath and rest for a moment, she is spotted by the human dredger. This woman stands watching over the others, smiling gently, a mountain of flour in hand. Upon seeing distress, she tends to the struggling womens needs by sifting flour with great care around the stubborn masses of dough. A moment later, the performer is moving again. In times of mass dissent against oppressive forces of power, it is collectivity and care for ourselves and one another that carry us through. We must remember to pay heed to the mound.

Review: Furtive Tears by Niamh McCann at The Hugh Lane Gallery by Brendan Fox (ACW)

A New Occult and Encounters with the Invisible Man

A review of Furtive Tears, 4 October 2018 – 6 January 2019 by Niamh McCann at The Hugh Lane Gallery, Dublin, 2018.

Rodin's The Age of Bronze AKA The Awakening Man AKA The Vanquished One (masked) - Box Steel Frame, Walnut Burl Veneer Panel, Painted Panel, nuts and bolts, The Age of Bronze by Auguste Rodin from Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane’s collection - 2018.Photo Credit: Ruarí Conaty.

Occultation; n. (Astronomy); The passage of a celestial object across the line of sight between an observer and another celestial object; as when the moon moves between the Earth and the sun in a solar eclipse.

Beckoning us through ghostly operatic echoes as we ascend the stoic neoclassical staircase of the Hugh Lane Gallery, McCann’s video work Furtive Tears, Salomé’s Lament eventually drenches us in
an opulent fusion of Richard Strauss’s Salomé and Donizetti’s Una Furtiva Lagrima from here the hybridism of language and landscape becomes only more strange.

An imposing screen seduces us. Boris, a suited man, appears to await our arrival and scales the grandiose marble staircase of Belfast City Hall in a pair of red high heels. In a duo of impassioned tableau vivant’s he mimics the stance of Sir Edward Carson’s statue, situated at Stormont Castle, Belfast, followed by the Jim Larkin monument on O’Connell Street, just meters away. Both prominent twentieth century political figures immortalised in a state of dramatic public address. Outside the gallery they tower over contemporary cities fraught with new political uncertainties, their power redundant, their bodies now relics cast in silence. McCann breathes a last breath into their predominance and within it gives us space to reassess our own position in relation to both historic and contemporary power structures.
In the following scene we follow Boris’s continued ascension as he scales the Ridge View of Black Mountain leaving Belfast city behind having swapped his suit for a panda costume. Still wearing his red shoes, we witness him meandering through dewy grass, climbing fences and encountering mildly inconvenienced cows. He again mimics these political ghosts but this time the man is hidden, masked, he has become a cartoon. The dramatic inhabitance of these two iconic statues becomes a pathetic historical indistinct echo falling on deaf ears. We see his physical intentions without the details of expression, he is present but not apparent, something has passed between us and him obscuring our perspective, our reality.

This notion of occultation is pushed further in the adjoining gallery as we encounter our third immortalised male figure in a work wryly entitled The Age of Bronze AKA The Awakening Man AKA The Vanquished One (masked) pertaining to Rodin’s multi named bronze cast male figure (1876-77), a piece from the Hugh Lane Collection. McCann encases the gallery’s own Age of Bronze in a sharp green box frame, his head and upper body obscured with two panels, one blue the other a walnut burl veneer. This is a mongrel of the opposing sides of modernism but beyond its formal and art historical loft dwells a new space for interpretation. Through McCann’s geometric addition the figure of the naked bronze solider appears vulnerable, even caged. As the linear mechanism contrasts with the details and curvatures of his lower anatomy a palpable intimacy develops, yet he cannot “see” us, he is a pawn in a statement, to be looked at but not fully engaged with.

These historic male statues and monuments bare a contemporary vulnerability. McCann is redistributing notions of power and how we perceive it. She confidently harnesses these icons like a child might put batteries in an old toy and asks us to look again. Paradoxically there is a sense of the prophetic here, these historic regurgitations feel immediate and succeed through McCann’s ubiquitous intentions, her place amid the current socio-political zeitgeist and our own conception of the dawning of a new order.

In another gallery a taxidermied fawn towers above us, its head suffocated with a zipped black balloon, its fore limbs extended to its rear with black curved rods as it precariously sits, like a rocking horse, atop a box frame plinth, containing a dangling umbilical-esque blue neon tube light. From a height a pair of white voile drapes partially veil the rich blue walls before theatrically pouring to the floor surrounding an offering of fresh lilies, their fragrance inhabiting the space in a sharp organic sweetness as if Salomé herself was present, seducing us, dancing the Seven Veils amid this mise-en- scène tempered with sacrifice, vulnerability and power. These works lean on us as viewers to decipher what we do not see, or what McCann chooses to occult; they deftly summon forth the invisible. In the same room a large bronze nose cast from Seamus Murphy’s marble bust of Michael Collins (1949), another work from the Hugh Lane Collection, sits on a faux classical plinth, faceless, ironically pointing at a second green pedestal with a pair of destroyed aviator sunglasses. The monumental male is almost invisible now, surviving only by a nose, snorting contemporary air, like a man drowning in history or to quote Salomé in “black lakes troubled by fantastic moons.”

Art critic Rosalind Krauss writes of the logic of sculpture as being inseparable from the logic of the monument, “It sits in a particular place and speaks in a symbolical tongue about the meaning or use of that place”. McCann’s landscape of artefacts is profoundly routed in the space it inhabits; it is of the institution and rebels tangibly and intellectually within that frame. It is quite literally a Trojan horse, it is a series interventional contraptions concealing rebels and soldiers.

Here Salomé no longer dances alone under the gaze of men McCann’s ideas head bang alongside her, amid the Hugh Lane collection, like their parents have gone out of town. Furtive Tears is a spiky romantic affair it confronts us with fact and fiction, real and faux. Like Parrhasius’s curtain the perceived occultation is the work. As McCann’s objects pass between us and the past they momentarily eclipse history and in that darkness dwells a new constellation offering us portals into the alternative, interrogating socio-political shifts and arguing the legitimacy of the relics of politics and art, placing us at the centre of our own truths and preconceived ideas of our idiosyncratic place in story that is history.

Brendan Fox is an artist, curator, film maker and writer living in Dublin, he is currently studying MA Art in the Contemporary World, NCAD

Review by Seanán Kerr, ACW: Sean Scully, The Land/The Line at The Kerlin Gallery

Landline Burgandy, Sean Scully. Photo by Seanán Kerr

The Land/The Line, Sean Scully

The Kerlin Gallery

3rd October-17th November

“People come in here wanting to hate them…” To turn a trite cliché if Sean Scully didn’t exist you’d have to invent him, but such is the particular idiosyncrasies of that aspect (or perception) of Ireland he captures, there is perhaps only space in the collective art consciousness for one. What the gallerist informed me cannot be said for certain to be a wholly accurate gauge of the mind state of those before encountering one of the large square Scullies from 2015 and 2017 (curiously not 2016) of the landline series. As ever the space of the Kerlin excels in displaying work of this kind of scale, big, but not excessively so, a generously portioned meal for an obese Goldilocks, the size and lighting of the space suits these creatures. Yet what the gallerist said certainly indicates there is an expectation, that they are too easy, a little too technical bereft, or perhaps rather a little too close to the bone as regards precisely what it is they speak of.

The seven works are the same size, approximately the same form, though two are canvas and five are aluminium, the ‘lines’ of the show title are there and they are not. This use of line as a denominator is surely at least partially ironic, at very few points are the delineations between the horizontalised colour forms these paintings consist of so clean as to honestly be called “line” with a straight face, there is a minimum of three dimensions at play here. They smack and trample, into and over, akin to the colours in a four year old’s ball of play dough, once pristine, now mangled and bet into each other. Which isn’t to say they aren’t clearly defined, but sometimes the so-called lines aren’t defined by themselves inasmuch as they are by the last vestiges of older lines peeping out, like disturbed graves on a building site.

But what of the uncomfortable truth in Scully’s work? TJ Clark once defended the abstract expressionists citing “vulgarity”, is there a similar defense to be mounted in Scully’s case? Perhaps, perhaps not, in selecting the term “vulgar” Clark chose a word perfectly suited to a political, economic and cultural superpower on the rise, different to Ireland. Were I to propose such a term for Scully in the context of Éire it would have to be one that holds to an equivalent essential truth about both; that word would have to be “adequate”.

Like “vulgar” it conjures a sense of the pejorative, but not necessary so. The etymological root is in the latin for “equal”, the modern sense means “just good enough”. Both meanings speak of a certain truth of Irishness, where the light under overcast skies is spread wide, thin, nothing pops in such light, photographers complain of it, the lines are not quite lines.

The paintings follow a clockwise pattern, you climb the stairs and start with the one on its own on the left. This one is clearly the first in the sequence, there is a sense of signature about it, if you had to chose one to speak for the remaining half dozen, this would be it. The mix of blues is emblematic of the selection of works here, the inside of an old pot left outdoors rust orange, the burgundy that gives the work it’s title (Landline Burgundy), the sticking plaster fleshy-beige that streaks across the middle…

The presence of aluminium and canvas-based paintings begs a question, encourages examination of the brush strokes for stories and meaning. The aluminium resists, the canvas gives; so I’m told. (Though one risks making a fool of oneself if you can’t pass the pepsi challenge without peeking round the sides to note the material). The two blues speak of dark sea, yet the blue at the bottom is almost comically so, a mutant stowaway, a child’s idea of what blue is, unnatural and yet a shade often found on school uniforms. No single “line” is uniform. As with how the margins bleed and bump, fight and jostle, so too within the strokes themselves there is disagreement, different colours cling to different bristles, nothing is clearly defined and yet it is. There are seven “lines” (Newton who gave us two purple-blues (because the number seven appealed to his occultist sensibilities) would be pleased), the burgundy is second from bottom, it is complimented by the sticking plaster beige by looking like something you’d find under a bandage.

It is difficult sometimes to separate those aspects of Irishness that are in and of themselves, “pure” so to speak and those which emerged as a technology to be used against the English. An example can be found in a scene from Paddy Breathnacht’s I Went Down, where three men in a car approach a Garda checkpoint, the two in the front are kidnapping the one in the back, the kidnappers frantically curse the presence of the Gardaí on the road ahead as they pull up towards them, but as soon as they do pull up and the Garda looms through the wound down window, Brendan Gleeson’s Bunny draws the biggest laugh of the film by making this face…

There is something sinister about “Céad Míle Fáilte”, the term “aggressive gift giving” springs to mind, to be welcomed a hundred thousand times would be beyond tolerable.

The paint is slapped and lathered, the root of the strokes, as much in elbow, shoulder, torso, as wrist. A lick of not quite painted-over brown between beige and navy blue, another of the aforementioned disturbed graves.

The second Landline Asure, promises something more tranquil, this paint is borne by canvas, the surface less brutalised, shorter strokes, more delicate, curvier. A thick, almost slime-like spearmint green dominates the middle, an unfamiliar brand of toothpaste, one blue is so navy-dark it is as though the paint itself is hiding the strokes out of shame. There is no flatness here either, not really.

The third is brother to the first, perhaps twin. A broader spectrum. The longer, raking, straighter strokes the aluminium provokes, return. Again sea and rust, but a darker rust-red, situated on top, like a burning sky. A green is murdered and buried under granny-tights beige, can something that doesn’t aim for perfection have imperfections? A stab of white along the side, elderly pubic hair to go with the tights. Along the bottom is a dirty mustard, you’d think it had been dipped in it, if it wasn’t for the strokes.

The state of mind these images most readily reveal their nature to is sleep deprived. Jordowsky stayed awake for a week in the company of a zen master before shooting Holy Mountain. Camera pull back. Extreme heat and extreme cold are indistinguishable to touch. Place your arm along a series of bars which alternate cold and warm it will trick your system into registering extreme heat; apparently. The fourth is shaded like a child hiding in a ditch, or maybe she’s just thinking or longingly for the recent past to escape the near future as she rides in the back of the car being driven officiously back to the home she’d fled. This is what comes to mind when I look at Landline Crimson.

The lines have personality. The one painting called untitled has an expanse of grey, halfway between a view and being intensely accosted by John Major’s Spitting Image puppet. What does Scully have against canvases? Michelangelo struck David with his hammer demanding it speak, after it was finished, Scully attacks his canvases from the get go screaming, “shut up”.

The sixth is almost behaving itself, “yes Garda, as you can see…” the lines are almost evenly spaced. Here at last we have some green, but a green no Board Fáilte brochure would dare make use of. This is the green of Holbein’s dead Christ that so disturbed Dostoyevsky’s Prince Myshkin, not dying, not resurrected, but dead. This was the painting that on my first visit attracted flies, the gallerist approached me when he saw me taking photographs of them up close, we’d been in college about the same time, he a year below me (I think), but older, American, “please don’t post those online”, of course. Like a fascinating wound, the seat of all your attention, itchy, sore, pustulant, begging to be popped, prodded, picked, more engrossing than a smartphone in a hospital waiting room.

It is a treat to spend so much time with them, or at least to have a reason to, they require time. Footsteps and mouse clicks, short overheard conversations. The owner asking about the affordability of water taxis in some city he has to meet an artist, the gallerist answering a phone, saying matter of factly “about 11”. It seems everyone in here has a cold, sporadic coughing abounds, including from myself. I take it back, this one is the most obedient yet. Strokes shorter, more numerous, smoother, more bet in.

All is lit superbly. I am done, but never done with you Ireland, emigrant writers who can’t stop writing about here, you know the type, suppose you get it in painters too. Dignity in smeared makeup, like the drunk who feels sobered up in the company of the far drunker companion she’s waiting patiently with in the station at four in the morning. A strange blue-pink, the colour of a newborn chick tossed from a nest, an umbilical cord or varicose veins.

They are not lines,
They are not land,
They are people.

Seanán Kerr

Seanán Kerr was born in 1980, some stuff happened, then he wrote this. He is currently studying for an MA with Art in the Contemporary World, NCAD

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there is still much to do – a response to the work of Julia Dubsky by Sara Muthi

Baby Sharing. 96 x 80 x 2.5 cm. Oil on Canvas. 2018

What has already been said about painting is still not enough, the number of canvases marked has not scratched the surface of possibility. There is still much to do.

In a postmodern era which has given way to expanded painting (at times reaching intimate levels with forms of sculpture, installation and performance) there has also been a return to painting per se. This is the painting which concerns itself with hue, tone, composition, temperature (the list goes on). There are no frills, no gimmicks, just a primed stretched rectangular canvas with existing marks ready to be marked again. While painting may look inward questioning its ontology and possibilities, an exercise which has allowed for important movements such as expanded painting, painters of today can also simultaneously look at preserving the now. To quote David Joselit: “painting marks time, rather than intervening in the events that populate it”. Each mark made traces the fleeting action with which it was made. It stores gesture as evidence. The marking of time and engagement with painting per se are among the many concerns of Julia Dubsky.

Julia Dubsky is a Dublin born painter, and former studio mate of mine in the graduating class of 2016 from Fine Art Paint and Visual Culture at NCAD. She has since been granted many honourable opportunities, namely the coveted Temple Bar Gallery Recent Graduate Award. Dubsky has since relocated to Germany where she is currently doing a mentorship in the class of Jutta Koether in Hamburg University of Art. Personally, I chalk up her success to this; a delicate confidence. This is to be attributed to not just her painterly practice, but also to her character from which her work is inevitably rooted.

Dubsky’s Jealousy in the Garden (2018) concerns itself with her memory of painting, a sort of testing her unconsciousness. With that said, I feel this delicate confidence comes not from her unconscious ability but from where her conscious intention lies. I’ve been familiar with Dubsky’s practice for a number of years now and have seen it in many provisional stages. My mental portfolio of her work spans from peeking into her neighbouring studio at the Granary building of NCAD, to viewing her work Peacock (Jealousy) (2018) at the Kevin Kavanagh only earlier this year. My response to her painting has however still not been recast. I pick up on a palpable tension between her and her material (specifically oil paint). A point between artist allowing paint to be and the point of taking control, volition. I can almost hear the “oh no you don’t” as artist travels the canvas with material. Going back and forth, alternating her relationship between painter and consumer as she steps back to observe the canvas, it is clear nothing is incidental. If an aesthetic of frenzy emerges, consider it organised chaos. This is conspicuous due to the lack of drips or spots, no evidence of a mania or rashness. Given the painting’s thin application, as if razored flat, telling stains would be expected but none are present. Perhaps we could call it a power-play. This is what I imagine to happen behind her studio door.

It is this sew-saw of control that Dubsky utilises that elevates her delicate confidence. The image of the painting is immediate, it can be considered casual or brushed on. Dare I say rushed. But it is the security Dubsky has in her discernment and her carefully chosen materials that I believe grant works such as Baby Sharing (2018) it’s success.

I believe there is a point in each of Dubsky’s paintings in which she trusts her paint to slip into the unintentional. TJ Clark famously dismissed artist’s intentions stating he preferred to focus on what art can do. What Baby Sharing is doing is marking time, each layer reacting to the dry or wet paint beneath and laid upon it. However, none of that would be possible if not for the delicate confidence oozing from Dubsky and her work.

Sara Muthi

Julia Dubsky (b. 1990) is a Berlin based artist. She graduated from the NCAD Fine Art and Visual Culture BA in 2016; and she received the annual Temple Bar Gallery and Studios Recent Graduate Residency Award in 2017. Julia is currently doing a mentorship in the class of Jutta Koether, in Germany. Upcoming: nascent dirty lemon yellow, with Kyle McDonald at Pallas Projects 21-24 November,a solo exhibition in Amanada Wilkinson gallery, London (2019). Recent exhibitions and public speaking include: Island Life group show in Kevin Kavanagh Gallery (2018), Salon of Good Time solo residency exhibition in Temple Bar Gallery + Studios (2018); Basic Space Artist Talk, Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane (2018).

Sara Muthi (b. 1996) is a Dublin based writer and curator. Muthi graduated with a BA from NCAD Fine Art and Visual Culture in 2016. She progressed and is soon to graduate from an MA in Art in the Contemporary World at NCAD. Since 2017 she has been managing editor of in:Action, the Irish Live Art review. Recent work includes: Anticipation: Actualisation curated event and panel discussion at the NCAD Gallery (2018); Homo Lundens (Man at Play) accompanying text for Black Church Print Studios (2018) Young, single and ready to navigate through complex issues regarding temporality and time review of PLATFORM’18 and panel discussion at the Draiocht (2018).

Photo credit goes to Matthew Thomas.

half-way to cyborg-city*

*a liminal-point at which a hybrid entity consisting of organic human and technological mechanisms is in the process of becoming a cyborg, though does not yet have a body. The ‘city’ in this case suggests a hypothetical destination in which the cyborg is integrated into contemporary metropolitan society.

ACW student Sara Muthi responds to Composition 2: Notes on Breathing + Space by Siobhan Kavanagh and Adam Gibney at Ground Floor Gallery, The Complex. The text is avalible to read on in:Action, here:

Young, single and ready to navigate through complex issues regarding temporality and time

ACW student Sara Muthi responds to PLATFORM 2018, an exhibition and a series of associated events showcasing the work of emerging and early career artists who will use the Gallery as a playful, experimental and creative space. Using a wide range of visual media as well as sound, music, dance and food, PLATFORM provides an opportunity for the public to engage with artists, creatives and curators as they animate their ideas and practices.

“PLATFORM creates ample opportunities for emerging artists to exhibit, grow and consider their practice in light of their peers. Spaces for fresh creative freedom, in which things may be tried and tested in a critical context such as this are few and far between.”

Read full response here:

Image: Sadbh O’Brien, Lacuna, 2018.

“Copy that, Kapton”, a review of Sam Keogh’s Kapton Cadaverine performance at the Kerlin Gallery

“The space that situates the performance is so thoroughly inseparable from the performance that it would have been non-sensical to not textually indulge in this rich scenario by Sam Keogh. Everything from the control panel the astronaut heavily interacts with to the see through plastic panelling of the walls in the spaceship that allows the audience to see the performance from all sides in a voyeuristic fashion are all aspects of the symbiotic relationship the space shared with the performing body.” – Sara Muthi responds to Sam Keogh’s performance and exhibition at the Kerlin Gallery, up now on in:Action

Homo Ludens (Man at Play)

Homo Ludens (Man at Play),
The Library Project, 4 Temple Bar, Dublin 2.

Exhibition continues until Saturday, 27 January 2018
Opening hours: 12 – 6pm Tuesday – Saturday

Homo Ludens, the title of this exhibition, is the species of people who inhabited New Babylon, a future utopian city envisaged by Dutch artist Constant between 1956 and 1974. The term Homo Ludens was originally coined by Dutch cultural historian J. Huizinga in 1938, meaning a species of people whose fundamental activity is considered ‘play’. In New Babylon, Homo Ludens were free to lead creative and imaginative lives, released from labour by the development of automated systems. Here, the inhabitants were in control of their environment, able to change it to suit their needs, moods, and behaviour through the use of “moveable architectural components such as walls, floors, staircases… [and] colour, light [and] texture..”.

ACW student Sara Muthi writes the accompanying text available HERE

Curated by Roisin Bohan, Winner of the Black Church Print Studio ‘Recent Curator Graduate Award’, 2017.
Exhibiting Artists: Daire O’Shea, Cará Donaghey, Irene Whyte, Isabel English, Margot Galvin

Mythology, Authenticity, Representation & Psychosis by Sara Muthi

Exploring themes of mythology, authenticity, representation and psychosis, Sara Muthi, managing editor of in:Action and ACW student shares her latest response to the bi-monthly performance art platform Livestock titled “Get Real”.

“With a formula such as Livestock’s the performances tend to be more open to interpretation as there is (usually) no overarching theme of the live art on show, nor any available text associated with the performance to guide your interpretation any which way.”

BREATH (taking), a review of Nigel Rolfe’s group performance at the Green on Red Gallery by Sara Muthi

Bringing together a group of Nigel Rolfe’s top performing students from the Royal College of Art, London, BREATHING IN, BREATHING OUT takes place at the center of Rolfe’s 8th Solo show at the Green on Red Gallery, Dublin. Current ACW student Sara Muthi responds to the dynamic and materials used in her text BREATH (taking).

” A task not easy to achieve, BREATHING OUT BREATHING IN consisted of actions that don’t merely disappear but have real-world complex manifestations both in the gallery and out. The intensity felt throughout the course of this performance had kept my cough at bay as my attention was locked on the subtle and intentional gestures of each performance. ”

Read full response here:

“There’s art that challenges you, and art that’s simply not for you”

ACW student Sara Muthi and writer for in:Action, an Irish Live art review platform, shares her latest response to Martin O’Brien’s performance at the Dublin Live Art Festival.

“…for most of us, art is not life or death. If you feel challenged by the work of an artist, make it your mission to learn more, be uncomfortable and you will gain so much from it. However, if you simply can’t stomach a work, maybe it’s not for you. At the end of the day, art is just art. There’s art that challenges you and art that’s simply not for you.”


Play It By Ear // Richard Carr // Review by Susan Edwards

Play It By Ear
Richard Carr
Soma Contemporary Gallery
Waterford City
27, August – 19, September, 2015

One could almost be excused in missing a tiny gallery along a street in Waterford City. Unassuming and ironically it is quiet. If a building can be quiet and taking into account this gallery is called Soma Contemporary which exhibits and examines sound art. An art practice commonly associated with the term, “acoustic sculpture”.

Play It By Ear is the first solo exhibition by artist Richard Carr and the culmination of several years of research and work that began with a trip in 2012 to Mt. Kerkis, Greece and Pythagoras’ cave. Tradition holds that Pythagoras became the world’s first acousmatic practitioner when he fled to the cave around 400 BC and began to teach his students from behind a screen to increase their listening abilities.

Sound is experienced through the single sense of hearing. It is an aspect of an object that often gets overlooked in a busy bid to “see” an object with the other senses such as sight, taste, and touch. An object or thing does not have to possess a sound or more technically stated, the sound may not be audibly perceptible, so that the absence of noise is in itself, a sound. The auditory experience might well fit into a category termed slow art. One must slowdown in order to “catch” what is intended to be heard. And often times what we hear does not correlate with what we see.

Carr’s sound installations could produce jarring experiences for the viewer/listener for the above reason, the objects seen did not necessarily link to the sound heard. One particular piece which so beautifully exemplified this was a sleek Ikea type glass shelf hinged to a white wall along with natural elemental noise. While one end presents as a distinctly minimalistic architectural design, the other end is a sound emitting near this design of a deeply primal environmental nature. The overall effect is curiosity into why the two ends have been linked together in the installation. This work could have tottered unpleasantly but instead gives a balanced effect of query.

Walt Whitman in his poem “Song to Myself” wrote:

“Now I will do nothing, but listen
To accrue what I hear into this song,
To let sounds contribute toward it.“

In his writing, Whitman was reflecting of communion amongst individuals, that “what I assume, you shall assume”. He was also reflecting that one must look inward, to do nothing, to listen, and put this documentary evidence of humanity into a collective file for reference in trying to grasp one’s and each other’s response to life’s events and situations. The directive from this poem best achieves an insight of Carr’s solo exhibition.

The four gallery spaces where the installations occupied were a cocooned womb of subdued lighting. It was soothing, it was relaxing and it also supported a sense of heighted sensory awareness. The first piece encountered was “Construct”. A wood and glass phone booth type shelter of four individual seating areas complete with head phones, control buttons and a glass viewing window directly in front of a seat. There were no directions or guidance on how to utilize the arrangement.The first decision was to sit down, then to put on the head phones, then to turn and twist the buttons. Whether one wished to engage others sitting in opposite or adjacent booths was a personal decision and also depended on if others were present and willing to play. The headphones produced a child endless recitation of the Letterland alphabet amid construction sounds of lumber being sawed, dropped and moved with accompanying foot fall. The silver knob manipulated and controlled the illumination and brightness in the different booths with images of one’s self projected across to opposite panes of glass due to a central lens in the centre of this quadrant. What was fascinating about this interactive piece was how long each individual took to learn the process of the booth and more importantly how long or if at all, did they choose to interact with others in their own process of self-discovery. It was an experiment of human nature, of curiosity, of a child’s voice inviting the process of discovery, play and construction. An experiment with countless results as varied as the people who occupied the seats.

Returning Solid, installation view 2015

Turning into a small corner of a hallway was “Returning Solid”. The slim 15 inch glass shelf, positioned twelve inches off the floor was the only thing adorning the wall. Subtle lighting emphasised this transparent material. An amplified type object opposite the shelf produced the sounds of wind and trickling water though these felt as if they were floating in air. On the first exposure to this piece, it was almost possible to imagine a small creek flowing off the glass and into air. Because of its complete lack of symbolic referencing, a mental void occurred. The viewer either dismissed this work walking past it or paused, stepping back a bit in puzzlement to question, to reconcile what the eyes saw and the ears heard. It was simplicity of an extreme and hauntingly beautiful.

Residual Error, installation view 2015

Progressing further into the gallery, in a large space all to its self was a creation which became the triangular ten point symbol on the accompanying exhibition publication. Titled “Residual Error”, it involved ten crumpled balls of paper placed on a transparent slab that lay on the floor. The balls of paper were consciously and specifically placed in a bowling ball formation and begged to be picked up, moved about and repositioned. There was the sound of paper ripping, the ear asking the mind to visualise these paper spheres being formed. Listening to the material being torn apart perhaps encouraged deconstruction. The idea was tempting for a child or an adventurous adult to move these balls of paper about the space or even to another room! This reviewer imagined the gallery caretakers would no longer find a ten point triangular formation in the room by the close of each day, but as in a game of probability, they would appear in different areas and locations for the duration of its presentation.

Play it by Ear, installation view 2015

At the very back of the gallery, marking the end of the installation pieces was the work from which the exhibition claimed its’ name, “Play it by Ear”. Even before the viewer entered the area of the work, it was able to be heard. Like a beacon, the sound lured an individual towards it; unnerving, distressing, unable to be identified as human or animal with an impression of dripping liquid amongst the droning hum. Blackened walls with an octagonal screened shape, centrally positioned, created a shrine like atmosphere in the room. The eight sided form was internally lit but no access was available. At once terrifying, but with the soothing gentle light softened by the screen, a wash of curiosity prevailed to investigate. While the other pieces in this exhibition were playful, this acoustic structure was most decidedly not playful, but the contrast of the expectation and the encounter created its own sense of humour or amusement.

Roger Scruton in an essay on the ontological theory of sound states that sounds are “pure events; secondary objects whose existence, nature, and qualities are all determined by how things appear to the normal observer”. In a very simplistic summation, this links well with Whitman’s more poetic observation that one needs to listen, to collect the song of one’s self, the perception of what one hears to understand how it is perceived, “what I assume, you shall assume”. Richard Carr skilfully challenged how we allow sound to influence what is seen within the context of his art practice and first solo exhibition.


Alexander McQueen
Victoria & Albert Museum
London, U.K.
14, March – 2, August, 2015
Review by Susan Edwards

At the entrance was a video screen, an image of an indistinct human face morphing from a skull shape to tribal image with the incessant sound of a primal heartbeat. The face that mutates and shifts is Alexander McQueen. The sound track is a deep bass chant that can be felt in the chest, leaving an intense feeling of anticipation. It was an intoxicating entrance to an exhibition. There was a stone wall at this entrance with texts of his work, themes and plots, a quote from him that stated, “I’m a romantic schizophrenic”. All through out the exhibition were wall captions of his collection, descriptions of his work that were his words, not those of curators or museum staff viewpoints. One was reading his own interpretations of his ideas and the creative process he employed. Like his life, they were blunt, outrageous, politically incorrect and at times, the frankness of his observations would make one wince with the brutality of the words. His collections were shown in ten rooms of chronological order from his first collection as a graduate of Central St. Martin’s in 1992 to his unfinished Atlantis collection of the S/S 2012.

The exhibition contains over 240 pieces of work plus sound and film so as to mimic in some manner his catwalk shows which have been described as performance or installation art. No matter the label, like his presentations the exhibition was a feast for the entire senses.

The lighting, sound and visual effects were a collaboration with the production company of Gainsbury & Whiting, which in itself was a well executed and curated event. The London exhibit was followed from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York by the same title of “Savage Beauty”. The 2011 event was the 8th most popular exhibition in the Met’s 141 year history. It was the fourth most attended exhibition worldwide for that year with more than 661,000 visitors. While the attendance records for the Victoria and Albert event are still to be determined, the exhibition is sold out weeks in advance, with 100 tickets allowed daily on a first come, first serve basis at the door. There are several viewing times throughout the day with long queues forming hours ahead of schedule. On the day of attendance, April 16, the rooms were packed with people patiently snaking about the perimeters of the spaces to progress forward. No seating was available except in the Room of Curiosities where one might wait several minutes or more for a vacant spot to sit. It took two and a half hours to view the collection, videos and read the accompany narratives. In fact, though possible to return to a previous room to relook at a piece, it would have been more akin to a trout swimming upstream going against the forward movement of viewers. Once an exit had been made at the final tenth room of the Atlantis collection no return was possible as tight control over the crowd flow was maintained by museum monitors and personnel.

McQueen presented contradictions in his life which reflected in his work. Born in the East End of London of working class parents, his life led him to mingle with the elite, famous, and beautiful. The Victoria & Albert event staged a preview where these elite famous attended, some wearing his designs, others were asserting rights of association with the man and all acknowledging his brilliance and genius. But on April 16th, one of many exhibition days for the general public, multitudes of people from various stations and walks of life attended. Men in conservative tweed jackets carrying brollies, well coiffed women in stylish clothes, goths, punks, hipsters, arty funks, school tours, high, middle and low class, all to view his brilliance and genius.

Lee Alexander McQueen represented an anti establishment persona, yet was trained in the most conservative of trades. Apprenticed on Saville row at Gieves & Hawkes, tailors for royalty and other lofty clients, he is reputed to have sewn into the lining of a suit for Prince Charles of Wales the words, “I am a cunt”. He presented an unsettling, unsavoury view of the soul saying once, “people find my things sometimes aggressive, but I don’t see it as aggressive, I see it as romantic, dealing with a dark self of personality”. Despite this uncomfortable inner personality guiding his visual designs, he was a 4 time British Designer of the Year recipient, 2004 Men’s Wear Designer of the Year, and in 2003 he received both Best International Designer of the Year and a C.B.E. ( Commander of the British Empire) for services to the fashion industry bestowed on him by Queen Elizabeth. While he extolled the virtues of his east end roots in text at the exhibition, “London is where I was brought up, its’ where my heart is and where I get my inspiration”, he also embraced his Scottish heritage saying “The reason I’m patriotic about Scotland is because I think it’s been dealt a really hard hand. It’s marketed the world over as haggis and bagpipes, but no one ever puts anything back into it” and after his Widows of Culloden, A/W 2006 collection, inspired by the Jacobite Risings and the 1745 Battle of Culloden he said, “what the British did there was nothing short of genocide”.

To put together another review of this retrospect exhibition of McQueen’s life work seems like a waste of time for both writer and reader. There is a slight doubt much more can be expanded, shared, related and envisioned and most certainly nothing is gained of yet another room by room, garment by garment description. But something about what he created and presented tugs at the soul of individuals that so many, from so diverse backgrounds show up to view his collections. The appeal could be the element of fantasy McQueen embraced, carving out places for ourselves in alternate personalities to attain the unattainable. Let’s instead examine three of his iconic pieces that helped shape the industry and fashion, the duck feather dress, bumster jeans, and the spray paint dress.

The duck feather dress is from the A/W 2009 “Horn of Plenty” collection. The garment is a knee length dress constructed from hundreds of thousands of intertwined black dyed duck feathers along with a tight fitting cap for the head.

It has become the signature piece for the Victoria & Albert’s Savage Beauty exhibition. Embracing the Romantic period of the 18th century with mythic and dark gothic images, he utilised the focus of fantasy for intense emotions such as terror, awe, and joy. The period was noted for its scientific rationalization to nature and a heightened sense of enlightenment. Inspired by Edgar Allen Poe’s poem “The Raven” from 1845, he transformed a human to a bird using a raven the romantic symbol of death. He was also manipulating with the proportions of a 1950’s haute couture hourglass figure.

McQueen was a fan of corseted waists and structured shoulders. Combining the precision and tailoring that was his trademark, he engaged an unbridled creativity to construct an avian shaped form, nipped in at the waist, the hips and shoulders with exaggerated fullness of the feathers appearing as the model’s wings. He employed plumassiers or feather masters from the workshops of the House of Lemarie which are highly skilled craftspeople in fashion. While feathers have been used in fashion countless time, they are generally associated with the show girl effect, light and sexual in nature. McQueen’s use of feathers take on a brooding, dark meaning, mimicking the raven from the narrative poem with concepts of loss, memories, and “nothing more”. It demonstrated his extraordinary showmanship and flair for theatrics. A dress not practical to be worn on the red carpet, but soaked in rich visual romantic indulgence. The use of fantasy was visited endlessly in his designs, allowing the wearer to experiment with identity without taking on another persona. He loved birds and used feathers many times in his work, but none as memorable as the piece from this collection.

The bumster jeans were first shown for the A/W 1993 collection Taxi Driver, inspired by the Martin Scorsese film as well as his father’s profession. It was his first collection after graduating with his MA degree and it would change the silhouette of women’s trousers for the next 20 years. Several elements of style are occurring with the bumster. First and foremost is provocation. In the bumsters, McQueen is shifting the focus of the erogenous zone from breast cleavage to bum cleavage and from female eroticism to a unisexual appeal. “I wanted to elongate the body, not just to show the bum. To me that part of the body…not so much the buttocks but the bottom of the spine…. that’s the most erotic part of anyone’s body”. The flat fronted bumster is cut and tailored with his unique precision and knowledge of pattern making. The “rise” of any trouser is determined by the distance of the crotch to the waist which normally measures 12 inches. In the low rise trouser, this measurement is reduced to 5 inches, designed to sit low on the hip, elongating the torso and shortening the leg. The bumster featured in many of his collections, but received notoriety in his A/W, 1995, Highland Rape collection. By 2000, the fashion was showing on the streets deliberately ripped and patched. Britney Spears is credited with making the jean popular after she started wearing a version of the trouser which stopped just short of her pubic bone. The low rise jean is differentiated from the sloppy, oversized jeans seen on hip hop stars in that they are far more tailored and offer a skinny leg. This garment is a classic example of the industry process, where the concept or clothes are first viewed on the catwalk before being deconstructed, manipulated, and accommodated for the mass market.

New designs follow fixed laws of precedence on the runway beginning with suits and ending with evening wear. Traditionally the end of a collection is a wedding gown or some designed version of the wedding gown.For the finale of the S/S, 1999, untitled show, McQueen sent out ballerina Shalom Harlow in a white billowy dress layered with silk tulle petticoats. The dress has a trapezoid, below the knee length form, strapless and held up with a plain light brown leather belt under the arms. Another belt runs from side seam to side seam to hold it next to the body in the back. Walking down to two waiting robotic objects, she steps onto a round plate that begins to rotate while the machines begin to spray her dress with black and yellow paint. A slight macabre interaction begins with the virginal model showing signs of resistance, bound with belts, submitting to the prodding and branding of the robots paint. In the end, the machines sit silent having finished their work, the model walks off the plate, her dress and body covered in dripping paint.

It was craft melting with technology. The impact of the finale was stunning as preceding that moment, the robots sit as motionless sentinels while models walk down to random placed revolving plates dressed in clothes of fine crafted balsa wood and loose weave raffia. The designer had been inspired by an installation of German artist Rebecca Horn where two shotguns fired blood red paint at each other in careful timed intervals. The dress was displayed in the Room of Curiosities of the exhibition at the V&A, mounted up on a plinth type structure while a video played the original runway moment of Harlow being sprayed by the machines. Incorporating the element of displacement in fashion, it allowed McQueen to include images, objects, or inconsequential motifs on garments without a reference to logic and rationality. Displacement is fashion’s nod to Surrealism, a movement founded in the 1920’s which transposes inanimate objects into different and uneasy contexts. He used this technique with relish, hoping to illicit emotions of disgust or incredulity with the glamour of fashion.

The process of fashion is a two way street. While the designer’s initial and often outrageous garments will eventually be diluted when they hit the high street, designers can also reinterpret ideas observed on the streets in a “trickle up” effect to the runway. The aim of the catwalk fashion collections is not to satisfy a practical function as normally needed of clothing such as warmth, protection, or to incite sexual attraction, but instead to utilize the human form in an unlimited creative process and allow the imagination of the designer/artist no boundaries. It uses the body as moving artistic object of rebellion. Something Lee Alexander McQueen did with exquisite skill.

Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty, in partnership with Swarovski, supported by American Express and made possible with the cooperation of Alexander McQueen, runs from 14 March – 2 August 2015.

Source material:

Beasley, Mark, 2011, Nov /Dec, Frieze Magazine, issue 143, Alexander McQueen,
Metro M.of Art, New York.

Bourk, Sinead, 13, March, 2015, First Look

Fogg, Marnie, 2014, Why You Can Go Out Dressed Like That: Modern Fashion Explained. Pub. Thames & Hudson.

Milligan, Lauren, 11, May, 2011, Who’s who, Vogue.”

Poe, Edgar Allen, 1845, The Raven”

Skidmore, Maisie, 13, March, 2015,”

The Golden Age of Couture: Paris and London 1947-1957. Alexander McQueen S/S,RTW, 1999, No. 13
(full runway show, 21:45)



Title: Duck feather dress
Artist: Alexander McQueen
Date: The Horn of Plenty, A/W 2009-10
Credit line: Model: Magdalena Frackowiak represented by dna model management New York, Image: firstVIEW
Special terms: None

Title: Installation view of ‘London’ gallery
Artist: Alexander McQueen Savage Beauty at the V&A
Date: 2015
Credit line: Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Special terms: None

Title: Spray painted dress
Artist: Alexander McQueen
Date: No 13, S/S 1999
Credit line: Model: Shalom Harlow represented by dna model management New York, Image: Catwalking
Special terms: None

Wine Soak No.18: “Only the most adaptable will survive”

Our wine correspondent found himself at Dead Zoo, an exhibition in the Art Box Gallery curated by Hilary Murray, featuring the work of Catherine Barragry, Teresa Gillespie and Maria McKinney. The exhibition and the unfolding events on the evening in question left him considering his chances of survival in an increasingly hostile environment.

Last Thursday I was delighted to hear word of a new space on James Joyce Street called Art Box. I got an invitation to an all woman show featuring some free alcohol and I just couldn’t say no. Getting straight to the point, the Alcohol was Finkbrau Pils / Pilsener, a Pilsener beer by Oettinger Bier Gruppe, a brewery in Oettingen, Bavaria, distributed in Ireland by Lidl. It’s not one of my favourite beverages, mind you, but at least there was a choice between the low alcohol and the normal 4.5%. In these matters I always defer to the higher volume of course.
The location of the gallery on James Joyce Street presents a particular challenge pertaining to audience when it comes to the surrounding vicinity in the defined innards of the city. The street is something of an art world enclave as it is also home to the Oonagh Young gallery and the Dublin City Council art gallery, the Lab. Both of these galleries have had to make peace overtures to the restless local youths that may not look so fondly upon the colonisation of the territory by the bourgeois art scene, and as the opening night unfolded it became clear why they did. I always traverse to the city’s north-side with a certain trepidation that invigorates the blood with an edgy, fever inducing excitement that borders at times on total fear, and the reasons will be made clear below. But please forgive me reader if at times I am prone to some dire exaggeration.
On the evening in question the beer certainly helped to take the nervous edge off of the proceedings and the intimidating clusters of local youths that would temporarily gather at the windows looking in, boisterously laughing, while occasionally kicking a football against the plate glass windows. Those of us gathered within must have appeared to them to be a very absurd assembly of unusual people surrounded by even more unusual objects. One of the youngsters, more curious than the rest, ventured in the door and began to vigorously handle a totemic sculpture by Maria McKinney that stretched from floor to ceiling just inside the door. When he was politely asked to desist he left with no apparent sign of animosity or annoyance. Another Finkbrau later and the night seemed to be settling into the usual opening night rhythm of muted conversations and confusing cheek kissing rituals. Suddenly the totemic sculpture by the gallery door came under attack by a group of restless natives that ran in like a confused blur of arms, legs, trainers and hoodies striking the tower a killer blow. They were gone before the work, that collapsed with an almighty bang, had even hit the floor.

As the opening crowd settled themselves from the shock of such an event Teresa Gillespie informed me that earlier that evening a far from esteemed critic with a dog under his arm had come in, tried to punch the curator and then proceeded to spit on her work. Thankfully the brunt of the art attacks had focused on the more robust installation pieces as I don’t think Catharine Barragry’s fragile installation could have survived such abusive treatment.

Once I had gathered my wits after the shock of the impromptu intervention upon the opening festivities I managed to have a better look around. All of the works on exhibit had a peculiar alien nature about them. Barragry’s work featured the process of water under the influence of gravity trying to find its point of least resistance as it descended from a plastic canister along a thread, passing through a bone on its course to a reservoir upon the floor. The bone appeared to be balanced precariously upon a cast metal rod rendered to make it look less sturdy. I feared for its delicate poise and balance in the face of such vigorous attention, the like of which the Maria McKinney sculpture had suffered just moments before. The grotesque as always was present in Teresa Gillespies work that ceaselessly manages to arouse within me an erotic disgust that I never find less than exhilarating. I have to say I’ve never seen raw chicken fillets in such a repulsive and compelling light as I experienced them in this exhibition. I then became lost in the forest of totemic foam plastic towers that inhabited the back of the exhibition, not unlike the solitary tower that had been attacked in the doorway. The colourfully painted towers generated what could only be described as an overwhelming and ominous sense of deep, toxic, under sea claustrophobia.

I began to feel trapped between the compelling and visceral art works, the underwhelming Finkbrau and the terrifying speculation on the dystopian future presented by the text of the exhibition. The exhibition’s accompanying literature prophesied an apocalyptic outcome for a humanity that has already pushed the biosphere of the planet beyond its tipping point toward an inevitable change for the worse. In a morose bout of introspection I began to consider the lives of those who had interacted most vigorously with the artworks, those restless youthful spirits that marauded by in the darkness of the street outside. Was there any hope for either group, those outside furtively watching from the shadows, somewhere beyond the light cast into the street from the gallery window and those within the gallery basking under the full intensity of the gallery lights. Who will survive in the post apocalyptic future? Which of us would survive Darwin’s natural selection? It will no doubt be those who are most adaptable to the challenges and changing circumstances of an increasingly hostile environment. Is it to be us the living animals of the concrete jungle or us the exotic creatures within the enclosure of the dead zoo?

I took another draft from my bottle of Finkbrau and let my fears melt away as I diffused my consciousness into the obscuring shadows of the darkening city, becoming one with the menagerie of humanity inhabiting the city of which we all are a part.

Dead Zoo featuring the work of Catherine Barragry I Teresa Gillespie | Maria McKinney will run in the Art Box Gallery, 3 James Joyce Street, Dublin 1 from March 20th to April 25th Thursday – Saturday, 11am – 5pm.

Review of Peripheries 2014: Between the I and the Hand

1st of August – 8th August
Curated by Richard Carr
Reviewed by Susan Edwards

Peripheries –
plural, noun. the outer limits or edge of an area or object. Also a secondary position or aspect of a group, for example; a shift in power from the centre to the periphery.

An idea was created from a lecture of “Gatherings” in Cork City, Rep. of Ireland in 2005 when it was the European City of Culture. During this lecture the concept of a production of culture on the periphery was explored, occurring when fringe events resulted in centres of excellences formed outside the main cultural events. A small Irish art college attended and brought back to its academic setting an idea that has expanded and blossomed into an annual event that has now produced a fourth exhibition which begs to be examined for its fresh creative efforts of the purity of art for art’s sake.

In 2011, the first Peripheries event was staged by Gorey School of Art located in Co. Wexford, Ireland. Consisting of three days of discussions with artists, community and students, it ended with a small exhibition in a then rented building in an industrial estate. There was no formal curator or academic agenda, merely a small rural community with a history rich with the love of art and a smattering of local artists with weighty artistic success behind their belts such as Michael Warren, Paul Funge, and Eamonn Carter to contribute. This review will attempt to enlighten and encourage those on the fringe that indeed, great art can and does happen when artists do what they do best…creating something, from nothing other than an idea and a willingness to take risks and experiment with the art process.

Enter 2014, take a group of young emerging Irish artists, throw in one well established international artist, mix with some highly acclaimed art writers, embrace each artists specific concerns, motivation and practices, stir with one highly creative and skilled curator and the result is an exhibition that celebrated what artists enjoy most, making works of art. For Richard Carr, curating the event was interesting and challenging he states, to bring varying art practices into one exhibition, but also to use the event as an opportunity to celebrate the educational success of the fine art program with the college and its course expansion of a new creative media and film qualification. Working on the premise of each artist and their individual process of making and that which is produced “between the I and the Hand”, the exhibition explored the changing concepts of what is the Handmade in the contemporary art practice. The gallery space was filled with a diversity of mediums as eclectic as the artists. The ground floor had at centre stage a mixed media sculpture piece by Catriona Mcloughlin of tangled, bound textiles on a bed frame dripping memories of places and stories, paintings by Andrew Simpson of beige, grey and monotone brushstrokes of vague afterthoughts which invited closer inspection, a sound installation piece with headphones to hear the touches to a amplified wooden box, another painter’s contribution by Amanda Doran that showed fleshy, pulpy, portraiture images of a Francis Bacon type of grotesqueness. And when the viewer wished to sit and contemplate, a collection of essays of contemporary thought and philosophy were available.

This newly constructed building which housed the exhibition had ceiling to floor windows to accommodate the changing nuances of natural light and a second level with a walkway to studio and lecture rooms. The upper level had a sleek, installation piece by Conor McDonald that included aged, weathered wooden blocks reclaimed from a disused mushroom factory to dissect notions of place and time. Three rooms separated from the main space for media presentation, a film by Michael Gilbert entitled, “Unfold, a video by Patrick Redmond which looked at lighting techniques in various clips from his art practice and a room dedicated to a screening day of “The Passing”, a black and white video of sound and images from renowned artist Bill Viola. This combination of the digital world with the traditional fine art categories highlighted the link and relationships of the maker with their work. Even that which consists of technological materials still shows the maker’s hand, from the construction of the work, to the very physical installation of that work in the gallery space. This exhibition skilfully allowed the viewers to encounter a variety of art works as well as a glimpse of the similarities and differences of individual artist practices.

Gorey School of Art is located in Co.Wexford and is a progressive, dynamic and innovative organisation that is recognised throughout Ireland by key art institutions and organisations as a centre of excellence. The Peripheries event is an annual exhibition that occurs on the first weekend in August.

Richard Carr is a 2013 M.F.A graduate of The National College of Art and Design

Susan Edwards is a 2014 ACW graduate of The National College of Art and Design

Issue on sale here

SEE THE FUTURE A written response by ACW alumni Barry Kehoe

The following response by Barry Kehoe was commissioned by the artists on the NCAD Masters Fine Art and Masters Art in the Digital World (MFA/ADW) during their graduate show that took place in June 2014.

“…distance ceases to be distance and to be blue when we arrive in it. The far becomes the near and they are not the same place” (Rebecca Solnit, The Blue of Distance)

In what could either be “marketing speak” hubris, or more hopefully, an example of sardonic wit, the overarching title chosen for the graduate shows in NCAD is “see the future.” In our contemporary moment of failed, teleological, utopian ideologies this statement and invitation seems to be terribly ironic. However, if it is possible to embrace the statement with a suspension of disbelief, evading the hollow marketing strategy, it presents a more intriguing opportunity to find a position in relation to the possibility of a future through experiencing the art objects of the present exhibition that are born from a specific, sited perspective that is both social and personal.

To see the future is to take a position in the present and look outward toward a distant horizon. It is an unattainable horizon, for in the journey to breach that distance the very thing that is called the future becomes pushed further ahead to another distant place that is ever approaching but never arrived at. As is so often the case in human experience, the perspective upon the horizon that holds the elusive future becomes reduced to a single point, an aperture contingent with a single goal. The future becomes that beacon of light in a field of darkness, the source of light that carries all of human hope. That beacon of light is a strange and untameable beast. To take a position in relation to that horizon, the elusive future, that very real limit of human perspective, is also to establish a point of origin from where to begin a journey. This point of origin, this place of beginning, like a site at the centre from which to navigate a maze must be found before a journey into the unknown can begin. With the image of a blue rabbit as an unlikely starting point we are already late and in a terrible hurry, but unlike Alice in wonderland who awoke in the light and descended down the rabbit hole we are awoken in the darkness and begin deep within the rabbit hole seeking a path to that elusive light of the future, through the maze of the present.

In the darkness of an inner world, in the womb of the underworld, is born the life that through observance brings the universe into existence. This is where the search for the future begins, in a darkened room in the core of an exhibition, at the centre of a maze of cubicles in the abandoned bureaucratic infrastructure of Emmet House on Thomas Street, a building that has fallen out of usefulness, abandoned in the wake of the economic progress of the city around it. Here, in the abandoned spaces of past failures, the future, like an elusive mythical beast, stalks the reawakened spaces of the labyrinthine exhibition. It is like the entity decrying the future world in W.B. Yeats’ poem The Second Coming:

“What rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born.”

Irene Whyte 2014

Deep in the heart of the building, between the ground and second floor in a windowless and darkened space, Irene Whyte has presented a projection that is neither wholly in the room where the observer stands beside the mini projector nor completely sited in another space observed through a pane of glass in another darkened chamber. This inner room, beyond the glass, cannot be accessed. The door handle lies upon the floor. Any attempt to get closer, to try and clarify what is being observed is frustratingly thwarted. The projected image is like an obstetric sonogram pulsating moving within its confinement. It is also reflected back by the glass, enlarged and diffused it fills the opposite wall immersing the observer. It is an image of high contrast, abstracted and mirrored in itself. The imagination gives this compressed reflected image form. It could be a body, perhaps a face, and arms, reflected, merging, growing and shrinking. It appears as an organ pulsating suspended in space. The sound emitting from the mini projector is like dripping water echoing in a cavernous space. The sense is one of frustration and claustrophobia but the echoing sound defies the logic of the small box-like space. The projection through the glass and its reflection create multiple barriers and horizons, inaccessible and at the same time uncontained. The compartment will not allow the resolution of a single point of perspective. This inner womb becomes a metaphor for the unknown, the site before a point of origin. The chambers that open up from the cavern of this pulsating organ are like the elements of a body, a living entity or a brain full of thoughts experiences and feelings each contained separately in the frame of bureaucratic utility that is Emmet house. Each space of exhibition revealing a diversity of experience and perspective, each door opening like a new aperture through which a new vista and a new horizon presents itself.

Ann Marie Webb 2014

Moving into the next chamber, with a vista out onto Thomas Street, Ann Marie Webb’s paintings are large and physical. They are unframed and so present their edges as the limits of the organic line where the edge of the canvas sits upon the wall. As the eye reads across the works the movement of the marks present central zones of space within in the painting. There is an illusion of depth, like looking into the centre of a vortex or the eye of a storm. The place of refuge for the eye in the maelstrom is challenged by a smaller work called Nocturne where this central zone in dominated by a solid dark mark flattening the central zone of refuge. Calmer than the surrounding movement its darkness seems to threaten. It is hard to find the idea of the horizontal or the horizon in these painting with the frenetic movement of the marks. The contrast between the flatness of the dark mark in Nocturn and the depth into which it is possible to peer without finding that limit or edge of perspective is unsettling.

Jane Locke 2014

Progressing to an antechamber there is an office dominated by archival information and artefacts presenting evidence of past events. These artefacts illustrate a body of experience accumulated through the immersive art practice of Jane Locke. The evidence is presented of three specific art projects where she became imbedded in the infrastructure of large institutions with an overarching title The Cloud of Unknowing. Surprisingly this is the location of the blue rabbit. There is a peculiar familiarity about the presentation of the space. The installation has re-imagined the office space as an office, but not a normal office. It would be a peculiar and strange thing to find a blue rabbit in an average office space. Like an anthropologist on an in depth study Jane Locke has been sneaking into the public or shared spaces in offices and laboratories after hours. She has been observing the people there and in return observing their observance of her activities, while making her interventions, ephemeral artworks, performances as she gathers and collates the information of her interruptions of the institutional experience. She appears as a central piece of this artwork and invites the visitor to a lecture where the accumulated experiences of several of her investigations become imaginatively destabilized in a narrative where plants physically sigh, rabbits turn blue, barristers whose gowns billow in the wind are strangely connected to dark molecules as they vanish down mysterious tunnels under the city and scientists are irrevocably transformed by their own experiments. Divining the difference between truth and fiction becomes impossible. With the theatrics of her performance comes a suspension of disbelief. Her engagement with the institutional performativity in the various sites of investigation pushes that suspension into a willingness to believe. The thought that it could be possible to witness plants visibly sighing when they change their energy cycle was beautiful and completely untrue. With so much disappointment in the truth, the desire to embrace the fantasy is overwhelming.

Margot Galvin 2014

Emerging out onto the corridor in pursuit of the elusive presence of the future it is the past that looms into sight again in the work of Margot Galvin. Beautifully rendered prints on metal and botanical style drawings of organic tendrils, like the tangles of bladder rack that wash up along a shore line, are infused with post-industrial landscapes. She quotes the philosopher Edward Casey in her artist statement referencing origins and the importance of location and geographic specificity in how we understand our place in the world. Interestingly she emphasizes this idea of origin by presenting her works beside spot lit, nest like structures that reflect the structure of the large drawings. The idea of home is explored through the nostalgia of decayed industrial sites. Places are recognisable as abandoned industrial sites but they are not named or specifically located. The images are gathered through a process of walking. The act of walking through a city is a demonstration of what Edmund Husserl calls “a total organism.” Paul Connerton puts it nicely in his book How Modernity Forgets: “Walking is at once an act of organic self-unification, and an act which builds up for me a coherent environment….for Husserl the activity of walking precipitates the authentic integration of the subject.” This is an example of how the locating of origin as an historic marker is necessary to conceive of or to envision the possibility of the future. By locating a coherent narrative in the past that traces a journey to the present, it becomes possible to imagine the future as a continuation of that tracing. There is a danger however that the pursuit of the nostalgic source of origin could create an emotional trap where, stuck somewhere in the past, it becomes impossible to see beyond the horizon of the decaying structures that we have come crashing down around obscuring the horizon of the future with the debris of the present.

Aileen Drohan 2014

The impossible measurement of time becomes central in the work of Aileen Drohan. Her work in the exhibition is developed from performances involving CCTV footage that is streamed and accessible on the internet. By placing herself intentionally in the images she is actively creating a situation that interferes with the automated gathering of observational data. Through the process of making and gathering the records of her interferences she has discovered something peculiar about the spatialisation of time, the scientific recording of time in precise units of measurement. The problem with time is one of relativity. Henri-Louis Bergson (1859 –1941) redefined the modern conceptions of time, space, and causality in his theory of “Duration.” For Bergson, time as it is experienced cannot be measured by science or mathematics. In looking at the experience of time versus the recording of time he states: “We give a mechanical explanation of a fact and then substitute the explanation for the fact itself.” What becomes fascinating in the artist’s photo stills and the systemic recording of the world through surveillance is how it reveals that each camera and data recording device are not synchronized. Each one records time differently with incorrect hours, days, dates. As an attempt at representing reality or recoding a truthful interpretation of the world the system is flawed. In the video work that presents a bank of images from a non-descript set of motorway traffic cameras she has removed the specific data of the time codes, unconcerned in this instance with this documentation, she allows the time-lapse footage to play out, simply revealing a world of strange phenomena. As rain descends and cars drive by during the night only the glow of the lights are visible like spectres moving through the darkness. Silent and eerie this strange behaviour is being recorded and broadcast continually by an automated system. Why and for whom? The CCTV presents an immanence of an ever present, a timeless, ahistorical place where the idea of a future is perhaps unknowable if not impossible.

John Murphy 2014

John Murphy presents two video works. In one he has taken footage during the course of moving through a deserted street at night and in the other he shows static video images of an empty house, revealing the world through video devoid of the human presence. However he uses sound tracks to create a tension between presence and absence. A confessional narrative with ambient music plays over a car driving through the city at night, creating a dramatic story full of menace and the tragedy of a very human story of loss. The empty domestic interior is like a Marie Celeste, uncanny in the moment of sudden abandonment. The evidence of life and the humans that inhabit it are still present as traces. He overplays the sound of a Christmas morning creating a harrowing tension between the still spaces and the frenetic sounds of Christmas parcels being unwrapped. There is something unbearable in the contrast between the presence and absence. There is the constant reminder, that somewhere in the future, all things that have an origin inevitably will have an end. This is something that is unbearable in the mind of the living being.

Denis Kelly 2014

Denis Kelly’s work in the corner room at the back of the building are a mixture between paintings and small sculptural objects developed from a fascination with dead spaces found in the architecture of a building such as locations under stairs or acute angles, what Germans refer to as dead corners. He explores these spaces and the geometric shapes they produce to examine the tensions created by opposing and contradictory elements – figure/ground, control/chance, construction/destruction, and revelation/concealment. These dead spaces reveal something of the inevitable unpredictable elements of an architectural structure. These elements of waste or surplus occur where other elements designed with a particular utility such as a staircase or supporting pillar come together for practical reasons and the result is a space that serves no purpose and cannot be practically utilized. To explore these elements through painting exposes the tensions found between the intentional and the unintentional. The planning and the execution of any project that inevitably falls under the influence of chance. The paintings that at first look like quiet geometric and rational exercises reveal incidental bleeds of paint that come due to the influence of the supports, raw pieces of wood, found objects that are in themselves surplus elements of a building’s construction. The installation of the work incorporates an awareness of the elements of the cable trunking and electrical sockets on the walls even the windows look out onto the upper stories of adjacent buildings that reflect the shapes in the paintings particularly when the sharp sunlight casts rigid diagonal shadows across the grey plaster of the building next door. In such minimal and rigidly geometric work every element holds a significance no matter how miniscule, from colour to form and substance. As in the spaces of habitation where we locate ourselves, the more aware we are of the intricacies of the horizon and the limits of perception the better equipped we are to plot our onward journey and our escape from the labyrinth of the present.

Lesley-Ann O’Connell 2014

Lesley-Ann O’Connell’s paintings offer up a very different experience. These works also explore something of the interiors of rooms and buildings, they are views onto contained spaces abstracted but with depth and unintelligible perspective. They are the opposite of the rationality explored in Denis Kelly’s work. The durational aspect of observing, translating and abstracting is a process towards realising an essence of that experience of space. There is an expression of the aura or presence of that space. It is perhaps linked to the uncanny but not completely, as the sensation that a spatial awareness gives need not be discomforting. It can even be reassuring to know the dimensions of a space and experience the familiar behaviour of the air in a container where it is possible to be alone within a reflexive self-presence. It’s a space where even the air pressure of the room behaves and is felt in a familiar way, when alone within the particular set of dimensions. The paintings feel domestic in a peculiar way and are inhabited by the solitary gaze of the viewer. One work in particular may help the cause of seeking out this strange beast called the future, that elusive inhabitant of the labyrinth of exhibition. The work titled Old Time/New Time highlights the durational awareness within the paintings where present and past coalesce. There is a feeling of delayed time in the painting, a distilled period that is renewed on every viewing. It presents our first clue towards the artefact of the future.

Caroline Patten 2014

Caroline Patten presented a series of paintings that explore relationships between marks, ground and the flattening of space. In particular the title of a work called Courtesans reveals the marks as characters or personalities that playfully interact in the limbo of an undefined word of blank untreated canvas. Curiously these personalities also manifest themselves as two small three dimensional figures. These paintings are full of interactive entities gathered at some colourful occasion and spread out to fill the space of the canvass. It is an imagined regal space placing the viewer in a timeless position that pushes the notion of the temporal away from the future and conjures up thoughts of the past, thus confusing the immediate perspective of the present. There is no horizon within the works, the space the characters inhabit though undefined allows no perspective to a distant limit. It is an unknown location.

Atoosa Pour Hosseini 2014

Atoosa Pour Hosseini’s work Last Phase (2014) explores the horizon of a sea scape, the distant blue where sky and sea meet and the limitations of being one thing are another, sea or sky become confused by the diffusion of light. It is a video work where a small dark figure half submerged vanishes into a light-drenched ocean as the camera submerges and re-emerges from the claustrophobic waters. Importantly we get a glimpse of a coast line just for a second, a distant set of bleached hills far, far away. Formally the work plays with our ability to define this horizon as it is projected onto a translucent cloth so the image appears twice in two different scales, once on the cloth and again on the wall behind. There is also another textile, a dark cloth normally used for binding two pieces of textile together that interferes with the larger image on the back wall. This cloth creates another horizon line, an interference with the image that can be seen through the nearer projected image. The smaller piece of translucent cloth that first catches the projected image also has a thick grey bar across the top of the cloth keeping it rigid that also forms another horizon. The projection itself is creating its own shadows and so forms more horizon lines. The room becomes a series of horizons brought to life by the shadows that the projection generates. The ability to form a single point of perspective becomes troubled. The scene feels quite melancholic and the disappearance of the character is a narrative that is as unresolved as the attempt to define a true horizon. To sum up this peculiarity of distance and horizon it’s helpful to quote Rebecca Solnit who describes this blue of distance in her book A Field Guide to Getting Lost:

“…the blue at the horizon, the blue of land that seems to be dissolving into the sky, is a deeper, dreamier, melancholy blue, the blue at the farthest reaches of the places where you see for miles, the blue of distance. This light that does not touch us, does not travel the whole distance, the light that gets lost, gives us the beauty of the world, so much of which is in the colour blue.”

Chloe Brenan 2014

Ascending to the next floor via the staircase, a transitional space, brings the visitor to the highest limits of the exhibition and to the work of Chloe Brenan. An obsessional action of perforating paper with a pin has resulted in a series of words half indented and half embossed that are barely perceptible until a hard light is shone across the surface. The hard shadows produced reveal the subtle marks. The paper upon which the words have been punctured, lit from above, create dark waves of black shadows under the pages. Each aperture is a hole, a porous access point for light. The nature of light and the reception of that light becomes evident when we experience the peculiar effect of the pinhole camera. The world of image is an inverted one and yet through our optical receptors we rearrange that perspective to suit our own human perspective. The pinhole camera reveals how much we manipulate the phenomenon of light, translating it to suit a universe of a human dimension. Negative and positive images of a transitional space, a heavily decorated hallway are pinned to the adjacent wall stepping the viewer’s eyes down toward a floor projection, filmed through camera-obscura, of footage from a pinhole camera. It is a descent, resembling the process of vision itself, which takes the viewer from the pinhole aperture to the transitional space of a hallway to the projection of what looks almost like an eye, a blurred image with a dark centre and a lighter corona. The perforated paper upon close inspection looks almost like the pores of human skin, a reminder of how porous we are as beings. We experience light as it flows through our bodies, enters our eyes, is absorbed and reflected by our skin, in a state of constant ebb and flow. Chloe Brenan’s work emphasizes the essential power of our porous nature. The apertures that perforate the human body, defy the limitations of the hermetic or solipsistic consciousness, creating a possibility for the transition and translation of the phenomenon of light into the experience of a being fully integrated into a greater cosmos of infinite possibility.

Ulla Juske 2014

Ulla Juske has installed a small cabinet of curiosities, a collection of tiny imagined worlds trapped in little boxes. Viewed through magnifying lenses, the Lilliputian worlds expand to fill the field of vision. They are compact, claustrophobic spaces, a metaphoric model for the building in which the entire exhibition stands. She has constructed a shelving system to display each little camera that sits in the centre of the room that coincidentally echoes the collection of asymmetric windows of the building across the street. She has kept the institutional colour scheme of the original office a deep sea green that adds to the atmosphere of a museum of curiosities. Like tales of mythology and fables the dark green lends a sense of gravity to the tales that have all come from the real world. There is a strange tension in the tales for which these little worlds have been constructed. They are accompanied by beautiful illustrated pages with descriptive captions that line the wall of the room. These wild tales of weird and wonderful stories were all gathered from internet news feeds giving power to the adage that: “the truth is often stranger than fiction.” They are a collection of the freak stories that accompany the serious news feeds that appear on digests on various media websites. The really weird thing is that they are regarded as news items of equal value to the serious business of war, crime and politics. By taking these fringe items, illustrating them and displaying them like a collection of Grimm’s fairy tales, the absurdity of how the media relates information and the validity of that information is revealed as a spectacle that calls all news media into question. Quite often the internet is considered an expansive and open source for engaging with the world through a virtual interface but the artwork of Ulla Juske makes clear how very small the picture of the world is we see through the lens of the internet.

Ann Jenkinson 2014

The paintings of Ann Jenkinson mix figuration and abstraction, the collection of works on show form a curious group, some with identifiable elements and others that appear only as movements of colour completely devoid of figuration. The mixture of movement and stillness makes for an awkward tension. The works are presented under the title: “Displacement” and she quotes German painter Magnus Plessen who writes about this abstraction in painting that moves away from figuration but does not completely abandon representation. He calls this “a layer beyond.” In this idea of perceptive layers, and layers of experience and understanding, even in layers of paint, the horizon we have to deal with is something that is beyond. It is removed, other, distant, a place that is not quite known. This is perhaps what displacement means when formally looking at a methodology that is not quite located in one type of painting practice or another but also the life experience of the painter is imbedded in the work. The paintings are also an expression of the experience that the painter has had with humanitarian displacement. Years of working in the developing world has brought a very tangible experience of what is meant by the term displacement. There is a very striking painting of what appears to be stretched tarpaulin or tents in a dull, muddy, morning light. The image is not populated by figures and as a result has a quality of stillness. It evokes the displacement of people in faraway places that are ravaged by the catastrophe of war or famine, living in fear and stalked by the threat of violence and annihilation. The painter who has experienced the calamity of displacement, by finding themselves in these troubled locations, is also a displaced entity. The works in the exhibition draw very much from this past experience of the displacement of entire populations in troubled zones all over the developing world, an experience that seems to be destined to repeat, and repeat, and repeat. The repetition of violence and social injustice, as experienced in the developing world, seems destined to continue into the future and stands as a contrast to the stillness of the layers of paint showing these trapped moments, structured from accumulated time and experience. Perhaps only these paintings can offer a way out of this cycle and give a glimpse of a future somewhere “beyond” fear and violence.

Patrick Curran 2014

Patrick Curran paints scenes from the street, episodes from a damaged history, narratives of trauma and misplaced inspiration. The supports for his paintings are recycled book covers clued and stitched together to form canvases. The images erupt like illustrations or imagined images that could be conjured from a story in a book, with a strange mixture of Wild West cowboys that tower like ghosts over scenes of anti-social behaviour and emergency workers and police going about their duties helping distressed and collapsed people. There are peculiar tensions here between the romantic notions of the American wild west, that place in the late twentieth century imagination that mixed the anarchic concept of freedom with uncivilised levels of social violence, and the contemporary streets of Ireland that are supposedly free and civilised but become the locations of a violence that is very far from the romantic notion of the cowboy. In the exhibition, a small children’s desk has been placed in the centre of a large room, surrounded by these images painted on the book covers. It eerily creates a presence or rather an absence. Many of the books could be instructional or educational. A wise teacher once said: “If you want to live other lives read books.” The installation points towards a site of pedagogy, a place of learning where books are the source of knowledge as well as imaginative escape. Books evoke worlds of their own, worlds that are never completely like the world of Pat Curran’s paintings, worlds that never have to cope with real violence. Civilisation that is founded on knowledge and learning is unwinding in Curran’s paintings as the book covers become sites for these images, the pages no longer accessible, the knowledge lost. What can the future hold for a world plagued by these images of violence where the book, the route to learning and transformation, has itself become denuded of its educational capacity, hollowed out, reduced to nothing more than a collection of covers that act as sites for a contemporary romance with the spectacle of street violence?

Therese Maher has produced a beautiful series of prints following the anthropomorphic tale of Rat a character who has a very violent demise. After a series of scenes he is rushed on a gurney to some form of a medical operation where eventually he appears as a dissected corpse as if a part of a biology experiment. The world of Rat illustrates a dark world where human catastrophe and tragedy are played out in a jaundiced “wind in the willows.” These adventure of Ratty and his chums are not as pleasant as mucking about in boats along the riverbank. The urban protagonist of these illustrations is a beast, a foul manifestation of the human beast in an animal form. Using animals to depict a human story is an ancient practice and can be an effective way of portraying subjects that are taboo, subjects that would be unacceptable if the central protagonist was a human being. The use of anthropomorphism reveals, through the imagination, the liberating transformative property of the animal. Allowing the beast within to manifest itself can be an empowering experience. As the future begins to manifest itself through the transformation of the present, the exhibition becomes the liminal space. It exists on the cusp of that transformation toward either light or darkness, toward the beast or the beautiful.

Sylvia Callan explores the curious patterns made by an exploding balloon. She creates a tautological tension by projecting the event upon a similar balloon suspended in a small dark chamber. For what seems like an eternity a flame dances below a balloon until it finally explodes sending debris flying in all directions, moving in slow motion. It floats across the surface of the suspended balloon, gracefully dancing in a movement that is an expression of causality. Eventually the loop returns the form of the balloon so it can repeat its destruction again, and again and again. There is an expectation that is known about cause and effect. This expectation is a type of foresight. There are predictable patterns that develop from specific actions and yet there is the chaos of the unpredictable that can erupt at any given moment creating unexpected variations. It is an ancient philosophical question of whether the universe is determined or random. If the future could be extrapolated excluding all variables then foresight could be possible. The beast that is the future could be known, but unlike a looping video the universe may not be readable like the tea leaves at the bottom of a cup. In another room we are presented with just this conundrum. The way tea leaves settle in the bottom of a cup may be seen as the random distribution of elements, dried organic leaves that become rehydrated by freshly boiled water, swept into a flurry by the pouring out of the kettle and finally coming to rest at the bottom of the cup. With a statistical probability it may be possible to predict these patterns to a degree, however quantum physics has revealed that the behaviour and result of any controlled experiment is tainted by the act of observation. So what of an ability to see the future in the tea leaves? Can we predict with prescient clarity the events or outcomes of a day by observing the tea leaves in a person’s cup. Sylvia Callan presents several variations in cups distributed across the floor of a room. It appears like a scientific experiment, full of repetition with a video playing on a small monitor gives us the perspective of a tea cup with tea leaves from below. Tea is where people turn for a moment of pause. Drinking tea is a calming ritual in times of trauma. As a device for determining the course of the universe can it be trusted? Perhaps it is better not to know the future, no matter how much desire there is to face down the elusive beast, especially through something as miniscule and random as the dregs of tea leaves at the bottom of a tea cup.

Eventually the staircase provides the conduit to the ground floor and the last space of exposure the last location to search for the fugitive figure, the intangible beast. A maquette stands at the base of the stairs, it is the work of Paul Terry. A larger version stands in the courtyard of the art college like a giant mechano kit. The sculpture is a structure of two rectilinear frames connected by transverse tensile chords of two different colours that form a tunnel linking the two separate forms. The space between these rigid constructions becomes annexed by the chords that look like the demonstration of a wormhole, an inter-dimensional conduit in space, a model of an “Einstein-Rosen Bridge” that offers the theoretical possibility to travel great distances through time and space. It could be a tantalising visualisation of a scientific promise to transform the universe and improve it for the human inhabitants. A possibility of seeing the future or returning to the past to perhaps create an alternative present, though very seductive, is fraught with danger. As with the gift of foresight there is always the curse of coming to know things that are better left unknown. If the future exists perhaps it cannot be changed and all the horrible things that will come to pass, the tragedy, terror and death that resides there is best left in the future. A bridge to be crossed at a later date.

Raine Hozier Byrne 2014

An end of year graduate art exhibition carries with it the expectation of the artist who have been working towards this moment. The exhibition is an example of a future past as it has been worked towards over the past years of study, but even with this goal in sight over the period of research the outcome is not always predictable. Raine Hozier Byrne’s paintings have come from the trauma of personal loss and were a complete departure from her inquiry of study as she was coming to terms with the death of her parents. Her large scale paintings explore loss and the personal grief that she has experienced. A large diptych in the hall way splits a landscape showing a lake and distant mountains. The dominant hue is blue, the colour of distance and those far away shores of longing. There is an evident gap as the waters of the lake beside the shoreline in the foreground are disturbed and ripple out into both of the paintings from the gaping void in between. The texture of the work is also rippled by the infusion of issue paper onto the surface of the canvas. Tissues, very like those that absorbed the tears of sadness and loss, become part of the fabric of a therapeutic working through of an inner necessity. The void that separates the two canvasses is a space that awaits all who seek the future. It is the unknowable beast that all that live must face.

Elizabeth Archbold 2014

Across the hallway the large ground floor room of Emmet house is dominated by paintings. In the first space at the front of the building is the work of Elizabeth Archbold. Her paintings emerge as meditations on the process of making paintings, making new observations or continuing a process that comes from a previous painting. She strikingly has limited her palette of colours to those employed by Eugene Delacroix after Peter Paul Rubens in modelling the transparent surface of water drops. This limitation imposed upon the work by the artist creates a formal tension in the paintings controlling the various permutations that are possible with using a simplified colour palette of green, yellow, white and red. The catalyst for the constant reinvention and improvisation must then come in the artist’s manipulation of these limitations. Each new permutation of the painting process that explores the limited colour vocabulary forms new horizons and new perspectives, taking the works as markers in a journey toward an exploration of form and gesture through the most personal of intuitive choices. This way of working, through a process of limitation, is concerned with developing a way of making over a period of time where the work develops through outcomes from present choices that are always rooted in the future.

Darina Meagher 2014

The paintings of Darina Meagher on the other hand are looking for ways of making that do not emerge from previous histories of painting. Turning toward the internet as a point of origin she seeks to make images inspired by non-painting sources, attempting to counter what she sees as the perfection of the technological image by reproducing an essence of these images through the imperfection of the brush stroke made by the human hand. She uses the idea of the internet search engine to explore the apparently endless streams of image and text that the internet provides. She terms this endless stream of image and data as the “debris of other peoples’ lives.” It is possible to imagine that a search for the top 10 emotions in the top 10 cities of the world would produce an endless stream of ideas, experiences, stories and locations but curiously, it returns a result that is a lot more limited than expected. The internet is a very flawed viewer onto the world and has an exceptionally limited scope and variety. The blue of distance, the spatial and temporal horizon that fuels longing, desire and imagination is flattened on an LCD screen with limited perspective. Statistically the largest amount of internet media content is generated in specific centres of the western world and so the stories and locations tend to be quite limited. Also the internet search engines work off algorithms that for various contingencies limit the search results. It is far from being a free system and is certainly less random than might be believed. The paintings that result from these internet explorations have the possibility of breaking that limitation of the search image by distilling it through a more intimate human experience that stems from the reality of an unbounded human consciousness frustrated with the view of the world through the tiny aperture provided by the internet.

Joan Coen 2014

The paintings of Joan Coen also explore image with a limited vocabulary. She brings a heightened level of emotion to the way she uses paint, channelling an emotive energy drawn from the subject that she is working with. In this case she presents an array of small paintings, each a meditation on the same object altering the brush strokes and hues. Each painting is a spatialized counter in a durational exploration with a singular focus. By working through this repetition the specific nature of the object ceases to be important when the viewer is presented with a multiplicity of views to choose from. Each nuance and alteration, as the eye moves from one work to the next, highlights the power of paint as a medium through which to meditate and engage with the experience of the object. The multiple reproduction of the same painting also reveals how the unique action of the brush stroke and colour choice produces a sense of the aura in an artwork. Each action is a unique action no matter how often it is repeated. The paintings are an analogue expression of a focused activity. They become the indexical markers of time spent in communication with an observed object. The presence of that objet is palpable, felt through the artist’s manipulation of the pigment on the support. It is interesting to compare this idea of painting as the evidence of a performative action when turning to the next work in the large ground floor space of Emmet House

Paola Catizone 2014

Past the paintings a collection of elegant white dresses hang upon a rail, curiously one of them has been stained black. There are large sheets of paper on the floor, one of them has a mound of dark pigment placed in the centre of its expansive white field. An image of a woman is projected upon the wall behind the paper sheets. She is dressed in one of the white gowns. In the video she walks barefoot onto the paper and begins to manipulate the mound of dark pigment pushing it all over the surface of the paper, her clothing touching the entire surface, every inch of her body, off the pigment. She is painting with her body and simultaneously painting onto her body exploring the entire surface of the body with the pigment. This performance by Paola Catizone stems from a dance of exploration where the skin as the outer bodily boundary, makes contact with another surface. It playfully explores the somatic limitations of the body. It is also a celebration of the body itself. For the performer it is an exercise in the centring of the self in the body, exploring the extremities and limits of the form, the phenomenological horizon through the physical sense of touch. With this in mind it is extraordinary then to attend a live performance of this dance. Witnessing the performance of the body in space is an entirely different experience. The sound of the movement, the physical weight of the body as it orientates and gesticulates through various position. In the flesh the body doesn’t appear as limited as in the video. In three dimensions the relationship between the bodies of the spectators actively witnessing the event come into play. The audience becomes another entity in the action of the performer. There is an energy in the performance, in the inter-relationship of the participant and performer that cannot be captured in the video. In particular, towards the end of the performance, when the protagonist is darkened from head to toe and bounces momentarily upon her toes sending plumes of dark pigment dust into the air obscuring her own form from view. This obfuscation strangely broke the seal of limitation that was present in the video document. The dark dust billowed out and, even though in tiny quantities, settled on all the surfaces in the vicinity and upon the spectators too. The body had extended itself out beyond its limits through a process of accretion and redistribution of matter shared with the inhabited space of the performance. Stepping off the paper at the end of the performance, the virginal white clad body, now darkened from head to foot, the performer slinks off down a corridor and out of view. She has become a metaphor for that obscure conflicted beast of the future. An uncertain beast composed both of light and of darkness.

Liam Gough 2014

In the back corner room Liam Gough has created a museum display of his drawings of found objects. Each object takes on a great significance empowered by the mode of display. The sombre lighting and the podium plinths elevate the drawings to the status of precious objects. The extraordinary element is that the textual objects that these drawings were made from are found objects. Each diary or notebook has been lost, abandoned or simply discarded. In a form of forensic or archaeological investigation Liam Gough has rendered drawings of these notebooks, writing pads and diaries as technical documents, noting every crease, ripple and shadow on the surface of the objects. Significantly the text that appears on the surface of the objects has been drawn as an outline. This makes the hollowed out text difficult to read but it also transforms the text itself into a visual object outside of the normal system of language symbols. The letters and words become shapes silhouettes divorced from the normal role as a habitation for a meaning. Extraordinarily they have become absolute visual documents, renderings of lost objects divorced from their informative purpose. The information that could be gleaned from the legible text has been supplanted by beautiful drawings that are drenched in the melancholy of the lost.

Luz Estrada 2014

At the back of the room a metal shutter is glowing, curiously it draws the spectator around the corner. It is the reflected light from an array of light boxes each one containing an image of a performance of a portrait. Luz Estrada has taken images from pornography and popular media, all appropriated from online blogs, to explore multiple identities born from the fetish of appearance. Some images are ridiculous, others disturbing. They show an in-camera effect where the artist unsuccessfully moulds herself into an image that she is projecting onto herself. The artist’s body becomes the support and the medium of the artwork. The array of light boxes encapsulates each image/performance as an entity, an event of tortured frustration. The artist’s body cannot ever be fully melded with the image. The inability of the fetish image to encapsulate the actuality of the living human body is revealed in all its inadequacies. The process of turning the artist’s body into an image of another body becomes a failed attempt to fetishize the body as an image. The erotic is displaced by the incongruity of the two entities forced to exist as an unconformable single entity in a new two dimensional document. The disturbance of expectation, that is, the rational need to recognise either the body or the image, denies the satisfaction of truly knowing where the viewer stands in relation to the object. The doppelgangers and shape shifters presented in these works are beasts of flesh and light. Both irreconcilable and yet conjoined in seductively back lit boxes, the images radiate attractive colours and hues that are both compelling and repellent. The artist herself remains recognisable throughout each incarnation, never truly relinquishing her identity as a body. This highlights the lack of libido in the dead fetish image that she shares the frame with. If anything these works by Luz Estrada indicate that the future of the human body and the fetishized image of that body will continue to be a relationship fraught with irreconcilable inadequacies.

The journey through the maze has concluded and the beast of the future has yet to be found but there have been many clues as to the possible form the beast may inhabit, clues derived purely from the experience of the labyrinthine space of the exhibition. Like any puzzle the exhibition has provided dead ends, confusions, lost moments of and necessary u-turns. But there were also opportunities to peek around unknown corners, to look over the horizon, to discover new paths, to imagine possibilities that lie beyond in the unattainable distance. The future is always uncertain but the most intriguing disclosure in this regard was by the artists themselves when talking about their work. They were all curious about the next development, where their work was taking them and how they were going to progress. Each and every one of them had their gaze firmly focused upon that horizon, that distant place so full of possibility. They were all looking at the future.

Barry Kehoe June 2014

ACW alumni Kirsten Simpson’s piece on the work of Paola Catizone

Natural Artifice | Paola Catizone

A study of the relationships and discordances between drawing, performance and video art

Kirstin Simpson

The recent exhibition by Paola Catizone at the SOMA gallery in Waterford is part of a continuum of work by the artist deploying durational performance, movement and dance together with trance music to create abstract drawings. The work also includes sculptural and video elements. Collaboration plays an ongoing and central role in Catizone’s work, particularly in performance, where a dialogue with dancers and DJ’s underlies her practice.

Some of the earlier works included in the exhibition are large circular drawings composed of energetic lines and strokes, developed performatively over a number of hours, during which the artist stands very close to wall-mounted paper clutching a number of mark-making implements in each hand. The physical limits of the drawings, therefore, are controlled by the natural circular span of the artist with two arms outstretched.

The compelling effect of the resulting drawings seems to reflect hidden impulses and energies in the subconscious – strange bipartite fields of marks with intensities in certain areas that might be interpreted as areas of the brain lighting up in involuntary response to the music or, perhaps, the parts of the brain activated in trance or even, more simply, the capacities and limits of the body engaged in an exhausting activity of a repetitive nature. Reference to the brain may be incidental, or it may demonstrate as elaborated later, the extension of ‘thinking’ into the body, that is, the embodied nature of thought.

In these pieces, the tangible result emerges and evolves through a set of parameters – the paper, its vertical positioning, the music, the duration, the artist’s chosen limits in terms of permissible movement and drawing implements.

Comparing one spontaneous drawing with another, an aspect of mood and temperament enter the frame – moments in time expressed in gesture – the translation into drawing of a body- language that is pre-linguistic. Catizone speaks about drawing from the body, not the eye and ‘seeking to go beyond our tired everyday perceptions.’ In these terms, one brings to mind the endeavors of Paul Cezanne to strip himself of inherited or learned ways of seeing. Seeking to revert to a pre-linguistic, untutored self in order to achieve a more complete vision – an embodied vision. Merleau-Ponty explores and dissects embodied vision in his essay ‘Eye and Mind’ (1964). Since we are ‘in the world’ we do not regard the world from the outside, as suggested by geometric perspective – our body is implicated in all we see.

For Merleau-Ponty, the body is interface between perceiving mind and physical world. He contests, in this way, the inheritance from the Renaissance of the constructed perspective which creates forever a viewer external to the scene in question and he sees in the work of Cezanne an attempt to overcome this exteriority. The constructed perspective, he says, is just another convention, as flawed as any other; there is no such thing as ‘depth,’ but only another width. We are not static – even the eye has to move to see and in any case, we move to negotiate and understand the world.

Catizone’s methods are, of course, very different from those of Cezanne. She is very specific about the role of drawing, as opposed to painting in her work. Drawing creates marks of a vulnerable, always contingent nature, maintaining an important transparency between the inhabited, physical world and the realm of the drawing, never seeking to create an ‘alternate’ world. Catizone does not produce representations in her drawings but something more akin to the experience, albeit a heightened one, of being embodied in the world. Through durational performance, moreover, we have the possibility of accompanying her into the realm of altered consciousness – into the place of ‘flow’ or complete absorption where we, too, might experience a shift in the tired everyday assumptions. In reference to the experience of performance art, Catizone says:

‘According to Coogan and to Milhalyi, flow is a state of deep absorption akin to ecstasy and to the buddhist Jana, during which the sense of time is lost and only the task at hand is held in mind.’

Catizone speaks about ‘breaking through’ our usual ways of seeing ‘if it is only a set of marks that have escaped the habitual tyranny of thinking and seeing….seek[ing] to shatter and fragment the habitual perception of reality.’ The practice is durational as it is only through extended time we can defeat our usual ways of thinking. Also, over time, there is something of the shamanistic spanning between two worlds. We might say, alternatively, it is an opening up of receptiveness to the reality of this world, to which we are more generally closed.

The vantage point for her drawings, Catizone says is ‘inside the image’ and only partially visible in the making. This seems an apt metaphor for Merleau-Ponty’s ‘intertwining’ in which we, in any case, never see from outside. Merleau-Ponty says we do not just act upon the world but the world makes demands of us. These durational pieces are reciprocal – as the work on paper emerges, the body too becomes marked, internally and externally, bearing traces of effort and exertion.

The drawings work on different levels. Up close, we see in the scrapings, scribbles and smudges, vigorous movements, pressures, footprints, handprints, frailty of endeavor. From further away, we see the very extents of limbs in creating action – a transference of three-dimensional movement in space onto a two-dimensional surface.

Other drawings in the exhibition have been created in a more conscious way, with circumspection and an eye to composition, albeit remaining anchored in a sense of body and movement. The artist speaks about an interplay between the conscious and subconscious and certain of these pieces bring to mind the work of Kandinsky – where the gestural stroke is imbued with an emotion and contains a sense of coded meaning. In places, there are lines that repeatedly follow the same path, yet here the embodied becomes less dominant and rather seems to spill over into obsessive thought or emotion.

A number of much smaller pieces also punctuate the exhibition. Compositionally, they provide contrast within the gallery, as well as areas of open space that offer a reprieve from the large, immersive drawings. Once again, the body of the viewer is implicated by the compunction to move towards or away from the works. ‘Scale can allow for immersion or objective detachment,’ says Catizone. She plays with these perceptual qualities, she says, ‘using the gallery space to create an environment within which disparity of scale, media and materials (plastic/paper/natural objects/video/performance), vie for the viewer’s attention. The title Natural Artifice derives from this juxtaposition of the natural and direct with the synthetic and mediated.’

‘Organic and plastic, slowly crafted work and quick gestural pieces create tension. I refuse to attempt to create a forced harmony or consistency of what is in fact a practice based on a fractured awareness.’

As with all performance art, Catizone must grapple with the documentation of her live work and its status within her practice. In her recent work, there is always some tangible record of the performances – mostly in the form of the resultant drawings as well as video documentation. Catizone integrates this video documentation into the body of her work, presenting it in the gallery space alongside finished drawn pieces. She regards it as offering another mode of reception and points out that her work is enriched in this way, where a more detailed or repeated viewing of a performance is possible.

‘Video recording of live performance can result in image making that can hold its own potency. While witnessing a performance in real time can allow for an empathy with the performer, viewing it again on video offers a detailed and total view of the event.’

A huge drawing on plastic (7×2 metres) is one of the more consciously created piece and this, in turn, becomes sculptural as its relative robustness as well as sheer size and its flexibility allow it to be mounted in a three-dimensional manner, requiring the visitor, once again, to move in and around it and to engage physically. It can assume various forms and each of these is documented by the artist and assimilated into her body of work.

The performance piece, which took place on the opening night of the SOMA exhibition appears to have evolved more directly, in a number of ways, from the earlier ‘circular’ drawings. Here, the parameters were a choreographed movement piece, developed in collaboration with Fiona Quilligan and performed by Catizone and Quilligan, music selected and provided by Nigel Woods and a drawing surface which was a strip of paper on the floor along which the two performers moved, often in a supine manner with a
combination of improvised and pre-determined gestures, each making marks with both hands. This time, the bodily movements are more elaborate, flowing and developed, yet the
resulting drawing emerges, once again, as a product of pre-determined parameters and without conscious ‘deliberation’. If the early circular pieces are ‘evidence’ of a durational event, this time we have more the feeling of a ‘mapping,’ of movements that are more planned, choreographed and chronological.

A sculptural element returns as a conclusion to the performance piece as the large resulting drawing is folded and becomes a three-dimensional object. In a wonderfully cyclical act, the spatiality of bodily movement, which has been traced or ‘mapped’ 2-dimensionally becomes spatial once again – acquiring a presence as a 3-dimensional object. The mapped gestures thus become distorted, suggesting the bending of space – the physically impossible.

The performance of this work – the languorous, seductive and compelling movements of the performers interspersed with frenetic ‘drawing motions’ brings to mind one of Catizone’s stated influences, Rebecca Horn. Here, however, instead of machines producing human-type actions that create marks, humans perform machinic actions with similarly seeming ‘arbitrary’ or incidental results.

The drawings resulting from these processes appear to tap into some unseen mystery that is both personal and universal. There is an audience and there is a performance, yet in the exploration of the body, its capacities and limits – we join in the ‘universal.’
Catizone speaks about becoming ‘the conduit for this non-personal truth.’ In Zen terms, says Catizone, ‘the small mind seeks to expand into larger mind.’

Whilst it is useful, in Catizone’s work, to refer to Merleau-Ponty and his commitment to pre-linguistic body and mind integration, Merleau-Ponty insists upon the attachment of every perception to an intention. Consciousness, for Merleau-Ponty, is always consciousness of something and that something will always be a tangible entity. Since perception is intertwined with movement, all movement becomes purposeful. Alfonso Lingis, a proponent as well as a critic of Merleau-Ponty, points out that most of our movements are without specific purpose – pacing, fidgeting and so on. Excessive energy and movement, then, is an extension of what we are as embodied entities and perhaps reflects our resonance with multiplicities and rhythms in the world around us. In this way, he also embraces the concept of ‘raw sensation,’ which is not attached to an object.

Alphonso Lingis, by contrast with Merleau-Ponty, celebrates sensory perception as providing the possibility of the indiscernible – an openness to that which is not pre-determined, where we find the possibility of a deeper access to the world.

In terms of Catizone, then, we might regard the seemingly meaningless (in her words) movement and drawing, as an expression, once again, of our universal embodied nature
and therefore – albeit elegant or agile – universal and identifiable for all.
Catizone talks about this large-scale body drawing as being perhaps more akin to touching than seeing and indeed pushing out to the extents of the body – the body pushes against a mark-making surface and the surface responds. As Merleau-Ponty says, it is not only the body that acts upon the world but the world responds, makes demands. This acting of environment upon us is evident, as we have seen, in the different scales of works in the exhibition – the small drawings bring one close – the large ones are viewable from a distance – although the intensity of line draws one close again – moving towards and away from the walls as we do from a source of sound.

‘Large scale places the imaginative realm around us rather than inside the body, where Christianity would have the soul reside. This surrounding Anima Mundi includes us and connects us to all things’ says Catizone. In this way Catizone’s work also topples the hierarchical structure from the divine to human to animal and inanimate in favour of a heterogeneous world of which we are a part rather than over which we preside.
…‘Not as a window into the world but a device for understanding our place in the universe’ (Dexter.E.2005.p5).

Catizone’s work elicits an empathic and embodied response both in its performative creation and in the resultant works. As stated by Arnold Berleant, aesthetic experience is embodied – meaning the deployment of body and mind together. He speaks of this experience both in the creation and reception of art.
More recently, the idea of empathic response has been scientifically verified – we re-enact in our bodies that which we witness – and if inured somewhat by overexposure to electronic media, we are arguably heightened in our response to the presence of a live acting body – its frailty and vulnerability.

The sight of the body in motion, the hand at work is powerful and so in Catizone’s work we have resonances not just with the embodied but the very moment of engendering of the work. These drawings are about the gesture itself – the act of movement – essentially staying in that moment. Furthermore, where performances are durational, we become more immersed over time. It takes time to slough off everyday ways of perceiving, as Catizone says, and this applies to the viewer as well as the performer.

The existential and transcendent in Catizone’s work becomes culturally and mythically embedded when she begins to speak about weaving and making – pursuits that require patience and are associated with traditional feminine activities. Waiting and endurance also have connotations of healing and repairing as well as maintaining or remaking universal connections – a reference to the interconnection of everything, to networks rather than hierarchies:

‘All of these actions share a repetitive insistence aimed not at building in the daylight realm of reason but in the darkness of the somatic and unconscious, in an effort that runs contrary to common practical sense, working ‘contro natura.’’ Catizone.

Catizone taps into the realm of shadows – the place of imagination and mystery disregarded by Cartesian dualism and in modernism’s attachment to light, transparency and the rational.
This approach links to a political attitude underlying her work. Catizone speaks of taking a stance against the all-pervasive attitude of productive work and consumption, stepping, instead, towards ritual and magic. Her work represents ‘small actions of resistance against global catastrophe.’ This is echoed in the writings of Jane Bennett about ‘sensibility formation’ as a means of altering human behavior, in the belief that coercion is ineffective. She too, seeks to topple hierarchies, in her case of animate and inanimate, instead speaking of the interconnectedness of everything. When writing about the ethical and aesthetic turn in political theory over the past twenty years, Bennett cites feminist studies of the body and Foucault’s work on ‘care of the self’ as highly influential. The understanding emerged that knowledge or legislation alone would not modify behavior. Theorists began to affirm, says Bennett, that which ‘Romantic thinkers had long noted: if a set of moral principles is actually to be lived out, the right mood or landscape of effect has to be in place.’

‘There will be no greening of the economy, no redistribution of wealth, no enforcement or extension of rights without human dispositions, moods and cultural ensembles hospitable to these effects.’

Appealing to the feminine principals mentioned above as well as ideas of embodiment becomes more explicit in Catizone’s forthcoming work.

In her performance as part of her NCAD MFA final show, (opening to the public on the 13th of June at 7pm), Catizone, in her own words ‘will enter the space of performance as a solo artist …[pushing]… her practice of embodied drawing further, with an ‘all body’ drawing process. Here she will eschew not only the central role of the eye in art-making, but also that of the painting/drawing hand; the hands and arms and body become smeared and marked with the act and endeavor of making. As with Natural Artifice, the relationship between performance, drawing and video will once more be examined through this new work.
The performance will be repeated, and developed nightly until the 20th of June.
Please note, the times of performances are as follows:
13th June – 7pm
16th June – 6pm
17th June – 6pm
18th June – 1.30 pm
19th June – 6pm
20th June – 6pm

The show will continue until the 22nd of June and Catizone’s video and installation will be on display until then, together with the work of 25 emerging Dublin-based artists.
MFA Exhibition, 13th to 22nd of June, 2014, Emmet House (Across from Arthur’s Pub), Thomas Street, Dublin 8


Bennett, J. (2010) Vibrant Matter. A Political Ecology of Things. Duke University Press

Berleant, A. (2003) Aesthetic Embodiment paper given at the meeting of the American Philosophical Association Boston MA December 2003 accessed at

Carman, T. (1999) The Body in Husserl and Merleau-Ponty. Philosophical Topics Vol. 27. No.2. Fall 1999

Catizone, P. Questions on the Present Moment in Performance and Video Art (2014)
Catizone, P. Drawing Limits (2014)
Lingis, A. (2009) The Inner Experience of our Body. Discussion notes on Merleau-Ponty. Journal of the British Society for Phenomenology, Vol.40, No.1, January 2009

Merleau-Ponty, M. (1945) Cezanne’s Doubt in Toadvine, T., Lawlor, L.,(Ed.)(2007) The Merleau- Ponty Reader. Northwestern University Press accessed at

Merleau-Ponty, M. (1962) Phenomenology of Perception. Routledge. Originally published as Phenomenologie de la perception (1945) Gallimard, Paris

Merleau-Ponty, M. (1964) Eye and Mind in Toadvine, T., Lawlor, L.,(Ed.)(2007) The Merleau- Ponty Reader. Northwestern University Press accessed at (original 1961)

F.David Peat (n.d.) speaking on ‘youtube’ video David Peat 1 uploaded by arcomanu (n.d.) accessed at on 25-9-11

Note: All photographs are courtesy of the artist

The Inconceivable Thing

Art in the Contemporary World student, Deirdre Kearney reviews a recent exhibition, La Fine Di Dio, of work by Maurizo Cattelan and Lucio Fontana at the Gagosian Gallery, London, February 2014.

Quite by chance the curator of this exhibition, Francesco Bonami, was shown a portrait of Hitler, kept in storage at the US Army Centre of Military History in Washington DC. An allegorical painting called “The Standard Bearer” it depicts Hitler as Joan of Arc. It is by Hubert Lanzinger and dates from 1935. A US soldier defaced the painting, with a bayonet, following WW11. Frustrated by his inability to attack Hitler in person, the soldier attacked the painting, in a gesture of angry impotence and frustration.

This random, yet fortuitous, coalescing of circumstances has resulted in an exhibition at the Gagosian Gallery, London. I can only imagine that the cut inflicted beneath the eye of the portrayed Hitler must have struck a chord with Francesco Bonami. Following his viewing of the Lanzinger painting perhaps his word association chain went something like this; Cut> Canvas> Fontana> Hitler> Cattelan> HIM> Genius! >Me.

The exhibition contains two works. A painting by Lucio Fontana, entitled “Concetto spaziale, La fine di Dio” juxtaposed with the kneeling wax figure of a boy child, entitled “HIM”, by Maurizio Cattelan. The result; a face off, of epic proportions. Given their history, this side chapel in white, may be an aesthetic OK Corral.

White room.

Black Suits. (Security)

Max two persons to view.

Fontana, his egg shaped tabernacle, wall hung portal to the cosmos, maps infinity. The artist withholds the secrets of the universe from a tweed-suited ruffian, kneeling in supplication.

Closer inspection reveals the boy as changeling; the face of the Fuhrer revealed in the child.

Fontana discovered the void.

He pursued infinite knowledge, pushing the boundaries of the canvas, mapping the constellations. His aim was not to decorate a surface, but to discard its limitations.

The canvas is egg shaped. A painting, pregnant, it is the symbol of life.
Piercing holes through the canvas, in repetitive gesture, the artist is opening up the plain of the painting. In so doing, the history of painting is also laid bare.

Fontana envisioned the end of God. He saw the end of God as a direct result of our journey towards infinite knowledge. He explored the cosmos in the expanse beyond the canvas. With his gestural cuts he extended his quest outward towards the heavens and inward to the mind of man. Staring into the abyss his aim was to decipher its mystery.

Hitler represents such evil that Maurizio Cattelan cannot say his name. Kneeling for forgiveness, this wax figure, reduced exponentially, hides its identity. Cattelan asks whether it is possible to extend forgiveness to such a man.

Showing little respect for societal icons Cattelan has, over the years, desecrated their images mercilessly. From Popes, to artists, to political leaders, no one is safe from his ridicule. Seeking to deprive them of their standing within the community, he engages in parody, always intending provocation.

In his work “Untitled 1996”, Cattelan had a cut at Fontana. He sliced a large letter Z into a canvas. In this blasphemous, anarchic gesture, Cattelan continued his undermining of contemporary art and its canons.

It is part of this artist’s ongoing strategy to engage in excess. By zealous parody of political and artistic institutions, his aim is to shine a light on hidden power relations.

Paradoxically, in the process, Cattelan has become a very successful cog in the wheels of a system he has tried so hard to derail. Just as a virus is enveloped by white blood cells, the system has neutralized Cattelan, by clasping him to its bosom. Consequently, his rants may ring a little hollow.

Conversely, Fontana’s hot pink, egg shaped canvas, is imperious. It tolerates the presence of Cattelan’s Hitler only because he kneels. The tension between the two is palpable. In death Fontana has finally exacted retribution for the slight. There is a majesty and elegance to his work. The eyes of his canvas are averted from the corner boy, who begs forgiveness, on his knees.

Who’s sorry now?

Deirdre Kearney, May 2014

Wine Soak No. 16: “mind the gap”

Our wine correspondent found himself at the Hacienda bar for the opening of The Luxury Gap after an illuminating stop at Translucent Flag the sculpture factory exhibition at the Mart Gallery and Studios Rathmines.

I was pottering down through Rathmines last Thursday when I came across a table of colourful looking beverages at the door way to the Mart Gallery. Like a scene from Alice in wonderland a sign attached to the table said something close to “drink me.” At least that was my interpretation of the sign. I received a warm welcome from the Artistic Directors Mathew Nevin and Ciara Scanlan who thrust a cup of the ruby punch into my hand and asked me if I could guess the ingredients just from tasting the fruity beverage. Immediately there were hints of Vodka and Gin but I had to be told about the rum. I had believed it to be a fruity schnapps or something similar. Disappointed with my deductive skills I wandered into the gallery with a cup in each hand determined to repeat the divination process until I was sure I’d never mistake a rum for a schnapps again. It struck me as peculiar the similarity between the rituals of science, the repetition of experiment until a standardised result is arrived at and then the other process of ritual that is performed in divination to convince the participant that what results is truth.

This cross examination of ritual and science in which I found myself was inspired by the work of James L. Hayes. The piece is called The Essence of taste and is a peculiar mixture of scientific research project, bronze sculpture, robotic engineering and cult ritual around the process of physis. Physis is a Greek theological, philosophical, and scientific term usually translated into English as “nature.” More specifically it relates to the creative energy by which natural processes transform living organisms. For example, how an acorn becomes an oak tree. In this case the plant under analysis is the asparagus plant or rather some bronze and iron cast asparagus. One metal represents organic farmed asparagus and the other a mass produced asparagus. They sit in a circular drill of clay and are sprayed with a liquid from a robotic arm that rotates above the drill. The liquid was made by extracting the active agent that causes human urine to smell strange after eating asparagus. This complicated process of separating urine was achieved in a centrifuge in University College Cork. A fascinating and highly scientific process but in the more lowbrow quarters that Ligvine is used to one might think of it as “taking the piss.”

The ritual of rotation and spray is completed by a motion sensor so the visitor becomes an element in the rapid oxidisation that transforms and breaks down the metal asparagus plants. I had recently eaten a meal of these delicious plants and was very upset that my natural pheromones had become unfamiliar as I held up the wall of a local hostelry draining the spuds (to keep the tillage parlance consistent). It is very disconcerting to be reminded of the constant chemical processes and cycles that make up our materiality. Seeking more spiritual and uplifting succour I turned my attention to Alex Pentek’s Transcending Column. A tower of folded paper that forms an archway at the gallery entrance. Every time I knocked back another glass of punch my eyes wandered up and back down the beautifully folded paper leading me on a merry visual dance that recalled Brancusi’s endless column.

As my eyes hit the floor I couldn’t help but see images of human nether regions that were part of a viscerally inspired piece that was more performance than sculpture. This was the work of James McCann titled Monomania 3. A disturbing collection of pornographic images and moulded body parts surrounded by a-frame towers of dirtied and sullied boards. This obsessive work of unconscious and perverse repetition reminded me that I needed another drink. After swigging a bit by the punch table I returned for one last look at the work of Amanda Rice, Looking Back at Endstal. This beautiful landscape of course has a dark underlying past as it was the area of holiday, recreation and retreat for the Nazi’s during world war two. Somewhere in the historic human narrative there is always an inevitable darkness, a horror hidden in the sublime, that process beneath the surface where transformation takes place. It is a border of reason and unreason, chaos and order, good and evil that is immune to the immutable beauty of the natural world. It is also a constant reminder to get more punch.

As I was about to leave full of punch and the wonders of the Sculpture Factory artworks I bumped into Ella de Burca, recently returned from a residency in Ballin Skelligs, who was on her way to an art opening in the Hacienda, a quirky little speak easy beside the fruit market on Little Green Street. The ritual process of the opening crawl had begun and nothing was going to stop the chemical transformation that had been initiated by the punch. I hot footed it across town and arrived at the door of the Hacienda, invigorated and pumped full of enthusiasm by the brief bout of exercise.

Standing in the street awaiting the entry bell at 8pm (one of the quirks of the establishment) I was in the company of Jonathan Mayhew one of the exhibiting artists and Pádraic E. Moore, the Curator of the exhibition. This cluttered quaint drinking house is riddled with extraordinary bric-a-brac and is festooned with a rouges gallery of famous persons’ photographs, all of whom have frequented the bar. Trying to find the artworks themselves was an exciting treasure hunt as the visitors were set the task of seeking out the small art gems amongst all the kitsch flotsam and jetsam that the bar owner had passionately accumulated over the years. The bar itself embodies something of the high luxurious lifestyle of the paparazzi evading celebrity, a speak-easy of sorts, that has a very strict door policy. The art gems hidden within were reluctant to reveal themselves hidden as they were around the bar and the two other rooms each home to a pool table. Some of the high kitsch objects were very distracting, such as the sphinx that glittered with fairy lights and the vintage brass diver’s helmet upon the bar.

The observant and intrepid visitor was treated to the opulent interiors of the palace of King Ludwig II in Andrew Vickery’s paintings; Jonathan Mayhew’s printed mash ups of luxury items, junk food and fashionable laces obscuring the portraits of famous celebrities; there were two high grade desirable opulent items rendered in extraordinarily detailed watercolour by Marcel Vidal: Raw Fillet and Grade D Diamond; and Lucy Stein’s poster offered an art historical perspective contrasting the decadent pursuit of pleasurable beauty and the sufferance of martyrdom in art. I decided to also be a martyr to the decadent pursuit of pleasure and attached myself to a stool at the bar.

The venue was packed within seconds and throwing myself into the exhibition’s theme, I luxuriated at the bar at what is known as bullshit corner. I proceeded to buy fine pints of porter and ales for those in my close proximity until I was challenged to engage in a pool tournament. The night wound up into a jovial celebration with a festive atmosphere that led to fainting ladies and flying pool balls cracking into peoples shins. Egos were inflated and crushed in the fine spirit of gamesmanship. There was much hugging and celebrating I even walked into the furniture on more than one occasion when distracted by the wink and nod from a friendly face. On this fine night there was no need to mind the gap between the luxurious and the real as both came together in a perfect storm of common place hospitality and exceptionally fine art.

Translucent Flag an exhibition featuring artists from the Sculpture factory: James L Hayes /James McCann / Alex Pentek / Amanda Rice runs at The MART, 190a Rathmines Rd Lwr from the 2nd to the 11th of May Open Daily: 1-6pm [closed Mondays]

The Luxury Gap featuring the work of Jonathan Mayhew / Lucy Stein / Andrew Vickery / Marcel Vidal is a site-specific exhibition at The Hacienda organised by Pádraic E. Moore and is open daily at The Hacienda, Arran St. East, Dublin 7 2nd May – 1st June 2014 (8pm to closing)

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