Building a Book

BEN WEIR OUTLINES HIS RECENT BOOK, PUBLISHED IN RESPONSE TO URBAN REDEVELOPMENT IN BELFAST CITY CENTRE.

“The Claw is the blind performer
It cannot speculate, judge
Nor wince

     Steadfast
     Choreographed
     Dull acts
     Mechanised
     Strength Hastening
     Iconoclastic
     Labour

Blunt-cleft
Buildings open
Exposing truths
The Claw can’t read

     Crimes in plain sight
     An austere vandal.” Continue reading “Building a Book”

Material Uncertainty

WITH NEWLY COMMISSIONED WORK FOR EVA INTERNATIONAL 2018 ON THE HORIZON, MATT PACKER SITS DOWN WITH JOHN RAINEY TO DISCUSS THE TRAJECTORY OF HIS SCULPTURAL PRACTICE.

Matt Packer: Can you describe how your background in the medium of ceramics continues to inform your work?

John Rainey: Production and imitation are aspects of the ceramic discipline that continue to be particularly important within my work. However, my curiosity about how things are made, and my compulsion to physically produce things, predates my training in ceramics. For me, processes and skills feel very enabling. I have a need to constantly examine and improve on this technical capacity, which is what drives me forward. My interest in materials has always been broad, but I see my experience in ceramics as a good anchoring point that I can deviate from and return to. In a similar way to how people describe the process of learning languages, I think that my understanding of this material allows me to easily adopt novel materials. Continue reading “Material Uncertainty”

Where History Begins Again

ALAN PHELAN TALKS TO MARY CREMIN ABOUT HER NEW ROLE AS DIRECTOR OF VOID, DERRY.

Odd as it sounds, there is something slightly Scandinavian about Derry. Maybe it’s post-conflict Northern Ireland and the almost socialist democratic prosperity that peace has brought to the region. Industry may not have taken off just yet, but public services appear to be well-funded. The abundance of cultural centres is also mirrored by a bemusing abundance of hair salons – something that is comparable with Helsinki. Perhaps the harsh northerly climate brings with it serious approaches to both art and hair care. Derry’s various galleries inhabit historic spaces, yet have a very contemporary outlook that draws big names to this small city. I recently visited Mary Cremin, the newly appointed director of Void, to discuss her new role and her future ambitions for the gallery. Continue reading “Where History Begins Again”

Valuing Artistic Legacy

JOANNE LAWS REPORTS ON IVARO’S ARTISTS’ ESTATES CONFERENCE.1

A conference on the theme of managing artists’ estates was held at the Royal Hibernian Academy (RHA), Dublin, on 23 November 2017. The genuinely fascinating and pragmatic event was organised by the Irish Visual Artists Rights Organisation (IVARO) – Ireland’s copyright collecting society for visual artists2. In his opening address, Director of the RHA, Patrick Murphy, suggested that the Irish visual arts community urgently needs clarity regarding the legislation that surrounds artists’ estates. In the last year alone, five RHA members have passed away, raising pertinent questions about valuing cultural heritage and preserving artistic legacies. Since the mid-twentieth century, there has been a reliance on auction houses for documentation, yet even in the digital age, managing a lifetime of artistic material remains a difficult task. Murphy warmly welcomed the prospect of professional guidance across a range of subjects, including estate models, copyright law and the transfer of capital in relation to artists estates. Continue reading “Valuing Artistic Legacy”

Amharc Fhine Gall 11th Edition

Draíocht Arts Centre, 22 November 2017 – 3 February 2018

In Yvonne McGuinness’s two-channel film installation, Holding ground where the wood lands (2017) – commissioned for this year’s ‘Amharc Fhine Gall (Fingal Gaze)’ exhibition – a group of adolescents from a local Foróige club are depicted meandering through open fields and woodlands surrounding the former Plunkett Estate in Portmarnock (now Malahide Golf Club). Centred around a pivotal and formative time in their lives, the film fluctuates between documentary film and directed theatrics and depicts the young men engaged in a series of performative actions. Continue reading “Amharc Fhine Gall 11th Edition”

The Otherworld Hall

Solstice Arts Centre, Navan, 27 October – 22 December 2017

Featuring: Aoibheann Greenan, Seán Hillen, Sean Lynch, Lucy McKenna, Tadhg McSweeney, Doireann Ní Ghrioghair, Nano Reid. 

The term ‘urban legends’ may trace its lineage back to the 1960s, but as a cultural phenomenon, the term has existed for millennia under the guise of folklore and mythology. The internet’s emergence has proved a double-edge sword for modern mythical incarnations, offering both the platform to spread the tale and the means to debunk it. Originally, folklore provided tales of humour or warning, and, as such, disproving them was generally not a priority. These stories often contained grains of truth – elements that rooted them in reality – before they were embellished into more thrilling versions. In recent decades, greater archaeological understanding of the Brú na Bóinne complex in County Meath has shown that this process also extends to ancient mythologies. We still cannot fully substantiate or corroborate these mythologies. This threshold between truth and myth serves as the departure point for ‘The Otherworld Hall’, recently presented at Navan’s Solstice Arts Centre. Continue reading “The Otherworld Hall”

At the Fade

Birr Arts Centre, 16 October – 1 December 2017

I rarely turn down an offer to travel to Birr, a heritage town with multiple architectural attractions. One of these is the Oxmantown Hall (a former parish hall built in 1888), now Birr Theatre and Arts Centre. Open in its current form since 2000, the renovated building is a jewel of Irish architectural history and a modern hub of arts activity for the town and surrounding region. The building faces a row of impressive terraced Georgian houses on a street that is shouldered by the ornate St Brendan’s Church. I travelled to Birr to see Brígh Strawbridge-O’Hagan’s show ‘At the Fade,’ which was installed in the front foyer of the building. I spent a few minutes knocking on the front door, before finding myself chatting with staff and drinking coffee while looking over the show. In many ways, this was the perfect preamble to thinking about the exhibited work, not least because I got time to reflect on my wonderful memories of Birr (having spent time there as a teenager), but also because memory – in some form or another – seems to be elicited intentionally in the brave simplicity of Strawbridge-O’Hagan’s work. Continue reading “At the Fade”

Barbara Ellison / Robert Ellison

Island Arts Centre, Lisburn, 23 November – 20 December 2017

Husband and wife, Robert and Barbara Ellison, are showcasing their recent work in concurrent solo exhibitions across two gallery spaces at the Island Arts Centre in Lisburn. Without an overarching theme attributed, the exhibitions freely explore the artists’ varying techniques and painterly styles. This is a unique opportunity to see work by these two artists in the same venue at the same time, and to observe similarities and differences across their distinct practices. When opening the exhibition, artist Neil Shawcross noted that both artists are starting to gain international attention, with Robert’s work being shown in the Agora Gallery, New York, earlier in the year. Continue reading “Barbara Ellison / Robert Ellison”

Solemn and Bedazzling

LISA GODSON EXAMINES ARTISTS’ BANNERS THROUGH A MATERIAL CULTURE LENS, SITUATING THEM WITHIN THE BROADER HISTORY OF SOCIAL PROTEST MOVEMENTS.

Among the placards, signs and posters held aloft at the sixth annual March for Choice in Dublin on September 30 were a set of remarkable banners created by artists Alice Maher, Rachel Fallon and Breda Mayock. As Fallon explains: “We had a meeting at the beginning of the year about what way the artists’ campaign could go, in terms of repealing the Eighth Amendment. It was important to do something that was ‘us’ and that spoke of our expertise in making things”.

Until the early twentieth century, processions with spectacular banners were a widespread feature of civic life. Their vibrant colours and narrative content provided visual excitement as well as exhortation, amidst all manner of social gatherings and events, whether convening for religious devotion, political rallying or as part of the annual cycle of commemorative occasions. The practice of formal banner display on the island of Ireland now tends to be the preserve of conservative, even reactionary organisations, such as the Orange Order, the Irish National Foresters, the Ancient Order of Hibernians and so on. In keeping with their archaism, these organisations each flaunt their own particular claim on the past. Their banners bear iconography that invokes tradition and asserts continuation. This is aimed at servicing a teleology, where some foundation myth continues to uphold and reinforce present-day political claims.

Continue reading “Solemn and Bedazzling”

Tactile Simulations

SARAH HAYDEN INTERVIEWS PÁDRAIG SPILLANE ABOUT THE TRAJECTORY OF HIS PRACTICE AND HIS RECENT EXHIBITION,  ‘WHAT PASSES BETWEEN US’, AT SIRIUS ARTS CENTRE.

Sarah Hayden: For several years, your practice has tended towards three dimensions, and yet it maintains a preoccupation with surfaces. How do you conceive of this development and how does it interact with your interest in interrogating ‘depthless’, two-dimensional images?

Pádraig Spillane: My interest in surfaces centres on how they can be reordered. This can involve searching the innards of materials, or cutting and tearing printed matter, to examine how things look and feel in proximity to each other. The images and objects I use – whether found or sought out – are generally commercial, industrial or mass-produced materials. These things are often familiar, ubiquitous or communally experienced in some way through our shared visual culture. I deconstruct these images and overlay them, looking for prompts and frissons and creating unexpected effects. The work’s evolution from two to three dimensions came out of this inquiry and from my desire to produce tactile transformations within an image-saturated contemporary context.

Continue reading “Tactile Simulations”