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”

BEAUFORT (“about the weather”) / Simulations / White Line Series

Solstice Arts Centre, 25 August – 13 October 2017

On show at Solstice Arts Centre are three solo exhibitions by different artists, each with their own title and separate room. Free from a fixed or unifying theme, the exhibitions are loosely bound by a general sense of abstraction within the artists’ creative processes, along with some allusion to local history, heritage or landscape.

Upon entering the first space, David Quinn’s works appear minimalistic, with a series of nine intimately-sized pieces in muted colours. The strength in Quinn’s works emerges when we draw closer and discover the detail present. The works are built up of layers that variously comprise gesso, oil and paper, as well as off-cuts of plywood and perspex. The humble line takes centre stage, as Quinn records its journey across the surfaces, using an oil pencil or cutting tool. In Made, the incision in the perspex gradually deepens as the line moves left, until it flows seamlessly into a cut made in the plywood background layer. In the accompanying literature, we read that Quinn uses a ruler, yet the lines are at times imperfect, highlighting the impact of the artist’s hand or an uneven surface on even the most controlled of processes. The works jut out from the wall like raw sculptural extensions of the building’s structure, celebrating the inherent potential in the materials, uncovered by the artist’s touch.

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What’s with the Apocalypse? / Twilight

Paul Mosse ‘What’s with the Apocalypse?’, VISUAL, 16 September – 12 January 2017

Pat Collins ‘Twilight’, VISUAL, 9 September – 28 January 2017

This season’s exhibitions at VISUAL have been programmed around the themes of landscape, nature and found materials. In the Digital Gallery on the first floor, is a screening of Pat Collins’s new moving image work, Twilight (2017). Filmed off the West Cork coast over a two-year period, Twilight is as vibrant as a living painting. The quality of light captured in the footage vividly portrays the pinks and oranges of a sunset, which gradually give way to midnight blue, as darkness encompasses the scene. Voluminous grey clouds pick up speed and move ominously across the screen. To the left, the high moon oversees a purple-hued silhouette of a nearby headland.

Twilight is not a silent occurrence; rather the landscape in the late evening quietly hums, as people sleep and the world keeps turning. Collins has collaborated with the sound artist Chris Watson to create the film’s audio, which was developed through a series of field recordings. The soundtrack is not constant, but is interspersed with silent footage, in order to accentuate the noisier moments. As the light seeps from the sky, a gull can be heard in the distance and a crescendo of birdsong escalates across the darkening landscape.

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What Passes Between Us

Sirius Arts Centre, 3 September – 15 October 2017

Pádraig Spillane’s exhibition of new work, ‘What Passes Between Us’, is presented across two galleries at Sirius Arts Centre. Four upright, mild-steel, modular frames, approximately adult height, stand in the centre of the floor in each space. A single sheet of clear PVC is cast across the top of one of the frames, while several wall-mounted digital prints complete the presentation. Two specially-commissioned electronic and vocal sound pieces – composed by Simon O’Connor and sung by Michelle O’Rourke – are transmitted into the galleries from speakers situated on the floor.

The minimalist presentation suits these light-filled spaces. In the centre gallery, four wall prints depict intense close-ups of the human palm, with the thumb and wrist areas merging. Titles for these digital collages, including Palm Animator (2017) and Palm Merging (2017), seem appropriate. The images are mirrored and repeated across a brown background, conjuring various grid formations. The overall impression is that these compositions are highly controlled and provocatively sensual, whilst also feeling slightly strange. There is a hint of something less than comfortable afoot, involving some sort of modification or restaging of bodily elements.

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Lacuna: New perspectives on the border in Ireland

Gallery of Photography, September 9 – October 22

The result of the 2016 British referendum on the future of European Union membership has brought about a new era of social and political anxiety regarding the border between the Republic and Northern Ireland. ‘Brexit’ is a neologism that has been mobilised by ultra-conservative politicians and sections of the British media alike, to portray what was in reality a marginal ‘yes vote’, as the inevitable political expression of the zeitgeist of British isolationism and nationalism. On the island of Ireland, Brexit has resurrected the spectre of the border which has haunted Irish politics for nearly a century. Kate Nolan’s exhibition ‘Lacuna’ at the Gallery of Photography explores everyday experiences of the border through the local inhabitants of Pettigo, a small town in County Donegal. This body of work emerged in the midst of political speculations about Brexit, including the potential hardening of the border between north and south.

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The Way Things Go: An Homage

The Butler Gallery, 12 August – 15 October 2017

Aideen Barry, Hannah Fitz, Atsushi Kaga, Nevan Lahart, Maggie Madden, Jonathan Mayhew, Caroline McCarthy, Isabel Nolan and Liam O’Callaghan

Thirty years ago, Swiss artists Peter Fischli and David Weiss unveiled their influential work, The Way Things Go (1987) – a 30-minute 16mm video transfer film that documents the complex chain reactions of an ingenious Rube Goldberg-esque contraption built by the duo. The action takes place in a warehouse, where industrial detritus (including tyres, ladders, pipes, oil-soaked rags and chains) is used to create a sequence of cause-and-effect actions. Shifting mechanical levers and hypnotic balancing acts trigger sparks, fires and cycles of apparent perpetual motion.

Though the work took three days to film, the resulting footage was meticulously edited to imply a single take, and ever since, it has held up to extensive scrutiny. For ‘The Way Things Go: An Homage’ at the Butler Gallery, curator Anna Sullivan invited nine artists to respond to this seminal work. Some made new artworks, while others present existing pieces that illustrate relationships with the original source material. Located in the basement of Kilkenny Castle, the gallery comprises a series of interconnected rooms – a spatial configuration that affords a gradual unfolding of artistic responses.

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The Living and the Dead

Temple Bar Gallery and Studios, Dublin, 15 April – 17 June 2017

The American street photographer Gary Winogrand said of his work: “I photograph to see what the world looks like in a photograph”. I thought of Winogrand and of this quote when visiting Mark Swords’s exhibition, ‘The Living and the Dead’, at Temple Bar Gallery and Studios (TBG + S), as it could be said that Swords paints pictures to see what his world looks like through painting. Swords uses his everyday life as his inspiration for the show. The paintings are about things that surround him, “things that are consciously or unconsciously always present”.  Drawing on daily observations, he collects images of bric-a-brac from charity shops, his young daughter’s toys and drawings, as well as the objects and paraphernalia that surround him in the studio. All these elements are utilised in a playful manner and are presented as two large wall pieces that contain myriad visual ideas and painting approaches. These wall pieces are held together through his use of a wallpaper-style striped background on one wall and large black painted sheets on the other.

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