Gut Instinct: Art, food & feeling

Marina Abramovic, Sonja Alhäuser, Domestic Godless, Elif Erkan, Fiona Hallinan, Siobhan McGibbon, Abigail O’Brien, Thomas Rentmeister, Neil Shawcross, Glucksman Gallery, Cork, 25 November 2016 – 19 March 2017

THIS exhibition, curated by Professor John Cryan, Chris Clarke and Fiona Kearney, draws on research by Cryan and colleagues at the Anatomy and Neuroscience department of UCC, in order to “explore how digestion relates to our mental and emotional states”.

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Stop Lookin’ at Photographs!

Locky Morris, Naughton Gallery, Belfast, 8 December 2016 – 29 January 2017

Clock speaker radio, printed mug, foam lining, laser crystal photo frame, photograph, hand cleanser dispenser, sunglasses, workshop broom, photograph, tilt display stand, C-print aluminium plate, mounted photographs, pigmy light, screw, rotating photo cube, painted MDF pedestal display case, photographs, city centre paving block, mounted photographs, cardboard box, office cabinet (adapted), adapted digital photo frame, JPEG, adapted shelf, five-litre Poundstretcher utility box, spool of thread, photograph, plate stand, plastic strips for wall plugs, wall plugs, cable ties, small plate stand, four-gang extension lead, night light, cotton buds, acrylic paint tube, decorating clips, mounted photograph.

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Guest 2

Alice Burns, Charissa Martin, Elaine McGinn, George Robb, Paula Clarke, Stephanie Harrison, Arts and Disability Forum, Belfast, 2 – 22 January 2017

The work of six recipients of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland’s Individual Disabled/Deaf Artists (iDA) grant scheme comes together in ‘Guest 2’, a thought-provoking and challenging exhibition curated by artist Colin Darke at the Arts and Disability Forum Gallery. The exhibition space on Belfast’s Royal Avenue is modest but well-executed, benefitting from large windows and glass walls, which flood the space with natural daylight and create an attractive setting in which to consider the work of this diverse range of artists, whose practices encompass printmaking, photography, glasswork, video and performance.

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An Afterwards

Mark Garry, Luan Gallery, Athlone, 11 February – 22 April 2017

The Luan Gallery appears to float over the River Shannon like a perfectly formed geometric ice block. The site and architecture of the building allude to fusion between natural and environmental conditions – concerns that are further elaborated in Mark Garry’s ‘An Afterwards’, currently installed across the Luan’s gracious exhibition spaces.

A native of County Westmeath, Garry often spent time in Athlone as a child, and this exhibition presents new works that attempt to forge connections between kinship and place. The cool intensity of Garry’s diverse body of work – which includes lithographs, oil paintings, video and Giclée digital prints – is given nuance by the nostalgic inclusion of (admittedly excellent) amateur artworks by his parents. This intimate familial gesture also functions to support a Beuysian assertion that everyone is an artist.

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The Saw Tooth Wave/Put to the Sword

Benedict Drew/Miguel Martin, CCA Derry-Londonderry, 15 October – 11 December

I recently took a ‘How Millennial Are You?’ personality quiz while I should have been searching for a job, if you can digest the irony. “You are asleep. Where’s your phone?” was one memorable question. There could only be one answer: “On the pillow next to me”.

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Paper Trails

Mary Patterson, Ballina Arts Centre, 10 November – 31 December 2016

Arriving at Ballina Arts Centre on a wild November morning and seeing the River Moy in flood, the logic of Mary Patterson’s exhibition seems very clear: to try to find responses to nature through art. The appropriately named ‘Paper Trails’ features a series of works on paper created through a formidable range of drawing and printmaking processes. Patterson’s use of diverse techniques forms part of her quest to identify a medium and a language that can convey the beauty and complexity of nature. The artworks that feature in the exhibition are displayed in the open-plan landing space that curves out towards the adjacent River Moy. This light, airy space provides an ideal setting for the works in close proximity to nature.

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Hennessy Portrait Prize 2016

National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin, 26 November 2016 – 26 March 2017

There are 14 portraits in this exhibition of shortlisted works. Surrounding the viewer on all sides, in each one a lone figure is presented (why no couples or groups?) and this singular focus contributes to the sense we’re in the company of deities. There are also a lot of big heads, their presence dominating the small room at the top of the Millennium Wing’s forbidding stairs. Of course the figure of the artist is also present, directly in the self-portraits, or otherwise implicated. Open to artists in all disciplines, the shortlist consists mostly of paintings, nine in total, along with two photographs, a graphite drawing, a digital drawing and a video projection onto a terracotta bust.

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The Touching Contract

Sarah Browne and Jesse Jones, the Rotunda Hospital Pillar Room, Dublin, 23 – 25 September 2016

The day of the second public performance of Jesse Jones and Sarah Browne’s The Touching Contract fell on a date of heightened emotion for women in Ireland, taking place just hours after Dublin saw thousands take to the streets in the fifth annual March for Choice, part of the campaign demanding that the government repeal the Eighth Amendment. The atmosphere in the Rotunda Pillar Room’s ante-chamber was withdrawn and respectful; the audience appeared fragile.

The third chapter of four performative works in the pair’s first collaboration ‘In the Shadow of the State’ was devised in consultation with local women. [1] Feminist legal scholar Mairead Enright wrote the ‘legal score’ for the work, drawing on the archive of legal documents relating to the treatment of Irish women by the state and by the medical profession, both here and in the UK. This source material reveals a sorry history of medical misdemeanors and the enforced adoption of illegitimate children. The artists view this legacy as a history of violence against women and, given the horrors endured by survivors of symphysiotomy [2] and those who suffered incarceration at the hands of the church (in the Magdalene Laundries for example), it is difficult to argue otherwise.

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Expanding Spaces

Robert Kelly, Draoícht, Blanchardstown, 24 September – 19 November

Robert Kelly is a print-maker whose appetite for exploration takes his work from the flat surface into three-dimensional space. In his latest exhibition, this space is the ground-floor gallery at Draoícht, where some works are conventionally framed while others emerge and expand to more fully occupy the architecture. This choreography leads the viewer on an unfolding visual journey, underpinned by thought and process. The artworks also feature material folds, which manipulate internal spatial relations and introduce conceal-and-reveal dynamics.

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All Mountains Are Moving

Paul Murnaghan, Limerick City Gallery of Art, 15 September – 30 October 2016

Paul Murnaghan’s exhibition ‘All Mountains Are Moving’ explores archaic belief systems by courting wonderment and superstition. This new body of work refers to outmoded ways of magical thinking, but also arouses a sense of mystery in the viewer through a clever use of materials and techniques that make us question what we are seeing.

‘All Mountains Are Moving’ is exhibited upstairs in Limerick City Gallery of Art across numerous rooms around the square first floor balcony space above the Atrium Gallery. The first room on the right omits a yellowy glow, created by an orange stain on the glass window. In the middle of the room is the sculptural work The stars don’t shine upon us, we’re in the way of their light. This is composed of an unlikely and precarious combination of materials, including an arching arm of plastic covered in fake leather, which is held up by part of a peeled tree branch. Nothing is fixed, but rather employs and seems to transcend the laws of gravity. At one end of the arm is an antique weight which roots the structure to the floor. At the elevated end is a hoover-like mouth with synthetic orange rope hanging from its end. Above this, and at the peak of the arch, is a levitating feather-covered ball that rotates slowly around in the air. This element of the sculpture is captivating and introduces the pervasive sense of mystery and magic that permeates the exhibition. The feather ball also adds an air of fragility to the piece as all the disjointed materials appear to be harmoniously balanced, yet could fall apart at any moment. Through its materiality, The Stars … recalls a lineage of conceptual sculpture by combining the drama of Richard Serra’s balancing steel works with the natural materials of ritualistic practices used in the sculptural installations of self-appointed shaman Joseph Beuys.

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