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.

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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.

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Eating: Their Own Words

STEPHEN BRANDES DISCUSSES THE FOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY – A NEW PUBLICATION BY THE DOMESTIC GODLESS.

This year, the gastronomic art collective the Domestic Godless celebrate 15 years of working together and exploring food – its taste, its appearance, its history and cultural values – as material for subversive experimentation. The occasion will be marked with a three-week-long residency at Crawford Art Gallery in Cork in November, and will be followed next year with a national tour to several arts centres around the country. Over those 15 years, we have repeatedly been asked questions relating to our research interests and practice, such as: “What exactly do you do?” (by those who don’t know what we do), “Are you the guys who do roadkill?” (from people who think we do roadkill, but are wrong) and “Would you ever think about making a book?” (from those who do know what we do and, thankfully, find it amusing). So, this year seemed an opportune time to finally make that book and to lay those questions to rest (while possibly igniting many more).

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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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