ALISON PILKINGTON LOOKS AT CURRENT PRACTICES IN IRISH ABSTRACT PAINTING.
“We are all at present, far more divided, less empowered and certainly far less connected to the effects of our world than we should be. It is for this reason that I am deeply involved in the texture of a medium capable of universalizing so much lost intimacy.” 1
The term ‘abstract painting’ is historical and, over time, the parameters of the genre seem to have collapsed. It could be argued that to write about abstract painting as if it were a genre that has some significant position within contemporary art, might be a somewhat redundant inquiry. The term itself has been debated and contested throughout the history of twentieth century art, with the traditional meaning of abstraction shifting considerably. To say that ‘abstract painting is alive and well’ in current Irish painting practices also seems an outmoded way of summarising what painters do with their material and medium. As described by Briony Fer in her book, On Abstract Art: “As a label, abstract art is on the one hand too all inclusive: it covers a diversity of art and different historical movements that really hold nothing in common except a refusal to figure objects.”2
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RAMON KASSAM PRESENTS A SURVEY OF CONTEMPORARY LANDSCAPE PAINTING IN IRELAND.
The 1920s and 30s saw an extraordinary increase in the popularity and production of landscape paintings in Ireland. Paul Henry and Jack B. Yeats, who are currently being exhibited side by side in Limerick’s Hunt Museum, were two of the major protagonists of that era. In contrast, European painting at that time was in the throes of Modernism, producing aesthetic innovation after innovation, which was largely self-analytical and retreating into its own flatness. Such concerns seemed secondary for many Irish artists, which would suggest that motivations were being shaped by different factors. These artists did engage in self-reflexive processes, but did so with the aim of exploring identity politics, with landscape painting becoming an important vehicle. The case is usually made that the prevailing subjects and sensibilities in Irish painting emerged as a result of post-independence Ireland’s distrust of Modernism, as well as the conservative social values asserted by the church and state. However, the precedence placed on landscape as a subject can also be perceived as the result of the newly-formed, post-colonial position of Irish artists. In this way, painting the landscape can be understood as an act of repossession, a reclaiming of territory and culture.
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PÁDRAIC E. MOORE INTERVIEWS VIVIENNE DICK ABOUT HER FRIENDSHIP WITH NAN GOLDIN AND THEIR CURRENT EXHIBITIONS AT IMMA.
Pádraic E. Moore: Your exhibition ‘93% STARDUST’ runs concurrently with Nan Goldin’s ‘Weekend Plans’ at the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA). Perhaps we can discuss the milieu yourself and Nan once shared and the parallels between your work?
Vivienne Dick: I met Nan just after she arrived in New York. We hung out together throughout my time in the city and shared several interests, particularly music. There are parallels in our early work – we were always aware of that, even at the time. We were tuned into each other’s aesthetic from the beginning. There’s a documentary feel to our early work and several of the individuals that one might see in my films also frequently feature in Nan’s images. After the New York period, we met sporadically in different places and Nan travelled to Ireland, visiting Galway, Donegal and Tory Island. The IMMA show features images taken during those trips she made to the west of Ireland.
Continue reading “University of the World”
Project Arts Centre, Dublin, 21 April – 17 June 2017
‘Colourless Green Ideas Sleep Furiously’ sounds like nonsense, and it is – a phrase coined by Noam Chomsky to be grammatically correct but semantically all over the place. In this ambitious exhibition curated by David Upton, five geographically diverse art practices explore ideas of transient or un-locatable meaning via their own un-locatable objects, objects rendered by impressions and residues, and images deviating between fact and fiction, movement and stasis. A story in the exhibition booklet describes the fate of Byzantine icons bought at a Turkish Bazaar in the 1920’s. Eventually ending up in the National Gallery of Ireland, the icons, separated from their original place and function (and unable to return to a home that no longer exists), have been opened up to new kinds of meaning and attachment. The exhibition booklet usefully outlines some aspirations, among them, “To open discussion around ideas of dissolution and dispossession, loss, of cultures in crisis and futures altered, of cataclysm – and [ask] what happens after all of this?” That’s a lot to ask of a single exhibition, but the fate of the icons becomes a unifying concept, a paradoxically fugitive underpinning.
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Clare Strand, Belfast Exposed, 28 April – 17 June
In ‘Snake’ the image is an interloper. At first unwelcome, it is nonetheless invited into the artist’s life for the long term. Clare Strand’s repulsion with the animal has compelled her to collect snake imagery since childhood, from scrapbooking serpentine forms in the loosest sense, to collecting more specific images – half glamour, half family-album-style photographs – of women who hold and love them.
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Janine Davidson, Mermaid Arts Centre, Bray, 9 June – 8 July 2017
Janine Davidson’s ‘Into the gravelly ground’ centres on an unusual site at Turlough Hill, County Wicklow. Here, embedded amidst scenic walks, is Ireland’s only pumped hydro-electricity plant. The film work 53012762459 features this structure, its interior and exterior, its machinery and technology. Also depicted is another reservoir at this same location: Lough Nahanagan, which was formed during the Ice Age. Designed to impinge as little as possible upon the environment, the plant’s main station is buried out of sight behind the mountain. In Davidson’s 22-minute film, the structure is so sleek and streamlined that it appears almost tentative, partaking in the muted tones of the naturally-formed lough. The camera, replete with slight shudder, moves between various viewpoints: we are on a bridge, we catch glimpse of an open door, we are looking at a stunted, top-heavy tower emerging from the water. Importantly, the film makes no distinction between the two formations, and the lens portrays the machines and their inferred functionality with the same quiet, detached observation as it does the rock face and the water.
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Orla de Brí, Eileen Mac Donagh, Cathy Carman, Catherine Greene, Hamilton Gallery, Sligo, 1 June – 2 September
As the title suggests, ‘Forged Carved Cast’ is an exhibition about the act of making. It is about an intense relationship with materials and processes. The exhibition’s premise is arguably against the run of current practice in that it foregrounds the individual hand of the artist working on discrete objects. This quietly subversive idea is coupled with another: the messy business of life and emotions. Many of the works explore deeply personal narratives, and are rich in metaphor and allusion. On entering the exhibition, the viewer encounters the work of Orla de Brí and Eileen Mac Donagh, installed side by side in the sunlit main gallery space. The works have been sensitively installed and given sufficient room to breathe.
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Highlanes Gallery and Droichead Arts Centre, Drogheda, 24 April – 21 June 2017
For Vitruvius,  successful architecture combined “firmness” (structural integrity), “commodity” (function) and “delight” (aesthetic pleasure). While these remain core requirements, contemporary conceptions of the discipline tend to be more fluid. ‘This is Not Architecture’, a two-site group exhibition in Drogheda, animates thinking around the nature of its subject, probing its conventions through considerations of similarity and difference. Curated by Highlanes director Aoife Ruane, the exercise is enhanced by the contextualising environment of the gallery, located in a repurposed Franciscan church. Built in 1829, it combines stained-glass windows, gothic arches, cast-iron columns, a marble altar with late Celtic Revival tabernacle door, and new, unobtrusive glass balustrades. The exhibition sensitises visitors to this blend of features, which activate connections across the works.
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ANNE MULLEE REPORTS ON THE CONTRIBUTION OF IRISH ARTISTS AND CURATORS AT THE 57TH VENICE BIENNALE.
Many of the reviews of curator Christine Macel’s ambitious handling of her two huge, artist-centered ‘Viva Arte Viva!’ exhibitions at La Biennale di Venezia have drawn less than fulsome praise, with critics variously citing too many weak works, not enough diversity and flabby contextualisation, among other criticisms. Of course, the 57th Biennale is far more than a sum of these parts. Perhaps reflecting the increasingly globalised art world, this year sees the inclusion of new pavilions from first-time participants Antigua and Barbuda, Kiribati and Nigeria. As more countries are invited to participate in the event, reflections on nationhood are becoming an increasingly common trope. Virtual utopian state NSK hosts Turkish artist Ahmet Öğüt, who has worked with young refugees to run a live passport office, where I secured an NSK State Passport (nskstate.com). In contrast, the southern part of the globe is represented in Venice by the Antarctic Pavilion, which is not so much an imagined state as a state of enquiry. Instigated by Russian artist and biennale stalwart Alexander Pononmarev, the pavilion provides a platform to showcase artworks and projects by various invited artists who participated in the first Antarctic Biennale – a 12-day artistic research expedition undertaken in March 2017 with 100 participants aboard the research vessel Akademik Ioffe.
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JOANNE LAWS SPEAKS TO JOHN HUTCHINSON ABOUT HIS 25-YEAR DIRECTORSHIP OF THE DOUGLAS HYDE GALLERY.
Joanne Laws: Your vast contribution to the Irish visual arts is fondly conveyed in a series of thoughts, reflections and tributes by artists, colleagues and friends. How do you feel about these comments?
John Hutchinson: I found it a very strange experience. It felt a bit like reading my own obituary. But by and large they were lovely and very generous. Michael [Hill] and Rachel[McIntyre] put them together with a lot of work and I’m very touched and grateful for all their efforts.
Continue reading “A Sense of Stillness”