Artistic Migration: Frank O’Meara & Irish Artists Abroad

Dublin City Gallery, The Hugh Lane, 13 February – 11 June 2017

SARI: Subject. Aspect. Restrictions. Instructions. This useful acronym, which I recommend students to use when analysing an essay title or exam question, came to mind when reflecting on the exhibition currently on display in the Hugh Lane, the title of which is ‘Artistic Migration: Frank O’Meara and Irish Artists Abroad’. [1]

Applying the first part of this analysis (S and A) to the title of the exhibition, we find that the subject – what it is about – is ‘Artistic Migration’, and the aspect – the narrower theme, the particulars of what it is about – is ‘Frank O’Meara and Irish Artists Abroad’. If this were the title of an essay, I would expect initially to be provided with a definition and discussion of artistic migration in which the following questions might be explored. What is meant by migration? Does it imply living abroad, or merely travelling overseas for extended periods? Does artistic migration mean the movement of artists in one direction only, or is there also a suggestion of exchange?

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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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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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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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Now Came Still Evening On

John Coyle and Gary Coyle, The Dock, Carrick-on-Shannon, 10 September – 12 November  

‘Now Came Still Evening On’ is a unique exhibition presenting the work of father and son John and Gary Coyle. John’s intimate paintings occupy The Dock’s light and airy Gallery One while Gary has created a vast immersive installation in the largest of The Dock’s three galleries.

John Coyle’s paintings and drawings depict scenes and people close to his studio and home. The works have a conciseness and authority clearly developed over a long career. They are reminiscent of the intimiste paintings of Vuillard and Bonnard, and of works by their more northerly descendants in Dublin and London.

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Glow: Variations on a Theme

Tom Climent, Eamon Colman, William Crozier, Neal Greig, Eilís O’Connell, Peter Martin, James McCreary, Michael Ray, Conor Walton, Catherine Hammond Gallery, Skibbereen, County Cork, 9 September – 19 October    

The stated aim of this group exhibition was to explore and interpret the idea and theme ‘Glow’, visually echoing the shift from late summer into autumn, whether experienced as a continuous radiant beam from a light source, the result of energy produced by vibrating electric colours or, contrastingly, through the gentle light of changing luminosity.

Eamon Colman’s two large oils on paper, Seeking refuge, the green earth turned towards the river and Morning swim by the Sultan’s tower introduce a strong warm presence at the front of the gallery with their swathes of expressionistic colour and addictive energy. Referencing landscape, they can be read equally as abstract gesture.

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