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Critique

Push and Pull

RHA Ashford Gallery, Dublin, 19 January – 11 February 2018 In a TED talk entitled ‘How architecture helped music evolve’, the musician David Byrne (of Talking Heads fame) suggested that the relationship between architecture and music is directly formative. Byrne argued that the spatial and architectural features of a venue specifically influence the sonic and acoustic characters of the music performed there. In other words, American punk band, Black Flag, are to the small hardcore club what AC/DC are to the open-air area. If we imagine visual art to be engaged in a similarly formative relationship with its venues of display, it is interesting to consider whether Niall de Buitléar’s exhibition,

Black & White

Butler Gallery, Kilkenny, 13 January – 25 February 2018 Does a ‘feminine aesthetic’ exist? It’s a divisive hypothesis (and a possibly unanswerable question) that came to mind upon viewing Jane O’Malley’s exhibition, ‘Black & White’, at the Butler Gallery. The fifty pieces shown included several etchings and aquatint prints, as well as sketches in an array of media, including chalk, Conté crayon, pastel, oil, pen and ink. As the title implies, this body of work is monochromatic, although a couple of pieces display slight intrusions of yellow. O’Malley’s ease with her wide range of media is immediately apparent. Lines are loose, fluid and used sparingly but effectively. There is a pleasing

A Sense of Place / Fragmented Realities

Ards Arts Centre, Newtownards, 1 – 24 February 2018 A series of black and white digital photographs by Belfast-based artist, Mariusz Smiejek, was presented in the Georgian Gallery in Ards Arts Centre. The small-scale photographs depicted women within the natural and domestic landscapes of the Ards Peninsula. Strong tonal contrasts played a part in some of these images, whereas others had a softer tonal range. The depth of field also varied; sometimes Smiejek concentrated solely on the subject, while at other times the background was also depicted in detail. The artist explained: “I focus on the person rather than their surroundings, capturing the person rather than things”. That said, the

Sustainable Futures

Sirius Arts Centre, Cobh, 8 February – 1 April 2018 ‘Sustainable Futures’ is an ambitious exhibition currently showing at Sirius Arts Centre, Cobh, County Cork. The show acts as a focal point for a multifaceted collaborative project bringing contemporary art practice into dialogue with scientific research on sustainability, through a series of talks and events involving artists, the scientific community and local youth groups. Upon entering the East Gallery, the first thing we encounter is David Thomas Smith’s large-scale aerial photographs of the Chrysler factory and Silicon Valley, taken between 2009 and 2010. These are Google Map composites, developed using a meticulous process that works against the low quality of the

Latitudes

Dunamaise Arts Centre, 19 January – 28 February 2018 Tom Climent’s exhibition, ‘Latitudes’, at Dunamaise Arts Centre, Portlaoise, was described in the gallery text as “investigating the boundaries between abstraction and representation”. Climent presented twelve roughly similar landscapes featuring a central mound, peak or outcrop on a slightly higher-than-centre horizon line. While these compositions fall within the recognisable tradition of landscape painting, the artist’s synthetic colour palette, along with occasional architectural additions, serve to unsettle the familiarity that the genre normally fosters. Perhaps Climent’s expansion of this disciplinary boundary is less focused on stylistic approaches and more concerned with how the viewer rationalises personal expectations of painting. It helps that they

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.

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

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,’

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

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

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