Friday, February 26, 2016

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Four Fold

Four Fold
Sam Keogh
Douglas Hyde Gallery, Dublin
May 22 - July 22, 2015

Review by Jim Ricks

The mutilated remains of a Bog Man cover the gallery floor. The gallery approach becomes a medical observation deck, affording a view of the downstairs installation from above. In full colour, Sam Keogh has enlarged a photograph of the two millennia old Irish 'Old Croghan Man'.

Coming down, the iridescent tanned skin of just a ragged torso, arms, and hands is to be walked over. Four sections of the image are peeled and propped up with decorated bone-sticks. 
These in turn are anchored in place by garish ceramic blobs. Other sculptures litter the floor: a psychedelic life sized ceramic CAT Scan cross-section, miniature frozen Han Solos. Found objects (a rubber fly, a skeleton, miniature turtles) are inserted sporadically. There is also giant green heap of a tortoise shell. This lurid frenetic manufacture is characteristic of Keogh. An embrace of clumsiness and impulse, coupled with adept craftmanship. 


The backs of the upright sections of skin reveal clusters of ziney Hirschhorn-esque collages. Bodies and statues and skeletons and knives and family pictures. But mainly bodies. And one cluster is dedicated entirely to turtles. It is collaged imagery by association, of the sorts of things that may occupy the minds of tween-age boys. I'm reminded of the gory 1978 Faces of Death. These cumulative references point primarily at the autopsy of found ancient bodies, the 'scientific' manner in which they are displayed and viewed, but also perhaps to the original sacrifice itself. He is revealing his hand, the research is poured into the installation like pigment. 


A video is projected quietly onto the reverse of one of the four skins. All is revealed.

Keogh has cleverly designed this exhibition, the opening served as the performative unveiling of a monumental pop-up book. With microphone and GoPro attached to his chest we virtually live this out on repeat from the artist's POV. The viewer is placed close to the artist's body, intimately experiencing this performance.

As he enters and descends on the opening night, none of the four folds have been propped up yet. He begins a frantic erection. Working like a surgeon turned shaman, he picks up an arm, a hand, and hoists them like sails. Each revealing a messy collection of ideas underneath. Picking under the skin, only his gesticulating arms and legs visible on screen in a hurried comic dance. He is breathless. 


Once all are upright, he begins to recite, quite rapidly in his Wicklow accent, a stream of consciousness account... of something. His arms conducting, pulling forth narratives from his collages. The imagery and notes are his cue cards. In his muffled voice Keogh is recalling a film. He acts out with sound effects, taking on all the characters. He unexpectedly stops and runs to the next fold of digitally printed vinyl fabric. Another collage triggers another narrative fragment. Is he describing an autopsy? Or a sci-fi film? Hands, latex gloves, mummification, knives, a history of a Bog Man, and intermittently: the gross imitative noises of flesh, of guts.

Suddenly he crawls into a personal history, and literally into the faux tortoise shell. He dwells on a childhood recollection of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, then suddenly ejects himself. He spirals out, tangentialising. The result is a morass of 'hyperlinks' and I feel like I am looking at the flat screen of someone else's search history.

After 40 minutes he leaves us with his installation. 


Crawling through this Brobdingnagian Bog Man like a human fiber optic camera, picking under his skin, Keogh examines and animates the body. He overtly suggests that crude displays of ancient bodies are an unexamined ethical issue. A psychological autopsy is experienced, but it is awkwardly arbitrary. He craftily utilises performance as an active device to install, and to leave a compelling document. But in despite of everything I like about Four Fold, he doesn't really get below the surface; under the skin. He has pored over unmistakable materials, but I am left wanting more meaningful content. Linkages and moralism just don't cut it. 


At the start of his performance, Keogh walked into the crowded gallery much the way any visitor might, except he broadcasts motor noises for several minutes. And then he declares, I think, "Very flat".

Jim Ricks is an American-born conceptual artist, curator, and writer currently residing in Dublin.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Disequilibrium Displacement

Disequilibrium Displacement
Diogo Pimentao
Garden Galleries, Irish Museum of Modern Art
10 April - 5 July 2015

Review by Darren Caffrey

In the downstairs room of IMMA’s Garden Galleries, the work of Diogo Pimentao can be found. Titled Disequilibrium Displacement, it is perhaps best not to understand it in terms of words. For the purpose of this review, words will have to suffice however. Luckily, this exhibit comes with more words than just those of its title. The gallery text says “…using very simple materials like paper, graphite and stones; and simple processes such as drawing, rubbing and folding; Pimentao blurs the distinctions between drawing, sculpture and performance”.

What stands in for these words in the gallery space is a number of pieces which do indeed show use of the materials mentioned. There is graphite used on the wall and on the piece hanging next to it on the same wall. These works are titled Between (cognate #3) and Fascia (structure #66) respectively. There is graphite used also in Fascia (structure #67), which stands up next to these other examples. This third piece which leans up next to the others is covered in paper, and so too is the one hanging nearest to it. The one which uses no paper instead makes its surface the actual wall of the gallery. Each of these pieces is 159 x 119cm. Graphite and diamonds take the same atomic structure, so it's not surprising that each of these works reveals a metallic sparkle in their finish.

There are two other examples of the artist’s direct use of graphite within this exhibit. Standing at just over three metres, two grey slabs lean up into a skylight hidden in the gallery ceiling. Titled together as Hold (Inherent), these forms of folded paper can be perceived to touch, and where they do not, there is a resulting elliptical light shaft. The light which leaks through is left over from that which illuminates the gallery space, with particular attention shared upon the back wall. On this back wall countless matchsticks have been lined up to make Drawing (horizontal). This wall is the longest in the room and it is presumed that someone has already lit the matches as each one is burnt down to its stick.

Photo courtesy of the author.

We might think that it would have been easier to burn these matches and then fix them to the wall, and again the list of works is helpful here, telling us that ‘burnt matches’ are what constitute this work. I would like to think that someone turned off the fire-alarm in IMMA’s Garden Galleries, and for a moment of sheer madness, lit one and watched as the rest took as quick.  But on another wall of this rectangular room, the diagonal of its entire length is redrawn with more burnt matches, all lined up one by one. From top to bottom, the provocation of Drawing (diagonal) is not so compelling as that which runs across the body at arm's reach. Indeed the second example of the matchstick trick is less about the viewer and more about the institution. This miniature effigy of the torch does not need our imagined role as fire starters. It has already gone up.

Where the last match meets the floor, a tidy collection of what looks like scrap paper lies seemingly undisturbed. At rest as tiny pieces, each one is small enough to carry a single non-thought and no bigger. The desire to bend down and gently whoosh an arm as though to waken its chaos is strong. But according to the list of works, what appears as pieces of scrap paper are in fact flakes of dry wall paint, gesso and graphite. The thin graphite lines drawn onto some of these flakes only adds to the reason for confusion. Either way, it appears that every single flake which constitutes Walldrawing (line movement) has been stuck down one by one. No gentle breeze will serve to scatter them.

Curator Sean Kissane writes: “the graphite is hammered onto the surface of the paper in Fascia and it is scraped off the wall and reassembled on the floor in the work Walldrawing (line movement).” And in the work with matches, he refers to 'the uniqueness and fragility of each burnt stick', suggesting that the variety is owing to the nature of creation. This creation can be destruction also, and the chaos that we are shown far exceeds the vision put forward by the gallery.

Ordinarily when you go into a gallery and see art works on the floor or on the walls, it is understood that you cannot touch them. This is as much for practical reasons as any other and it is difficult to argue with. This is in spite of the fact that an artist’s work can take very interesting forms and literally provide access to materials beyond our everyday encounter. So sometimes an artist might make use of these conditions and exhibit work about this very tension.

With Pimentao’s ‘Disequilibrium Displacement’, the gallery has provided us a brief text. It details for the reader how the works we see came to be. As discussed above, it outlines a clever artistry behind the works formal arrangement. With the work in each case finally amounting to something other than what may be perceived on first glance. In fact, the accuracy of Pimentao’s 'falsification' of common materials, using just simple art materials is something we can only trust. The gallery conditions do not permit us to touch and feel for ourselves, but if we could, we would immediately know what we already thought. Namely that paper covered by graphite does not feel like wood or metal. The tactile answer would be all that we should need to settle any realm of confusion. It is this failure to supply a tactile answer that we see repeated throughout the show.

With everything looking like something other than what it is, we are ultimately left to the poetry of interpretation. In most cases this is a delightful prospect and can offer new ways to look at a work. For the work of Pimentao, this prospect is stopped at the gallery door by the contract which each enters into once it crosses. Once again, this is not ordinarily such a big deal, but in the minimalist styling of Pimentao, it is the predication on which the work is made. This means that the artist and the gallery share an element of the work which is not available to the everyday viewer. If we could attend at the time of install, we could see how light or heavy those two grey slabs of Hold (Inherant) really are.

This vital information would reveal the truth at a glance, but it is not accessible to us as viewers. For us, looking and the aesthetic question are as far as we are allowed to go. Yet the way that each fabrication hangs or stands or at times appears to almost float, all leaves us to feel like this information is actually needed to fully appreciate the level of Pimentao’s visual reproduction. Of course as we all know, this tactile answer is not accessible and so we are drawn once again to the gallery as a mediator for the work. In this regard, the gallery text fails where the work has succeeded, drawing attention to only the information that it shares with the viewer, about art and materials and mediums. It does not however suggest that it appreciates the manner of Pimentao’s argument, only his application.

It seems from a viewers point of view that the artist is also saying something about the conditions in which his work can be experienced. Is a joke a joke if you already know the punch line? It might still be funny. But perhaps it is more important to see it that Pimentao’s work is in a way censored by IMMA, showing it to us as a quirk rather than a lie. There is something deeply political about the real nature of this work, yet this institution makes no mention of it. In this respect, we are found looking again at what exactly is the position of the artist in all of this.

Perhaps the work which best illuminates the artist's position is the one which is placed in the stairwell and lift next to the basement gallery. This lone work is titled Intrinsic. And it is the only one which does not come with parentheses attached to its title. Simply a block of graphite which is small enough to fit in the hand, we may read the plainness of this work like the hammer or sickle of the communist era, each reflecting how the labour of the worker is symbolic of the social arrangement. How else do you explain what cannot be verified? Pimentao suggests that you look again at the subtext, while at the same time the museum seeks to present a more solid conclusion for its viewers to understand.

Photos courtesy of the Irish Museum of Modern Art, unless otherwise indicated.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Luke Byrne selected for 2015 Shower of Kunst Undergrad Spotlight Award

NCAD Graduate Luke Byrne selected for the 2015 Shower of Kunst Undergrad Spotlight Award 

Congratulations to Luke Byrne for his multimedia installation, Tony Ferrari : Superbowl Sunday, at the NCAD Degree Show this year. Self described as: “Guns, explosions, denim, war, shockingly lifelike prosthetics, cocktails, palm trees, special effects, Hollywood, other guys, milk, meat, dads, cool right? I know.” Byrne and his work, which deals with masculinity in a self aware, insightful, and absurd manner, will be spotlit at in the coming weeks.

In previous years we have covered various Irish Degree Shows with extensive images of numerous artists from different schools. This year we are taking a different approach. Instead, we will be offering the 2015 Shower of Kunst Undergrad Spotlight Award, a single award to an artist that created a body of work that was challenging, outstanding, and new. The award will highlight the artist and their work in detail, provide background and an interview, to be featured on our site.

Artist's Statement

“My work initially started off exploring themes of masculinity. Both my personal relationship with the subject and the notions of masculinity perpetuated through film and the media. I wanted to burlesque these ideas and take a tongue-in-cheek, almost juvenile, scope at the subject matter. Gradually, my work came to incorporate the process of creating the art itself. It’s rough and ready preparation and the off the cuff execution became a significant part of it. Looking at the ideas of hyperrealism and the destruction of narrative, my work began to become more about the space and time of process, and Hawaiian shirts and mustaches.”

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Dublin's largest professional visual artists studios forced to close after 18 years

Dublin's largest professional visual artists studios forced to close after 18 years

Press Release from Broadstone Studios, Dublin
1 July 2015

Broadstone Studios, currently the workplace of 34 professional visual artists, will close after 18 successful years, this coming Friday, July 3rd. During that time Broadstone has made an immeasurable contribution to the visual arts community. Its aspiration according to director Jacinta Lynch was simple: to provide affordable and suitable workspaces for visual artists. It has successfully done so providing exactly that to many of Ireland’s most dynamic, determined and important contemporary artists for nearly two decades. 

Amongst its tenants, one of Ireland’s most internationally significant and well known artists Gerard Byrne says: 

The news comes as a massive blow to the arts community, and raises substantial questions about the prospects for Dublin’s urban center as a creative space welcoming to working artists, and the arts in general.”

Despite resiliently navigating the boom and bust cycles of Dublin's property market for nearly two decades under the direction of Jacinta Lynch, the studios received abrupt notification that the lease on the Victorian building that they have occupied for nearly five years, has been refused further renewals. After costly legal proceedings and intense negotiation, tenants were offered five weeks to completely pack up and find alternative studios. The owners of the building, which is located on the corner of Harcourt Terrace and Adelaide Road have indicated they intend to sell the building, a protected structure, for re-development.

The closure of this vibrant, well-run and beloved organisation that was run on a shoestring budget, will affect artists at a wide variety of stages in their careers. Most immediately many are scrambling to find affordable, alternative spaces to finish exhibitions and complete commissions in the midst of unplanned disruption. The potential negative impact of this dislocation on the livelihoods of the ejected artists, let alone the many other artists who had come to assume Broadstone Studios would be a future base is unquantifiable. 

Given the current rental market and the dearth of infrastructural support for the provision of workspace for artists in all fields by local and central government, few artists can ever aspire to occupy a workspace long-term. The highly praised and popular Bacon studio of Dublin City’s Hugh Lane Gallery was occupied by Francis Bacon for decades, contrasting starkly the precarious realities of the Dublin property market for the city's artists today. In a city currently aspiring to win designation as European City of Culture 2020 by trumpeting its creative vibrancy, the loss of one of the most significant artists studios in the city, and the lack of infrastructural planning it exposes, doesn't help the impression Dublin City council is hoping to convey to Europe.

Broadstone and its artists remain proud of an eighteen-year history that has witnessed the production of countless important works, exhibitions, performances, and commissions in Ireland and internationally. Works made in Broadstone studios are in museum collections globally, and the studios leave a substantial legacy on contributions to the richness and variety of contemporary culture

The loss of Broadstone Studios has huge national significance, not only as a mainstay for Dublin-based artists, but for countless professionals in the arts who rely on it as a central, credible resource during their visits to Dublin.”
Annie Fletcher, Chief Curator, Van Abbemuseum Eindhoven.

Broadstone Studios began life in the Hendron Building Dublin in 1997 and relocated to Harcourt Terrace in 2010. It has provided workspace to over 204 artists in that time as well as production support and exhibition space to countless individuals and artist groups in Ireland.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Crisis of Criticism

Crisis of Criticism 
Paper Visual Art talk with Declan Long, Joanna Derkaczew, Jim Ricks, and Rebecca O'Dwyer
Originally presented on 3 June 2014

by Jim Ricks

Just over a year ago, the newly appointed editors of Paper Visual Art, Marysia Wieckiewicz–Carroll and Nathan O'Donnell, invited four arts writers to respond, present, and discuss the question: "What do you expect from art criticism?" The following is my talk, re-presented now as it continues to be an entirely unresolved issue in Irish Visual Arts.

The following is by no means all encompassing and is a bit schematic.  And don’t think I’ll answer the question “What do I expect from criticism?”  I’m not sure what my expectations are.   Perhaps they don’t exist.

As an artist and one that works in myriad of hybrid, meta ways, perhaps I offer a different position on critical writing. Perhaps Artist’s Writing describes my angle better than Arts Writing.  Therefore, I will take a fluid approach with different reference points.

I see criticism as an important and necessary tool in my and the Irish Art World’s development.  On the one hand, it is an extension of my art practice.  It is a valuable mode of exploration, and articulation.  Writing critically, sharpens the critical mind.  It is an exercise in unpicking the dense collection of signs that comprise most artworks.  An analysis, and a means of really looking, it is thus a conceptual ‘Way of Seeing’.

On the other hand, I do it because it needs to be done.

So maybe instead of my expectations, instead I will refer back to the original, somewhat hackneyed, working title of this talk ‘Crisis of Criticism’ or ‘Criticism in Crisis’.

I think firstly this is an ongoing struggle for many areas of criticism as they try to reinvent themselves, maintain credibility, stay current, and rescue their relevance.  And I can’t help but think this is a very introverted self diagnosis and a form of collective hypochondria within the Irish Art World.   I’m not sold on the relevance of the latter.

So, instead I will refer to something else overused, a persistent fallacy and rhetorical device.  That is, that the Chinese word for crisis is comprised of 2 characters which on there own mean danger and opportunity.  The reason why this is persistent is that, despite its linguistic inaccuracy, is that it touches on something we perceive to be true.  That there is 'opportunity' inherent in a crisis.  That a crisis is a fork in the road.

Therefore, in keeping with this, there is a reason we keep returning to this 'crisis of criticism': because we have not moved passed this fork; this point.  Or perhaps we keep making a wrong turn and end up where we started.  In fact, I think this crisis is really much bigger than Arts Writing.   It is a crisis of the Art World; of curation and art making.  And this, by extension, is merely a reflection of the crisis of humankind at present.   And it is a political crisis.

Although I’m not in principle opposed to these, I do not mean political in the sense of Bourgeois Democracy: voting, Barack Obama, policy and lawmaking.  Nor in the overt and direct sense associated with activism: campaigning, protesting, or working on a single issue. But I mean rather in the broader and original meaning of the word.  

Our word: Politics, is derived from polis in Greek.  Which meant city, but also importantly, a body of citizens and citizenship.  So what I am proposing is an art world, an art criticism of citizenship.  A focus on the community, how we engage with it, define it, shape it.

Criticisms of the impotence of ‘art about art’ should not be superficially directed at artworks dealing with past artworks. But rather with artists, writers, and institutions that engage only with established methodologies, forms, subjects, and audiences.   This is de facto elitism, and therefore irrelevance, and stagnation.

Another way of saying this is: If your primary entry point into art and your primary goal from art is more art then I think there is a problem.  Indeed, artist Thomas Hirschhorn has argued that one should “do art politically.”  The Freee collective, which includes David Beech, recently in a text-based art piece stated:

A properly political art must be twice political. 1. Political art must engage in the political struggles of the day... and 2. Political art must transform the social relations of art itself, to rid itself of elitism, its privileges, its hierarchies...”

Simon Shiekh when speaking on curation asserts “Another art world is possible (if we want it).”  I see this as easily applicable to and an essential starting point for arts writing. That is, we can make a difference.  That we can strive for a better art world here in Ireland.

But why and how is art writing not serving the citizenship, community here? (Forgive the generalizations.)   The structures and styles of art criticism are derivative of arts writing in the larger Art World cities (London, New York) which are, of course, tied to the profitability of the commercial sphere orbiting these cities.

In essence, in these cities, books, essays, catalogues serve as grandiose advertising copy.  Press releases inform the public and the critics.  These are all paid for by the galleries.  The point is to add value to work, to sell it.  Usually by dressing it in intellectualisms.  And as it is art, it doesn’t need to be and cannot be proven.  Philosophy lite, pseudo science, a vague connections to post-structural cultural theory adorn works that are often nothing more than esoteric design projects.

While this may be suitable for collectors, I’m sure it doesn’t make for more interesting, engaging or accessible work.

The market drives these needs.  Those outside the major currents of the market imitate those that are in it.  Ireland suffers from such mimicry.  But the inverse way of seeing this is that Ireland is situated in a fairly unique position as it does not have the same commercial ties to arts writing: We cannot sell our work and therefore we are free!

This freedom brings forward a number of opportunities. Opportunities to involve more people and build audiences. Opportunities to challenge the structures of the status quo as Shiekh and Beech suggested.

I’ll interrogate some of them here (and that’s not to say I have all the answers):
  • Why not candor? /say what you mean? There is no reason to be cruel, but seeing as Ireland is at a disadvantage, opportunity and selling wise, why not open up the debate?  If you can say it in casual conversation, why not write about it?  This is to me akin to the academic critique.

  • Why is print the final goal? Books, magazines are great for archiving, but digital is more fluid.  Digital, online allows for new connections, new interactions, new audiences, faster.  It is also far more cost effective.

  • Why is writing authoritative or the final word? Artists and curators should have the opportunity to reply and counterbalance a review.  Uncensored commenting should be encouraged.  Or published alongside.

  • Why not prioritise the discussion over the writer/writing? This means correcting your mistakes and engaging directly with your audience.  And perhaps not taking your writing so seriously and accepting criticism yourself.

  • Why not show your research? I think of this all the time with art as well.  It is so easy to cross source information online.  Images and video and gifs are readily available to demonstrate your points across disciplines.

  • Can you define your community? Are you only writing for other artists all the time?  Think about diversity of subjects and readership.

  • How can new audiences be developed? Through expanded subjects.  Through connections to the issues facing a broader citizenship.  By allowing a range of points of entry to the subject matter.  That doesn’t mean  vulgarising, but instead popularising your writing.

  • Why not more joined up thinking? Collaborate. Move beyond the individual egos and identities and engage directly with each other’s ideas.  Try experimental ways of writing, conversing.  Written debates.  Publish alternate points of view.

In other words we need to strive to connect to bigger ideas. To be braver, bolder.  To be more honest and to create new structures of discourse, debate, discussion... this is the way forward.

Baudelaire famously wrote in his Salon of 1846: 

“Criticism should be partial, passionate, and political, that is to say written from an exclusive point of view, but the point of view that opens the most horizons”. 

I think we have to agree.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Haiku Review: Bent Knees are a Give

Haiku Review: Bent Knees are a Give
Isabel Nolan
Kerlin Gallery, Dublin
1 April - 16 May 2015

by Fujimoto Ryouji

Established artist

makes new work 'about something'.
Better when it wasn't.