Saturday, December 18, 2010

Three Solo Exhibitions

Three Solo Exhibitions

Ramon Kassam, Laura McMorrow and Mark O’Kelly


22nd October- 6th November 2010
By Deirdre Kelly

The exhibition is housed in OccupySpace, an artist led initiative, part of the Creative Limerick scheme. It comprises three solo artists working in or associated with Limerick city, each with an individual body of work which comes together in a co-operative programme.
Paint-things by Ramon Kasson are the first to feature upon initial entry into the large open exhibition space situated on Thomas Street. The area is stark and ideally suited to Kassam’s large paintings, a feature of his work which he has been focusing on for the last two years and an impressive introduction to the exhibition.

The works are couched in what he considers the slightly ridiculous perception and ideas that contemporary art and artists arouse in the public’s perception. Any element that brings to mind this idea of art, particularly painting, and the artist, is highly suggestible given its associations with art history, art critique, the notion of the artist as a genius etc. Subsequently, he purports that this inevitably opens up a parallel universe of multitudinous proportions concerning where art itself can be situated within. He explores this by producing a series of work which seems to pose questions, attempt to answer them, yet still provokes more questions. This is exemplified aptly in
Paint-things series No.2, which posits that, ‘In art the term painting describes both the act and the result, which is called a painting.’
Paint-things series no.2, Ramon Kasson

A crude makeshift clock,
Paint-things series no.6, a construct of oil on canvas, cardboard, nails, confronts the cyclical nature of the artistic practice. Unsure as to the starting point yet encompassing all the usual suspects associated with ‘art’: Minimalism, portraiture, the nude, landscape, still-life and abstraction.
Paint-things series no.6, Ramon Kasson

The over-all result once comprehended is strangely effective particularly to artists themselves who have long laboured over the belief that every work produced should fit into some one of these historical categories. When in reality this is the last consideration when the artistic practice takes over.

Laura McMorrow’s
Boundaries is featured in its own room to the right of the main Occupy Space gallery. Her quirky, eclectic pieces work well assembled in her own style.

She begins with acquired images be they from old boxes, pictures or whatever found material catches her eye. She has built up a collection of unusual imagery from charity shops of from friends who think they might interest her. Once she decides to obliterate the subject-matter from the derived object, she sets out sometimes in an autobiographical way, sometimes objectively, to subvert the original context of the object thus turning it and the viewer’s perception on their heads. These invariably delicate and strangely unnerving pieces suggest broken narratives as if somehow we have entered a story at the half-way point and it is up to us to interpret and deconstruct how it will continue.
Mound, Laura McMorrow
Mound is a quiet and thought provoking image of ‘exactly what it says on the tin’, a mound of earth or maybe ash which is situated in the middle of a barren landscape. Where or what it is doing there is not clear. Is it a post-apocalyptic heap of dust or just a landfill of waste? The result is challenging yet quietly effective.
Shed roof, Laura McMorrow

While McMorrow’s work is usually on a small-scale, her most effective piece takes up one entire wall.
Shed roof, a group of photographic prints on cardboard displays the image of a shattered roof. All of its elements are carefully positioned to form a circle on the back of a partition. Somehow this imagery is beautifully evocative and conjured up images for me of lost souls drifting in space, trying but never quite succeeding to re-form as one, forever resigned to float in limbo.

Mark O’Kelly’s
Cinema Impero, is positioned towards the back of the room housing Kassam’s work. His is a projected looped DVD of seemingly familiar faces and situations. His concept derives from everyday representations of culture as presented through the media. By highlighting signifiers and what he terms ‘mediated experiences’ rather than their actual cultural or political contexts, he is hoping to engender questions as to the effectiveness and influence of these approaches. His process involved seeing, re-seeing and adopting representations of culture that leads to an engagement with the viewer. A woman stares out with a camera in her hand as if to take a picture of us, thereby turning the concept of the ‘voyeur’ on its head; a couple come together in what might be construed as a provocative encounter. In another, a woman is seen talking straight at the camera. Again, it is up to us to decipher and re-position these images in our own contexts rather than what we have been informed to do.
Cinema Impero, Mark O’Kelly

Over-all, the three exhibitions work well as individual shows, each bringing a unique take on the idea of confronting the viewer into thinking a little bit more about what meets the eye. Kassam does this effectively through a traditional format with a unconventional twist; McMorrow uses a delicate, evocative style while Kelly adopts a ‘take it or leave it’ attitude. Yet whatever their own individual processes may be, what they all have in common is that nothing is quite what it at first seems to be. On the evidence of this joint yet separate exhibition, nor should it be.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Are we living in the end times?

Are we living in the end times?

Slavoj Zizek, the philosopher and cultural critic, on the collapse of society and the failure of capitalism.

From Riz Khan, Al Jazeera

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Woods

The Woods
David Godbold, Patrick Hall, Seamus Heaney, Alice Maher, Eoin McHugh, Mary Moloney, Garrett Phelan, Alan Keane, Paraic Leahy, Laura McMorrow and Clive Moloney

Curated by Mary Conlon, Shinnors Scholar
Limerick City Gallery Offsite: Istabraq Hall

10th September - 29th October 2010
By Deirdre Kelly

The Woods is set in the off-site Limerick City Gallery of Istabraq Hall. The show features work from The National Collection of Contemporary Drawing. In conjunction with the exhibition, Curator Mary Conlon, has asked three artists from the Creative Limerick scheme to also participate. The press release explains:
"A year after the launch of the initiative, Creative Limerick also promotes the creative potential in the city, having developed an exemplary model in negotiating the use of slack spaces for use in artistic and cultural activities. Producing a series of diverse practices and ambitious programmes, the Creatives actively contribute to the cultural fabric of the city. Laura McMorrow (Wickham Street Studios/Occupy Space), Paraic Leahy (Wickham Street Studios/Occupy Space) and Clive Moloney (Faber Studios) present new works for The Woods."
Istabraq Hall, located within Limerick City Hall is spacious, bright and unobtrusive. It is ideal for viewing, as it has a wide vista and provides a wide uncluttered expanse in which to stand back and take in the exhibition as a whole. When you walk through its small atrium you immediately see work opposite and nare drawn in. The openness of the huge rectangular exhibition area is beneficial, however, the large lights overhead project strong reflections onto the pieces framed in glass, which can be frustrating as well as disconcerting for the viewer. The reflection of the work opposite is clearly visibly in the glass and is distracting.
Istabraq Hall
Leahy and the other ‘new recruits’ worked on a one to one basis with Conlon, discussing what they considered their individual interpretation of drawing to be. Although they were shown photographs of the other exhibitors, no pressure was imposed to conform to any kind of theme. The operation was open-ended and Leahy decided to take a traditional drawing approach to his work. The result was simple and playful but within the themes of his own current work, i.e. the importance of titles and how they influence and direct a viewer, sometimes to the effect of contradicting the entire reading of a painting. His images are simple depictions of sparseness within empty spaces, creating a sense of something lost, something waiting to happen or anticipation. His drawing Tastes like Chicken plays on this idea of contradiction, the drawing is of a hare; but the contradiction lies within its title, the concept of wounded animals, traps; large, small; real and imaginary. Leahy and Conlon decided to display this piece on a wall by itself and painted it off-white so that the wall becomes its frame. It is a very effective piece and the quality of pencil-work excellent. His two works framed in glass also play on this same concept. The frames were found objects which he treated to compliment the actual ground for his drawings so that the overall impression is one of flatness.

Tastes Like Chicken, Paraic Leahy

Alan Keanes’ Desktops are great additions to the exhibition, aligning one wall in their entirety. The idea of the found object with its history and pentimenti of previous occupants, lends a nostalgic and fond recall of schooldays where bored kids doodled and scribbled their day away. The spontaneous gestures of unthinking mark-making is perhaps the closest definition within the exhibition to the instinctive nature of drawing. It is fascinating to ponder just what was going through the mind of the artist when he/she scribbled. For example, the head of a devil with horns protruding is evident in two of the desktops – Buffy the Vampire Slayer in the nineties perhaps? The scribbles also indicate historical periods in time and are anachronistic reminders of previous fashions: Beastie Boys doodles circa 1987. One begins to speculate as to how these quirky objects played a role in the lives of these young scribblers. Where and what path might they now be on?
Desktops, Alan Keanes
Chess Players, Laura McMorrow

The sense of the unknown and the anticipatory continues in some of the rest of the work on display. Laura McMorrow depicts two vignettes in coloured pencils of chess players concentrating on their game. The chess boards themselves are absent so the focus remains on the concentration of the men. Their blurry indefinite outlines give a strange surreal quality to the work as if they and the viewer are caught up in some timeless ongoing process from which they have no control. The small, intimate nature of the work draws the viewer closer, enhancing the confidential character of the scenes. McMorrow’s work is of a semi-autobiographical nature in which she places herself in isolated, disembodied situations. This continues in another piece, In Sequence. A simple coloured-pencil drawing positions her at the verge of her paper, teetering towards the edge in a dangerous unnerving area, encased in a wooden televisual structure with handles at the bottom. Will Laura move if the handles move? This piece originally developed as a sort of physical blog like scrolling down a webpage. However, some viewer’s over enthusiasm in turning the handles has now resulted in this idea being abandoned and just one image of a perilous Laura is displayed.
In Sequence, Laura McMorrow

I think the City Gallery are lucky to have such a venue as a substitute during re-development as in many ways one huge arena is more attractive than the several smaller galleries of the old building, particularly for crisp, clean, coherent exhibitions as in The Woods. Mary Conlon has done a good curatorial job as the work displayed does provide telling questions for the viewer as to the nature of drawing. Her invited artists through Limerick Creative’s initiatives are strong examples of the innovative and imaginative interpretations of contemporary art while keeping firmly within the criteria of traditional drawing.
The exhibition is well worth a visit as other works by more of the better known artists are also highly appealing. The over-all effect gives viewers a comforting sense that ‘drawing’ does not necessarily mean accurate and perfect renditions. Even the doodles and scribbles of childhood are not worthless and there are myriad ways and means of expressing the essence of what drawing means to different artists; a reassuring affirmation that you do not have to be technically brilliant to create beautiful drawings. After all not everyone’s an Albrecht Durer are they?

Friday, October 22, 2010

Images from 'Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space'

Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space

by Mark Cullen

Triskel Arts Centre

13th August – 4th September, 2010

Images courtesy the artist.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Images from 'FOLLY'


by Mark Clare

Galway Arts Centre

12th August – 4th September, 2010

Images courtesy of Jonathan Sammon

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Images from the Artlink 'New Art Award'

The Artlink 'New Art Award'

Fort Dunree, Buncrana

15th July – 11th August, 2010

The Artlink 'New Art Award' projects were selected from an open competition in 2009 by the following selection panel: Dave Beech, Art Critic and Artist, UK; Maoliosa Boyle, Manager, Void, Derry; Brian Duggan Artist and Founder of Pallas, Dublin; Elaine Forde, Former Director, Artlink, Donegal; Adrian Kelly Curator, Glebe Gallery, Donegal; Mark Wallinger Artist, UK.

Ursula Burke: State of Grace

Sam Keogh: Babel

Jim Ricks: 14th January 2009 (We will say it has nothing to do with us)

All photos courtesy of the artists.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Images from 'redress state - questions imagined'

redress state - questions imagined

A durational performance by Dominic Thorpe

126, Artist-run Gallery, Galway

12th May – 5th June, 2010

All photos courtesy Jonathan Sammon and the artist.

Redress Board:

A Model For Collective Change

A Model For Collective Change


The Model, Sligo

1st May – 3rd July, 2010

by Joanne Laws

May Day saw the long awaited re-opening of The Model after a two year renovation project. The event aimed to re-affirm Sligo’s position as a cultural centre for the North West, and was a night packed with nostalgia and optimism for the arts. The first exhibition was a show called Dorm, which showcased Irish and international art collectives, presented as an art fair parody. The opening night was an elaborate, inter-active art event, which invited the public to ‘sleep over’ in the gallery on custom made balloon beds.

The concept of ‘Art Collective’ is not a new one. The belief that artists can make valuable contributions to socio-political discourse is authentic and contemporary, but has a well documented historical legacy. All of the collectives represented in Dorm, regardless of their group ethos or approach, appeared to challenge traditional bureaucratic structures by highlighting disparate institutional practices and re-assessing their function in the public sphere. On the one hand Dorm showcased polished, finished and recognised gallery works and on the other improvisational performances or strong anti-capitalist statements. Is a collective simply an organisation that has a life span beyond an individual? Utopian vision engaged with a progressive and experimental approach, which was often anti-establishment and quite cohesively political. Historical references to the Situationalist endeavour to destroy ‘the spectacle’ of alienation in a capitalist society, aligned with contemporary events such as the anti-globalisation protests of 1999.

The Manifesto

Freee is a U.K based collective, with activist concerns, who show-case the power of words through the creation of slogans, facilitating their display in public arenas using billboards, posters, leaflets and other publications. In Dorm they presented a printed manifesto, ‘The Freee Manifesto for the Alter-Globalisation of Art’. In the publicity material the group pay homage to the historical concept of ‘manifesto’. Using emotive language, this publication urges the reader to resist the globalisation of the art market, which is managed by bureaucrats and capitalist hierarchies. Alter-Globalisation is a movement conceived by creative thinkers, which calls for the revolutionary alliance of artists, forming an organisation which is based on equality and peer learning, aiming to subvert the art market’s commercial agendas.

The Publication

The Belfast Collective Factotum, publishers of The Vacuum newspaper, also provided the audience with textual offerings. Free newspapers were the medium, the cultural landscape was the message, presented with a discernible Northern accent. The bi-monthly paper is thematically constructed; previous issues include ‘Art’, ‘Satan’, ‘Security’, ‘God’, ‘Nostalgia’ and ‘Sorry’ (to apologise for ‘God’ and ‘Satan’!)

The newspaper format cropped up routinely in Dorm, and the use of text was more dominant than in any show I have seen in a while. The increasing dominance of theory in art has created a rising trend for the ‘explanatory’ in contemporary practice; The labels which once relayed the title and medium have expanded considerably into artist statements, archival snippets or documentary analysis. Could it be that the ever increasing diversity and pluralism of practice is creating a void of understanding? Do these texts function to explain, translate or even justify the work being shown? Is the visual experience simply not enough any more? In a society which experiences a saturation of visual culture perhaps text is a welcome relief. The political overtones of these collective formats seem to request a political form of communication; queue the placard-style statements and the informative posters, in keeping with propaganda strategies and campaign agendas. In general text is more prescriptive than interpretive, although there are occasions when the use of text just deepens the mystery or confusion.

The Institution

Dorm forms part of a global institutional curiosity about the notion of art collectivism. The Tate Modern, for example, hosted a similar event 14th to 16th May. The weekend long festival of independents, No Soul For Sale, filled the Turbine Hall with an epic array of international artist collectives, installations, projections interventions and performances, with an emphasis on experimentation and interactivity. The event continued the discourse which was established last year in New York’s ‘X Initiative’, the former Dia Art Foundation headquarters. ‘No Soul for Sale: A Festival of Independents’ aimed to create an ‘anti-exhibition’ format, which was widely recognised as a platform for art collectives working out of alternative spaces, more recently termed as ‘slack spaces’. A spirit of ‘hanging out’ challenged the formal museum aesthetic, and the event was received with an air of excitement because of the nature of ‘exchange’ which ultimately occurs when creative thinkers converge to devise new strategies of resisting contemporary definitions of art. Both Dorm and No Soul for Sale seem to inform an institutional critique which questions the validity of the conventional art fair. The contemporary artist is habitually torn between creative freedom and those financial decisions which may undermine the integrity of their practice. The arts fairs, commercial galleries and art dealers are viewed as part of a market which commodifies artworks, a distasteful concept for many, especially those who view art as a form of social intervention or a political catalyst. So if the intention is to no longer compromise the artist, how about the institution? Why has it become necessary or even relevant for these groups to be presented in this context, when it is apparent that art collectives were generally borne out of a desire to resist institutional endorsement at every level? Can this be seen as a move to make amends, to address the void and get the emerging art community back on side? As the exhibition took the form of an art ‘fair’ it should be asked: How successful was this as a critique? Or did it just become a formal consideration? Additionally, the Anti-Catalogue, outside of design, appeared little different than just another catalogue. Has the Model just followed current trends of self-reflexivity and institutionalised the institutional critique?

Or is it a case of genuine curiosity and a curatorial desire to show-case what is really happening outside of the institutional filter? It could be viewed by writer/curators such as Boris Groyce, for example, that the gallery/museum/institution is emerging as the real site for contemporary innovation. A converse reaction to this would be a view which affirms that by the time the energy of artistic endeavour filters down into the gallery context, it is already passé, and the myth of ‘cutting-edge’ practice is merely propagated by the gallery’s administrators and theorised by the curatorial vision. I must concede that the idea of these ‘independents’ being show-cased by an entity which essentially represents (or is an extension of) the establishment that they politically oppose, is a concept which does not sit comfortably with me. However this uneasiness is out-weighed for me when I consider the benefits of such a venture.

The opportunity for these art collectives to meet, display work and share ideas, provides a valuable platform for debate around common issues and shared objectives. Perhaps more significant is the chance to engage the audience in this debate, and to introduce them to progressive concepts and emerging practices which challenge the boundaries of traditional art appreciation. I believe it can only be beneficial that the collectives raise those questions which can provoke unlimited scope for change. The best outcome, as I understand it, would be that art collectives have the ability to expose a need for political and commercial re-organisation, and through innovative practice can lead by example.

The 126 gallery in Galway have become increasingly present in the on-going debate surrounding non-commercial art spaces in Ireland. On the 2nd of May, Dr. Neil Mulholland facilitated a symposium of the various collectives, which provoked some interesting dialogue on the nature of emerging alternative formats to the present and restrictive art market. The 126 gallery discussed their own management structure which consists of an alternating committee (no-one on the board stays for longer than 2 years), so in this way the gallery essentially belongs to no-one individual. This spirit of generosity, equality and peer inter-dependence can offer a powerful dynamic to a group who are working towards the same ultimate goal. In theory, it eliminates the problematic hierarchies which relate to power, and the egotistical dimension which comes with ‘owning’. New formats are emerging in commercial sectors to address the restrictive nature of ‘ownership’ and to extend the boundaries of ‘frontier space’ which occurs when transactions are about more than just the acquisition of material goods. Perhaps now is actually the perfect time for art institutions to be showing work of this nature - progressive and lateral thinkers can navigate this ‘frontier space’ in ways that can benefit us all, and it is re-assuring to know that this sort of activity is going on.

monochrom's "Climate Training Camp", photo courtesy James Connolly and The Model.

Photo courtesy The Model
126 and Catalyst, photo courtesy The Model
BGL project, Photo courtesy James Connolly and The Model

IRWIN, photo courtesy James Connolly and The Model.

Photo courtesy James Connolly and The Model.

Fastwurms, photo courtesy The Model