Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Images from TULCA 2012

Images from:
What Became Of The People We Used To Be?
TULCA Festival of Visual Art 2012
Numerous artists.  Curated by Gregory McCartney 
Various locations, Galway
9 – 23 November 2012

The 2012 Tulca: Season of Visual Art was the tenth anniversary of Galway’s 2 week, multi-location event. Always in mid November, it utilises existing arts infrastructure and activates a variety of disused ‘slack spaces’ or rather vacant buildings and shops. This year was no different as the exhibitions bring “together 41 artists over 10 locations.”

I had lived in the west of Ireland for about 6 years and know the festival somewhat intimately. I exhibited in 2006, the year Cliodhna Shaffrey and Sarah Searson curated it. I worked as a technician for a few years. I’ve clashed with the event’s administrator, and, seemingly permanently appointed Chairperson of the Board, Galway Arts Centre Visual Arts Officer Maeve Mulrennan over errors affecting 126 Artist-run Gallery in their programme. I also worked with 2010 curator Michelle Browne in developing a very successful partnership with Engage Art Studios in a space we called The Niland Gallery.

It was interesting for me to return to Galway’s premiere visual arts event after relocating to Dublin. Seeing the festival with fresh eyes, as it were. This year’s curator, Greg McCartney, chose to work from wide interpretations and notions of landscape. The choice of works leaned towards a more conservative and traditional approach, at least in terms of structure and within the contemporary art world. That said, the resulting selection of artists yielded some interesting choices to be sure. The catalogue was a large A4 size and of a fairly standard design. Strangely most of the artists had large, frequently full page, images of the same work on display in Tulca. There is little mystery in that.

My lasting impression of Tulca was that it wasn’t cohesive in a very basic way. That is, the work seemed allotted and not positioned or placed. The various venues didn’t serve or weren’t served by the artworks hung in them. Its a funny thing, because its seems this formal arranging; this attention to conceptual, spacial, and situational relationships, is the basis of strong curation. Instead , and this is primarily exclusive of the Galway Arts Centre and certainly of 126, what unfolded was a dolling out of works throughout the other locations in a somewhat arbitrary way.  Although this leads us to the same conclusion, the other equally valid side of the argument is that the venues were selected without consideration of the works. 

Some examples would be Kelly Richardson’s subtle, peaceful installation in The Shed on the Docks being completely and utterly altered for the worse by cranes relentlessly and deafeningly loading a ship with industrial scrap metal. Fiona McDonald’s Gift Shop was claustrophobically wedged in the entrance area to the Exchange House, a massive unfinished vacant new build. The rest of the space was almost absent of sculpture. Why? Because in real life gift shops are by the entrance/exit? The gallery at NUIG ,a great black-out space, was oddly divided with a heavy curtain despite the fact that both Paul Hallahan's projection and Jenny Keane’s monitors wouldn’t have been negatively affected being in the dark together. The Niland Gallery was strangely crowded while the Exchange House seemed to swallow the numerous photographs it held. Niamh O’Malley’s moody and ultra dark piece was placed in a theatre space with possibly the squeakiest seats in the world. You get my point. And yet it is significant.

A multi-venue affair requires significant resources to run and and install. And while there was certainly considerable work done from a technical point of view, the overall finish was a bit, well, degree show and again not considered. What with its various numerous walls and some things and spaces in different states of finish or completion. The Niland Gallery seemed to haven’t been touched up, patched or painted in over a year. The Arts Centre galleries are in a perpetual state of disregard. The Exchange House on the other hand, an enormous 2 floor site which I secured and built out for the Apposite Extravaganza show last year, was painted, reduced, divided, and further partitioned almost ad nauseam.

To step back a bit just to contextualise the festival, Tulca receives around €50k from the Arts Council, €10k from the Galway City Council and this year additional funding from the County. That’s approximately the equivalent of 3 galleries like 126 running year-round programmes. Clearly this is not without reason. Tulca ticks all the boxes: a generous catalogue, a public commission (for the Chair’s housemate) in west county Galway, a series of youth outreach programmes, numerous venues including the University Hospital and NUIG, many local artists via the open call, etc. All important things. But what function does this really serve? Tulca risks foregrounding the curation with a protracted exercise in event planning and administrative box-ticking, i.e. is the festival just an administrative template for the curator to cut and paste a few selections? What strikes me is that this is a strangely timed, short-run event at the onset of winter, especially if it seeks to draw anyone from outside of Galway. Or is Tulca primarily for Galway? And is it held for a contemporary Galway that actually exists?

In very difficult times for funding I wonder if it is nationally relevant. Eva in Limerick is about an hour away and has been reborn as Ireland’s biennial. It runs for a few months, and this past year was particularly memorable. It had a distinct sense of purpose and delivered it to a high standard. Does this make Tulca a bit redundant?  Can Tulca adapt or evolve to be something different, more relevant?

Lisa Malone

David Hepher

Eimear Jean McCormack

George Shaw

Brigitte Zeiger

Locky Morris

Locky Morris

Daniel Seiffert

Cecilia Danell

Péter Thomson

Christine Mackey

Colin Darke

Conor McFeely

Conor McFeely

Kelly Richardson

Joanna Karolini

Siobhan McGibbon

Louise Manifold

Jenny Keane

Paul Hallahan

Image and text by Jim Ricks.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Images from LCGA

Images from:
Fragile Absolutes Part 3
Alan Phelan
They've tried everything to keep us from riding...in the end we always win
Brian Duggan
Limerick City Gallery of Art
12 October – 22 November 2012

Alan Phelan:

Brian Duggan:

In the permanent collection:

Ronnie Hughes

Mick O'Dea

Photos by Jim Ricks

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Haiku Review: Tentamen

Haiku Review: Tentamen
Lucy Andrews, Alan Butler, Joseph Coveney, Niall de Buitléar, David Eager Maher, Aoibheann Greenan,
and John O'Connell
13 North Great Georges Street, Dublin
25 – 27 October 2012

By Fujimoto Ryouji

Talent from Dublin
got together and made a
haunted house of sorts

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Haiku Review: Becoming

Haiku Review: Becoming
Alice Maher
Irish Museum of Modern Art, Earlsfort Terrace, Dublin
6 October 2012 - 3 February 2013

By Fujimoto Ryouji

Innocent  bodies,
dreamlike, she directs nature
with haunting appeal

Monday, October 22, 2012

Images from 'In the Black'

In the Black
Sara Amido, Darren Caffrey, Emma Haugh, Jonathan Mayhew, David Nugent, and more.  Curated by Matt Packer and The Black Mariah
The Black Mariah
Triskel Arts Centre, Cork
21 October – 3 November 2012

David Nugent

Jonathan Mayhew

Darren Caffrey

Sara Amido

Emma Haugh

Installation view

Thursday, October 18, 2012


James Merrigan
The LAB, Dublin
7 September – 20 October 2012

Review by Nuala Nic Chuilinn

THELASTWORDSHOW in the The LAB, a space under the umbrella of Dublin City Arts Office, played host to the works of James Merrigan, an artist, critic and self-styled Jekyll and Hyde. It comes off as a cooly presented, yet downright angry show. With text appearing to represent a middle ground for Merrigan’s dueling personae of artist and critic.

Three large scale text based works shout out in all-caps for attention. One, along the glass balcony, spells out: ‘I CAN BE WHATEVER YOU WANT ME TO BE’. The other two are large wooden light-boxes. One shown on display in the large window of the space, the other housed in a separate blacked-out chamber. Perhaps it is a little trick, the light-box signs which read ‘JAMES MERRIGAN’S MESSAGE HAS BEEN QUARANTINED’ and ‘THELASTWORDSHOW’ give us a sort of self-made stardom in the form of a DIY styled marquee. The lettering used to spell out his messages has been shaped through a process: cutting reveals while black tape withholds. Indeed, something very real seems to be concealed. And what is revealed? ‘Fairy lights’ dully reflected against a silvery backing. In terms of expression this, and in general all text-based works, suffer from a vacancy. Instead of figuring out a way to visually express an idea or locate its allegory, or even build a structural adaptation of wordplay, or even tossing out a succinct one liner... the expressed meaning is shouted visually in bold capitals.

Notions of fame and gestures towards ‘bright lights’ are further explored with another, smaller light-box. This simply with a star shape constructed in the same reductive manner, revealing the word “CAMEO”.  Alongside there is a series of about a dozen variously coloured A4 pages at alternate heights. Some are bridged by way of a typewriter font text running across pages. It begins to form the basis for a potentially readable narrative. Employing text, like so many Instagramer's snap shots, his sentences steer toward a variety of pretense. “The art academic trembled before crossing the gallery threshold”.  Some are throw-away, some are vaguely literary, picturesque even, while others merely illustrate a beginning. In this particular adoption of text what gets lost is the personal, the word as truth. What remains is a predetermined vocabulary and a lingering dalliance with ‘fame’. But by taking only the form of conceptual art, like Carl Andre’s numerous typewriter pieces or the Flux Kits by George Maciunas, they were as concept no more than Tweets or fragments of of a story.

Another text piece on the other side of the room can at first appear as a jokey missive for those within its circle. Unfortunately, this ‘10 Commandments’ of art criticism contains only light insight and much heavy angst. In respect to other works discussed it comes across as a bit of a rant. Stating its self-pitying directives, he merely positions himself to be small relative to his object. A range of sentiments make up this list of inward looking, outwardly aggressive and thinly conceived grumps. Ultimately fifty to a hundred equally as spurious declamations and proclamations could have been presented and still the artist would stand in place of god. Unless Mount Sinai is occupied and cannot help with such molehills, some might say that his problem with his chosen profession be cause enough to adopt more than a voice, but a message.

A projected video piece which looks like a dvd menu may well be the best piece in the show. It contains a set of symbols and references which are internal to the artist, and they signal little but activity itself. This projected video, alongside the aforementioned ‘10 commandments…’ piece and come to think of it, much of the show’s content is very much territory that was explored in the Manual of Contemporary Art Style by Pablo Helguera - sections of which were published in the Visual Artists Newsheet just a few years ago. Much like Merrigan’s video, Helguera assigned symbols to roles as found within the suffocating ‘artworld’. Whereas Helguera created battle plans for how, in his case, the chess pieces were to interact and behave at exhibition openings, Merrigan has eschewed the commonly held language of signs in favour of his personalisation of code and conduct. It is as if he is, at least subconsciously, aware that the message which he seeks to share is for him alone.

A monumental black form is positioned centre-stage. It is neither ramshackle enough to be humble or curious, nor crafted well enough to be ‘well-made’ or sublime. It is neither ugly nor beautiful, falling into a strange grey area that lacks intentionality. But more importantly, it is also indiscernible. Is it a broken rabbit, upright and jagged but with a rounded belly? Or is it a headless chicken atop a woman’s head? Does it refer to, like a modest nod to the work of Kara Walker, an inaccurate silhouette? Possibly of Robert Emmet? It is what it is. Or perhaps... it is what ever you want it to be. Appearing in a nearby video also, but in a more animated guise, this shape jumps, slides, and travels the flatscreen. Maybe it mocks the large sculptural form which stands still and is tied to its objecthood? In any case, it does indeed work as a formal echo of this looming indiscernible sculpture in the centre of the room; one holds station while the other is flat. The standing piece is black, a chicken-wire and timber frame covered in some kind of commercial wrapping plastic. Fugue-like, the theme is stated and little elaboration follows. The on-screen graphic is just that, while the sculptural form is equally just that. Neither provokes enough that the viewer be prompted to discover what relationship exists between them.

Upstairs, the near empty space is red lit. Connotations of the ‘Red Light’ have not been in any way removed, it seems that it is hoped that red be seen relative to temper and rage. Which is unusual, because rather than the kink or tease which might be expected, all we come to find is itself pretty much a story of the artists' dealing with some unmentioned gallery employee who for whatever reason failed to act with due respect. A stencil, hearts, a flashing light and a tale of personal woe. What is interesting is that rather than take of his position a strength from his decision to decline their revised and seemingly lesser offer, he has exposed himself as being vulnerable to the emotional to and fro of professional and personal confusion.

The dual persona which Merrigan attributes to himself has, no doubt, a function, perhaps simply to tell his story his way. As it is, the primary issues to be wrestled with here, self-indulgence versus self-censorship, require an author/artist who is willing to be judged for whatever he must reveal. Whether Jekyll or Hyde, the critic has here permitted little room for the artist to make any sort of meaningful expression. This surely is not the desired function of his or any critic.

I do take issue with his craftsmanship, but in this case most of the works don’t offend on that front, rather the ideas lack significant development. Value relationships never being clearly defined, all we have to look at are parts of something or other or something other; a story not worth telling, a not quite discernible form or some text which never makes sense of itself; the LASTWORDSHOW may very well have benefited from a pinch or two of the poetic, or even, something of his true feelings; something earnest. In referring to his hiding of something, it is this nature of his true feelings that was overplayed by the noise of almost everything which he made.  As it is, bluster blows gales through the The LAB and apparently neither the artist, the critic nor the gallery could see it hold.

All photos by Michael Holly, courtesy of The LAB and the artist.