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.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Images from 'Towards a Newer Laocoön'

Towards a Newer Laocoön
Sarah Pierce
NCAD Gallery, Dublin
4 October – 7 November 2012

Thursday, October 4, 2012

‘The future’

Futures 2012
Lucy Andrews, Peter Burns, Caoimhe Kilfeather, Ed Miliano, Jim Ricks, and Stephanie Rowe
Royal Hibernian Academy, Dublin
6 September – 28 October 2012
Review by Darren Caffrey

Installation view of Ed Miliano

Futures 2012 is joyously mixed in its form and yet it is this distraction which when presented to us is hoped will overcome the obvious weaknesses of art without proper framing or even depth. On one wall sits the result of a routine investigation into the world outside of a window, Ed Miliano “began making a visual diary, painting one picture every day”, and to that end, judging by the quantity, he has succeeded. It is identified that the pictures when viewed together ‘create a collective landscape’ and ‘reflect the seasonal change, weather and time’, as though it were already forgotten how pop culture brought with it the mosaic poster, wherein tiny pictures can be seen to make up a single larger image, be it Bob Marley or Tupac Shakur. To this end I wonder might the transience of the seasons be reflected here also.

ver·dant  (vûr dnt)
1. Green with vegetation; covered with green growth.
2. Green.
3. Lacking experience or sophistication; naive.

Installation view of Caoimhe Kilfeather

At the foot of this, begins, like a minimalist townscape, the work of Caoimhe Kilfeather, for which the technicality of its production alone warrants investigation. The size relationship and the story which it unfolds display also a considerable insight into perception itself. In fact to discuss these particular works without referencing the involved drama would require a detailing of process, or worse, a rehashing of the artist’s self-proclaimed interests. There can be seen in the long curtain shell which stands where else it might hang, the shape of this very same drama. Humble in its appearance, it is no less a re-imagining of an object which is traditionally employed as means to excite anticipation while simultaneously concealing the function of all necessary transition. In order to substantiate the illusion therein, concrete reinforces the folds, with the effect that reality is never far. Towered over by this somewhat godlike presence, rusted angles, each characterised by their peculiarities, in turn provide the players. Set down side by side on two grey boards, two on each, their differences become highly noticeable and project a warlike energy, as though, were they not cut just so, they might now be part of something far more threatening. As it is they remind of fragility more so than destruction, at rest and haloed by a rust of orange powder, but too they are the product of man at odds with nature and god, like wedges that might, if otherwise placed, upset the balance of everything which seems so concrete.

Work by Lucy Andrews

Even more process focused, the works of Lucy Andrews convince of mystery: green liquid in a bowl, gel in plastic tubes, technicolour traces of something lost to time. The fact that this is achieved by exploiting materiality and revealing it to be vulnerable or even accessible, appears no less to disguise that very same condition of the artist, not least because the presentation belies no real sense of a definition of failure. As such, whatever comes of it is perhaps seen as satisfactory, in so far as it has come to be. The obvious mystery therefore is one of identity, namely where is she within the trickery and suspense which she has laid out. A rubber floor-tile breaks like a wave against the gallery wall and no thing any different occurs on its surface than does on another flatter piece, this time stone, to which the artist has applied the very same technique. As a material test there appears to be no control subject, with the result that for the artist what danger lurks cannot ever be real. Though canny elaborations of form, little more than the bone of intellect binds these miscellaneous handlings.

Installation view of Jim Ricks

To have a bouncy castle on which you are not permitted to bounce greatly reduces what effect might be otherwise possible. Noticeably Jim Ricks recognised this fact, deciding as such to replace the pure fun of experience with the intellectual pursuit of information about the thing. Taking the form of ephemera ranging from postcards to signs to personal effects, the artefacts which have been drawn from the surrounds of Poulnabrone Dolmen, from which this work takes its origin, in turn surround the larger than life but no less deadened object that is the ‘bouncy’ version. It can only be said that on all sides it was an error to consign this work to the function of sculpture, as such stripping it of everything which makes the bridge which it seeks to build between worlds so pertinent. In truth though, what is dissected as artefact remains simply a tease for the potential pleasure; the slight nod to human excitement, as detailed in the video of the various sitings of snake-like erections alongside the newspaper article which relays the story of a public sign which would not stay up, are themselves equally grounded by the poor relationship between shared intention and individual action. In this respect its relative grounding is apt. Regardless, on my last visit a group of school girls had taken off their shoes and left them at the foot of the Bouncy Dolmen while they stood atop and the teacher took their picture as were the scene something worth remembering.  I asked at the desk before I left if I was right to leave my shoes on and I was told with a business-like clarity that it was forbidden for anyone to interfere with the artwork.  Perhaps it is a question of self-containment; the gallery requiring that work be in and of itself possessing and withholding of the controls, which reinforce its own position as holder of the right to represent. I only hope that that when you read this you will have experienced the real life fun of bouncing around as carefree as any barefoot time-traveller.

An echo is the expansion from one point into many; painters may be seen to bring about effects reminiscent of this transience by manipulating their medium in order to serve another essentially imaginative cause, the presentation of mastery alongside mystery. Of course paint is much of the same thing and almost always reliant on the pigment of the substance in order to process form and articulate both mass and light. In this way both Peter Burns and Stephanie Rowe appear to be negotiating the same territory. Whereas Burns may be seen to allow the image to open out before him and forgive if not relish the tell-tale signs of his previous intentions, Rowe exhibits images defined according to an altogether more mature taste. Although the subject matter, screen shots taken from movies in which the actress is focal point, in turn manages to refresh the eye, it is more so in the manner that a painting in the bathroom might. It’s a place for pause, cut away from the conceit of narrative or character building tension; it is the peaceful joy of homage for the things to which you yourself relate, if that is your taste.

Work by Peter Burns

If not then you may enjoy Burns’ foray into the realms of the creative psyche, wherein animals and minerals launch themselves through walls of paint and dive into swirls of a painter’s fantasy. Each work reflects in some way a myth or story which expresses joy and wonder at being a part of something of such detail and pleasure as this or any life. Whether their work, undulous or screen-flat, both artists may be interested in the story of Echo: the Greek mythological nymph who famously fell for Narcissus and became trapped in his sound-bites, ultimately extending his reflection out past the water and on again into infinity. The question for both artists might be how much can making a painting be refined while still retaining that sense of the majesty of looking at things anew. What Rowe shows us is an energy removed from its set contours, relying instead on the new parameters of reissued content, mood, lighting, and in truth, cinematographic pressures which relate little to the reality of paint. The result however lacks the poison of a femme-fatale, instead leaving behind merely the romantic notions of love and loss and those other scripted conflicts of the head and the heart. Throughout Burns’ work, including his arrangement of constructed beings upon a shelf which bookends the paintings as were this a school presentation, there remains at least a fire to see by, not everything is magnificent in the light but it is more so his own creation than a compliment being paid to the source.

Work by Stephanie Rowe

The show in the RHA reveals predilection and taste to be of the highest order, second to which was the work of the artists. Perhaps it was due to the size of Ricks’ inflatable ‘elephant in the room’ but you get the impression that death was somehow being mocked, leaving The Poulnabrone Bouncy Dolmen to read more like an epitaph for the relationship between those who supplement the development of art through funding and opportunity, and those who support art through their commitment to making, in whatever form, the best of it that they can. In whatever guise each clearly presents forth an agenda. As such, what is underlined by this showing is that the system works well, however it favours reinforcement rather than challenge, the result of which is perhaps not the best path for new actions, but then this is the point. ‘Futures’ as a term is itself derivative, specifically it is a way in which the market hedges bets such that the yields are more favourable to the investor than to the producer; in such case minimal subsidies are often provided as scant incentive for the general acceptance of this market strategy. Of course you can’t be sure if this began as a wholly coincidental usage of the term, or if the attention which is drawn to this almost accidental usage might highlight anything more than coincidence but the artists themselves should no doubt be aware that the on-going trade will continue with or without them. The question then is whether emerging artists can afford to remain outside of this controlled marketplace, indeed, what if any might be considered advantages of such a decision. Perhaps next year we will find out.

Note:  This link will bring you to Kansas.. and outline what is a dummy guide to 'futures' in respect to speculative economics...