Monday, December 23, 2013

Haiku Review: Workers Café

Haiku Review: Workers Café
Temple Bar Gallery & Studios
11 October – 2 November 2013

By Fujimoto Ryouji

A noble pop-up.
Local produce. Workshops. But
what of The Lockout?

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Installation view of 'a lamb lies down'

Installation view of a lamb lies downCurated by Paul Hallahan
Broadstone Studios
November 2013


Installation view of David Eager Maher's work.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Images from 'more adventurous thinking...'

more adventurous thinking...
from the archive of Dorothy Walker, with artist's response from Seamus Nolan
NCAD Gallery
15th June - 7th October 2013


http://www.ncad.ie/gallery-event/view/more-adventurous-thinking

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

McCarty and Kensmil at the RHA

Hard-Keepers
by Marlene McCarty
&
Crying Light
by Natasja Kensmil
Royal Hibernian Academy, Dublin
5 September – 20 October 2013
Review by Darren Caffrey

Does anything frighten us like the merest sight of our own reflection? Terror comes of a story told to scare, equally the frame of art is no hiding place from the horrors of life. It could be, but artists dont want it that way. Indeed fear is often as compelling as the lure of success. And so it is with two exhibits running in sync at the Royal Hibernian Academy which both tease at something of the draw of death and destruction.

The work of Marlene McCarty stands larger than life and here precisely is the illusion which draws you closer. Each work is composed as a tableau, presenting distinct characters within each scene but hinting also at a union which might yet reveal the full extent of the tale. In fact, the gallery text shares with us a glimpse of the real life world of each figure and each figure has been finely rendered in graphite pencil and blue Biro. But that is where the facts begin to blur into a bigger story about shared responsibility. It is this terrifying concept, overshadowing the tale of each gruesome crime, which in itself brings to mind the true cause of fear and so-called psychopathic behaviour. 

 
Life is once only. Marlene's first foray into representing murderous young girls came as the result of being introduced to the life of another Marlene as told in a true life american crime novel. When Marlene Olive was just a teenager she and her boyfriend of the time killed her mother and father. One day Marlene McCarty was asked by her mother to move some things in the attic. It was here that she found a self-portrait from when she was seventeen. In her own words, this typical pencil drawing was “terribly tightly rendered with all the teenage angst of hoping to make it look like a pretty version of me”. Similarly drawn, McCarty found in a portrait of herself a means to reflect the innocence of murderous individuals. She has since been making various series of drawings, worked up from head shots and details of height, and composing of them a literal fantasy embedded in real life events. Taken as a subject, the many examples of the same crime only serve to reiterate the claim of human.

"The girl, as she matures, is losing her position as a child in society. Now she's being sexualized, not only physically and hormonally, but also by outside desire. She's living in these domestic environments with her parents, and generally her mother is going through this stage where she's losing her sex appeal and her cultural currency. And in each case, there's an impulse. The impulse for the girls was: I have to get out of here, I have to free myself, I have to get rid of this environment of parents, family and everything that is oppressing me. And murder was the way out." (1)

Rather than speak about individual works, it would seem the job of the critic is not to criticise or praise but to simply acknowledge what is present. The characters seduce in formal representation and their drama becomes ours for a moment, each one accorded characteristics which reflect their sex, age and place in the group. Primates bowl about as sideline to, and perhaps also as a symbol of the great meaning of such a litany of tragic events; but primarily we are confronted with what it is to be sexual. The fact that in these drawings the characters are clothed with the folds and falls of various fabrics, restricted even by a suggested tightness, nonetheless leaves each of them naked to the eye of any viewer.

The use of line to delineate form while also dancing with the notion of transparency serves to illustrate the fantasy which is innate in looking. The question being: if we are looking, what do we want to see? Indeed, what are we afraid of seeing? Thus, the naked bodies of boys and girls are set into the picture amongst an array of vulva and fully erect and somewhat limp penises of the adult males and females in the mix. Elsewhere, she has drawn more hands than makes sense and even two faces, making of the scene a sketch; as though some other possibilities were rejected. The drawing thereby providing a form of proof of exactly what happened in the process. It is clear that although true to life, in many ways these drawings represent a means to look at the question of human desire. We all have nipples. Indeed by representing also the individual hairs of primates along with the wild seventies hair styles of her subjects, including also the pubic hair of both males and females, she has confronted head-on issues which religious and now secular societies have failed to manage: namely how do we stand as one and become the other. In such a social climate, fear and tragedy will surely test even the most respectable of judges.

In one particular drawing, with a provisional title of Group 2, the central figure serves as a force of attraction for the other figures in the picture plane. On either side, this figure is engaged by adult primates, embracing and open to their gaze. Behind the back of each adult primate, adult women breast-feed and otherwise comfort the young as well as the female primate which make up what is overall, a playful, joyous composition. At the knot core of this drawing we are presented with a dual headed, dual shafted erection, which in turn is weighted by dual testes. It is from this heart of the picture plane that every other line extends and reflects without ever filling in the blanks. It is here precisely that nurture begins: the bondage of man and beast.

In the end is death, even for the youngest life. The picture plane is always a reflection and the paintings in 'Crying Light' reflect change. Whether it be the traditional costume or custom or indeed the evocation of an epoch, the works by Natasja Kensmil illustrate these changing attitudes which prop us up and hold us back. The paintings themselves, taken from two different bodies of work, shadow every subject with a murky glaze of requiem and distance, the colour palette too appearing suitably dated. While there are two distinctive sets of work presented, the uniform of aged remorse is bound by Kensmil's painterly style and so dead babies and queens present no challenge to one another, nor science for superstition. And so when this progressing world of charming simplicity is taken over by a swarm of soft black swirls in Crystal Eyes not only is everything not alright, it is terrifyingly real, the smoke of industry billowing a new darkness with it.

 
As a cast and setting, Kensmil's use of history proposes different stories which make the one world. In Elizabeth I, we are given to understand that the story of the world which this queen commands, is itself yet to be discovered, as though predestination is as absurd as any other context we might observe. Conversely, The Armada Portrait, painted in Elizabethan times by George Gower, reflects with its globe and grasp in favour of politics and power, the picture plane reserved only for symbols and stature. Kensmil's version however supplies a sort of tragic comedy, developed as a layer which resolves eerie greens into the heads of frogs, as though the product of an ectoplasm not seen by Gower, thereby omitted from his painting. Exactly because the original concerns itself with control as the structure and the future, it confuses the richness of humanity for the riches and potency of rule and order. Indeed when looking back at any reflection from the past, all we have at our disposal is fact and suggestions which the facts support.

On the whole, the absurd proves here a useful reminder of the terror of self doubt which even the monarchs of our world must encounter and leaves the various bug-like species which populate the foreground on the left to appear as a reminder of how focus and as such power is all about positioning: the small things which make even the bigger things seem small by comparison. Arresting and prominent, the queen's tiny head sits engulfed by the ruffles of her time, while elsewhere in the picture much larger shapes hang like memories without a place. Even so, the frog heads appear in stages, relating to one another in likeness and difference, as gradually they come to resemble if not a queen, then certainly a subject in their own right. Time as we know passes and the child which she clutches as she holds the sceptre of rule is shown to almost float within a space that can only be expected to grow as her grip loosens. Of this well known subject, the artist has made a fresh and rewarding shadow of the original.


Indeed the breadth of historical influence is itself light and welcoming. As each tale is explored it is revealed in line with both history and experience. And so while even the most intimate of views are presented for us to witness, the effect of a precious use of light and sparingness of colour in turn compose a changing view of revolution. In The Martyrdom of Tsar, where we look up at a masked man on a horse, the horses back stridently bold and beset also with the surrounding skulls of the dead, the image is one of power and we are left in no doubt as to who is responsible. Of course the painter here is also the story teller, illustrating social and scientific revolutions as both informed and obscured by her actions, a turn exemplified in Anatomical Manuscript, where the paint forms a hazy screen through which something of alchemy occurs. 

 
In the series of paintings entitled Sleeping Beauty, the agonised faces of young children hold their cold black stare as if somehow protected from any further scrutiny or judgement. The faces are painted in short rough brush strokes and their expression is one and the same. They are dead, they could be alive but the pallid greenish hue suggests otherwise. This particular series extends from the fact of infant mortality and draws on the once favoured custom of capturing the image of a dressed corpse. Known as memento mori, the practice translates as 'Remember that you'll die', and it presumably works on the basis that such a document could preserve the life of the dead beyond mere memory. However, in Sleeping Beauty IX, the head of a baby nestles amongst the ruffled lace of an age and there is something which suggests that the subject might as well be a prize cabbage, a thing which although special, perhaps even loved, is now surely long consumed. Decoratively painted in loose gestural marks, the artist has been careful to observe the relevant traditions, and so for the viewer the statement is clearly made. There is little room for feelings though, only remembrance as the means to expose in us a responsibility for life.

Are these paintings of better service to this end than say the actions of you or I? Of course not, but they do operate as part of a texture of reminders set down by the living which mark and indeed warn of the passing of life. Equally, the drawings of Marlene McCarty do not make for much use in the sentencing of murderers, nor do they propose an alternative working of healthy family life. In each case the artist is hoping only that by being responsible for the work, by making the mark and creating where else there was little, actions may continue to show themselves through consequence. If then responsibility is defined by action, it is shown here in both exhibitions that innocence is not clear. Be it the softly erotic pencil lines of McCarty or the bright white tangled brush work of Kensmil’s dead babies, all we can really say is that whatever is found to be useful is carried on into the next. In this way action threatens innocence.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Beasts of England, Beasts of Ireland & Eigse


Beasts of England, Beasts of Ireland
Isabel Nolan, Stephen McKenna, Poly Morgan, Dan Hays, Alex Rose, Djordje Ozbolt, Ben Long, Francis Upritchard, Yuriy Norshteyn, Martin Healy and Garrett Phelan. Curated by Stephen Brandes
&
Eigse Carlow Arts Festival 2013 Visual Art Open Submission
66 individual works selected by Stephen McKenna PPRHA & Emilia Stein RHA
VISUAL, Carlow
7 June – 8 September 2013

Review by Darren Caffrey

In the local sense, festivals and their associate art trails follow the scent of remuneration. Art spaces are key focus points for public expression, and this itself establishes a political content. In a world where natural disasters or even clemency must be quickly guesstimated into a rounded figure of noughts, the show of art in Ireland’s public galleries is, in these terms, a show of worth. This worth is paid for by a series of beneficiaries and sponsors, all of which serve to identify what form expression will take in the public space.


VISUAL in Carlow is currently host to two group shows. While Eigse Carlow Arts Festival 2013 Visual Art Open Submission is almost exactly what it says, Beasts of England, Beasts of Ireland is comparatively cryptic. The beasts in question maybe refer to the selected artists, or it may be a reference to the commonplace ecologies of what is local in terms of global citizenship. In fact, this exhibition “considers some of the ways animals have been deployed symbolically within contemporary art practice”.

If you haven't yet been, VISUAL has room for you, boasting as it does of over 3000 metres square of dedicated cultural application. Sitting on the grounds of Carlow College, it too is an instrument of education. Unlike the nearby college, it is a place where the standards of education are not set but rather fluid. At times seemingly trend based and indeed trend biased, contemporary art practice is nothing if not contemporary. John Berger has written well about why we look at animals, contending that “the treatment of animals in 19th century romantic painting was already an acknowledgement of their impending disappearance”. Elsewhere Berger references Levi-Strauss' observations, citing the diversity of species to be employable also as an elective strategy for social differentiation. And so by virtue of the concept of species there arrives the necessity of class.


VISUAL was sited at a time when local commerce had been found in need of a diversification all of its own. In the same year that sketches were released of VISUAL (The National Centre for Contemporary Art and Performance Theatre), Carlow's long standing sugar plant finally closed. Upstairs in the Lobby Gallery, essentially a landing–cum–hallway space, one particular work characterises something of this very contemporary transition. Rosalind Murray's Sugar Woz Ear appears on screen in a work which assumes the clichéd vernacular of youth; married to simple wordplay, as rendered via a performed gesture in front of the camera involving flower petals. A large flat-screen TV stands portal–like before an architecture of industrial scale phwoar, and on screen the wind scatters these petals which spell out the letters, W, O, Z, as if to replay the passing of. While headphones play back the artists own rendition of 70's pop gem Sugar Sugar, the element of wordplay further extends into the narrative itself, leaving as a final shot, the artist standing behind a steel gate in a field of what appears to be rape.

A viability report prior to construction of VISUAL noted that families, tourists, students and firms would be attracted to the town's greater national visibility. Broadly speaking, the development of industry to not only reflect but include the arts generally, and even more specifically the visual arts, has in turn given rise to a redistribution of creative activity. Considering the landscape that is public sector construction, there is no doubt local knowledge about the cost which does not show up in the official rhetoric of projection, yet none of this may be relevant to the facts. It is this framing of everything under the one staggered roof which makes the case for intentionality beyond public expression. So too it is this manner of selection which distracts from what might be otherwise useful in asserting a community of artists both locally and nationally.

What Eigse offers to VISUAL is a selection of artists, sourced both locally and nationally, peppered with a few anomalies to force the rule. The five 'invited' artists for this annual show were Gary Coyle, Richard Gorman, Eithne Jordan, Jim Savage and Dorothy Cross, with the bulk of the works contributed by lesser known practitioners. The collection as a whole was standard for a show of this sort but worth mentioning for its collective value and staging. Surely it is right that artistic activity of all kinds be regarded as complimentary to a local identity, and indeed who better than those who live within and work for that very community image.

The works in Beasts of England, Beasts of Ireland may all have benefited from being shown according to their respective qualities, utilising perhaps just one wall of the space to create a tableau of cut and paste iconographies, each work a personal affect of sorts. Naturally leaving three walls bare would not reflect the convention and so it is that each work has been taken, only to be drowned soon after. As part of the open submission exhibit presented in conjunction with Eigse, an interestingly titled work by Helen Robbins sees dried lichen and wool fashioned into the shape of a girl's dress, and curiously it all appears to question the nature of selection itself while being simultaneously contained in a wooden box with a glass front. Make me a coat of Rich Moss and I will return to the forest to gather all that I lost is satire in verse while Mens Rea by Mark Leavey is funny, possibly in ways other than intended. Consisting of a child's desk from by-gone parish schooling which has now been reconfigured to more closely serve as a one person pew at which to kneel, the abuse in each case is clear. Directly above this prop a neon light makes explicit the title as well as the actions and inaction from which we might learn. The title of this work is of course latin, translating as literally 'guilty mind', it is also the legal term which refers to criminal intent. On the rest where countless elbows have waited, a switch has been added so that the viewer is responsible for lighting the Mother Mary, so that she may say something of the Christian narrative.


So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables.” This is the quote arrived upon by researching Veronica Nicolson's 2:15 sign. Simple presentation allied with rich cultural instinct frames this biblical passage as though a statement of the people. The question of why scripture came to be referenced at GAA matches is an interesting one, but whereas the popular JOHN 3:16 sign highlights the main thesis of christianity, namely that Jesus was sent to prove God’s love, here the crucial change is that even Jesus didn’t accept the abuse of the people’s faith.

Sheep and cattle, along with a host of other farm animals were present also when Old Major's rousing speech of revolt opened the first chapter of George Orwell’s Animal Farm. Beasts of England, Beasts of Ireland takes its name from a song which follows this speech, the wisdom of the past foretelling of a future choice. If the shows title sets a political tone, the work selected merely rationalises its own fantasy. Produce being the final mark, it is as if producing work for the viewer/consumer is all that either the supplier (artist) or the distributor (gallery/curator) were concerned with. And so in a lustily high-ceilinged space, where filtered light pours in from the top like water, the mark reached by much of the work appears only as unwanted ends which have been afforded far too much space to breathe.


The charge sanctioned to hold the focus of the exhibition and our focus alike is the work of Ben Long, flatly titled Horse Scaffolding Sculpture. Steel and aluminium bars form the basis of what is essentially a hollow evocation of heraldic past. This literal hollowness is also what permits the illusion of depth, as though every sense of its power is visible yet also far out of reach. The stand from which Long's horse figure rears is like the figure itself. Intricately constructed and meticulously worked out in the round, it stands firm against concept, taking of construction only that contact which is bound by structure. The simplicity of its stand suggests that it probably travels well and so it will no doubt rear once more when the show has ended.

In any case, the conceptual shadow which this sculpture ensures leaves even the humble scrappy works below to be found wanting of attention, even empathy. Animals do indeed feature prominently, from the ways we keep them when they’re alive to the ways we keep them when they die, and perhaps more notably, their straightforward likeable-ness. A mix of paintings and a few photographic prints placed low on the wall to shake things up, the curator perhaps did not consider the work relative to the space until it was too late. The idea of viewers getting down on their hands and knees to see their kind in the heads of horses is perhaps too much, even so, these various works by Alex Rose suffer little.


To be clear, the room swallows everything in one standardised gulp. Effort has been made to reconcile the size issue by staging a sort of school setting where monkeys learn by watching people watching a hedgehog on a quest. The Hedgehog in the Fog is contributed by Yuriy Norshteyn, (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oW0jvJC2rvM) while the monkey assemblages were supplied by Francis Upritchard. The entire presentation of this show may be understood by noting that the monkey figures, fashioned from furs and leather, are forced to compete for your vision with a ventilation grate which cuts their visible space and dispels the making of each monkey into component parts. While seemingly an innocuous intrusion, the resulting separation of these monkeys from character to object appears as contrary to the anthropomorphic act. Given this psychological function, it can only be concluded that the conceptual break serves some higher purpose. What is truly disappointing is that this purpose only appears to concern the monkeys where it is that they fit within the near geometric format of the over all scheme as printed on the gallery handout.

And so that which was laid out has in the end prevailed, order featuring above creative action. The fact that this all takes place in such an exceptional art space as VISUAL is itself an issue beyond the contributing artists, the curator or even the gallery as institution. There is a question regarding animal in man which the economic reality of fabulousness simply does not answer. Perhaps society will soon be capable of accepting that there is no farm in the country, only the fact of death.




Monday, July 15, 2013

Haiku Review: Tree Works

Haiku Review: Tree Works
by Nigel Cooke
The Douglas Hyde Gallery, Dublin
31 May - 17 July 2013

By Fujimoto Ryouji

Heads and blobs and streaks...
('bout time something big was shown)

And small scenes ground them.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Images from Dublin Degree Shows 2013

Images from Dublin Degree Shows 2013
BA graduates from DIT, IADT, DIT Photography, and NCAD
Various locations in Dublin
Photos by Jim Ricks

DIT



Sarah Doherty


Órla Phelan


Andy McNulty



Conor O'Grady (both)


Marie Farrington

IADT


Janna Kemperman


Declan Graham



Louise Roe (both)


Sam O'Neill

DIT PHOTO


Ciaran Cooney


Neil Dorgan


Barry Keogh


Installation view


Robert McCormack

NCAD


Stephane Hanly



Alan Swaine (both)



Eoghan McIntyre (both)


Michelle Doyle



Nigel Holohan (both)


Aoife Mullan


Muriel Foxton


Cara Coyle


Melanie Spendlove


Holy Ingram


Michael Dignam


Sean Wright


Roisin McCashin


Andrew Shannon



John Conway (both)



Thursday, June 13, 2013

Housing a Pig


Housing a Pig
Neil Carroll, Jonathan Mayhew, Jo McGonigle, Keef Winter, and Carla Wright. Project Board: Peter Lloyd Lewis.
FLOOD
Unit 3, James Joyce Street, Dublin 1
26 April – 27 May 2013
Review by Jim Ricks

Housing a Pig is the third and final episode in a series of shows curated by Paul McAree, part of a broader project called FLOOD. Its been located around the corner from The Lab and Oonagh Young Gallery in Dublin 1.

The title’s suggestion of actively ‘putting up’ a biblically unclean animal is at once catching and surprising, but primarily a practical concern in more rural parts of this island. Up in the Big Smoke this proposal is meaningful of something certainly allegorical. Traditionally, in Western Europe, the pig has been a symbol of greed and lust. This is perhaps best expressed in George Orwell’s Animal Farm where the corrupted animal leaders (Stalinist bureaucrats) and the human farmers (capitalist ruling class) eventually become indistinguishable. Later in the 1960’s it was popularised as a term for the police (I suppose this is just insulting, as it may always have been). So what of this boar’s dwelling? This curatorial accommodating of swines?


The space itself, Unit 3, should be mentioned here as it precedes this thought. It is a small, barely finished shop unit (reused) on a back street. There is local, pedestrian traffic that rarely seems to draw the art crowd. Its proximity to rougher housing estates leaves the door closed. But it’s this ‘roughness’, the painted block walls and exposed pipes, seated in a new and promising Tiger-era building with large windows, that make the below quotation meaningful. There is even more significance if we look at the FLOOD project at-large. Besides it’s current incarnation they have several books published, a record and a series of posters (including the memorable I will be a phenomenon by Theresa Nanigian, where to participate, one had to email directly and would receive a copy by post).

My curiosity is raised for this exhibition. The show is self-described as:

“Within FLOOD stands a gallery within a gallery – re-purposing a video room from a previous exhibition, rotated and positioned with its back to the entrance, denying the visitor an immediate impression of the exhibition. The room houses 3 artists works, all wall based, while 2 artists sculptures occupy the floor outside the structure. The exhibition seeks to break an easy relationship with the act of viewing and navigating a space, and to question what happens to a work’s autonomy in a thematic gathering of works.”

In the scheme of the things, and particularly within the current debate numerous individual opinions about press releases or gallery texts and their frequent use of ‘international art speak’, this put me on guard. Has too much been revealed? Even Totally Dublin picked up on these ‘White Cube’ structural points in their review. Or is it so bleeding obvious that it’s not even worth allowing any mystery abound? While some may say it’s ridiculous including all this within the gallery information, I feel it’s worth stating. As the idea of the more fixed, traditional and commercial gallery is carefully played with and unfixed, the audience’s perception and access to it does also. I think of it as putting visitors in a privileged position of access upon entry. It becomes a stage set with its back turned.


A doormat placed at the entrance and used unconsciously, as we are trained to when entering a home or business, is wiped with countless wet shoes. This first point of contact is actually an artwork, but not actually part of the show. Angst – it has the word ‘angst’ printed on it – is part of an internationally distributed edition of thirty. There is, according to our gallery guide, a reference to Carl Andre’s bricks (Equivalence VIII). While not immediately clear to me, it is, presumably, a formal, loose comparison - lying on the floor and a similar colour. However, my lasting impression is of this wiping away of disquiet, this anxiety. Simple. Physical. Actual. I, sincerely and wholeheartedly, want to wipe it clean from my boots, life and practice.


After wiping away or sidestepping Angst we find two works with one title, Constructing the Debris by Keef Winter. In front of the door is a diamond like casting of concrete with a rebar ‘thread’ running through it. It is immediately and consciously reminiscent of one of Constantin Brancusi’s ‘beads’ from his several Infinite or Endless Columns (1918 – 35). Brancusi used this term, ‘beads’, to describe the segments his famous sculptures were comprised from. This is further heightened by the long curving intersection of rebar and concrete. It reminds me, also, of the video animation by Sophie Eagle titled Collapse (Endless Column). Her video features a CGI version of the Romanian artist’s column collapsing repeatedly on a remote desert road. Or also of The “Endless Column” project at the Studio Museum of Harlem. Indeed, the iconic Modernist sculpture is meme-like in today’s art. I can say that having worked with it several times myself. Does Winter’s piece represent another actualisation of this process?


Winter’s accompanying piece, to the left, is less of an apparent construction, as it looks to be real industrial waste; a mangled concrete blob with rebar. It is the less in-tact partner to his cast shape. Perhaps the pair represent failing of the modernist dream, reduced to rubble just as the well-known, short-lived failure of the Pruitt-Igoe housing project in St. Louis. Pruitt-Igoe’s demolition in 1972 has become the short and simple (and symbolic) end to Modernity and ostensibly the beginning of a Post-Modernity. Or maybe Keef offers us another approach, positioning his work on top of the Post-Modernist feedback loop of simulacra, finally exhausted.


Within the space’s very intentional White Cube gallery are several works by three artists. They are shuffled in their hanging on this space-inside-a-space, set-like facade, so as to diffuse a sense of authorship, creating a sense of curatorial purpose and plan. Concerns of the living interacting with the dead stuff of buildings (I and II), a geometric fragment of safety glass hangs from a custom wooden device/arm/frame by Carla Wright. Cut back to this shape, it may have been from an office window, school or industrial building. A matching ceramic shape provides the second part, a fragile echo construct of the original. Also hung on a matching specialised armature.


A simple magenta striped paper bag, commonly used for something like sweets or postcards, lies on a shelf. Duet – [Abstract Composition], the work by Jo McGonigle, has its mouth open, and so becomes structural. It appears to be a simple gesture, but nonetheless beautiful – a found object. Upon inspection the top has been overprinted, double-exposed with a new layer of magenta stripes. The original provides a foundation for an imperfect ‘human’ mimetic copy. Layers of the unique and imperfect are impressed upon the machined and infinitely produced.

Similarly overprinted are Jonathan Mayhew’s LLLAYERSSS series. Dated, generic family photos sourced from the internet are stamped repeatedly with layers of the Slayer logo. It is a sort of juvenile rebellion made nearly architectural or even archaeological, like the imposition of angular city offices over millennia-old settlements. Or is it the metaphoric architecture of the nuclear family defaced, like graffiti on a buildings exterior facade?


Beyond the white cube, as it were, Neil Carroll offers a wholly free-standing sculpture with, again, clear architectural ties. Between Leaving and a Possible Return, is constructed of drywall and a timber substructure, it is an abstract piece on a referential base. It’s subtly ornamented with markings of stripes, plans, perspectival studies and the like. It appears to be simultaneously in construction and a ruin. There is a clear resonance to Brutalism’s raw materials and boxy angularity. Maybe an early model for Boston’s Government Center or an in–progress maquette of a giant never-constructed Yugoslavian memorial. Yet it also appears to be a cut-away, a fragment of some larger structure, removed and isolated from its parent.


Housing a Pig offers the audience little from the street view window, intentionally disrupting the commercial experience these facades were intended for. It more than makes up for it through extended written explanation and a rich, well curated exhibition. But the elephant in the room may be the tackling of something bigger. Alluded to in the press statement is this challenging of the viewer through the exhibitions physical stance. But is it not more an exploration of the architectural within contemporary art? The oft trodden territory of adolescent–like Post Modernity’s rebellious rejection of the Modern project, with its idealism and purpose, is expanded here. Just as the more current ‘moment’ for the casual nostalgia of Modernist architecture and its utopian–ness is avoided.

There are in fact many layered historical references (some heavy, some less demanding) amongst the chosen works. And while the physical and practical architecture of the shop-front-cum-gallery is challenged in an actual way, the works, when put together, propose various reads on our own perception of constructions both social and physical. All appropriately leave angst behind. I felt, amongst the works, not a worry or fear about the human condition, but a reflective and pioneering strategy, picking up and making up something new with what we have at our collective disposal.

Within FLOOD’s final installment as a ‘gallery’ on James Joyce St, the question of architecture within the sphere of art in a more structural, even philosophical way can be challenged. What will be built or housed next? And if the question of housing is indeed constant and present, I’m left uncertain as to who is the metaphorical ‘pig’, the audience, the artist, the show, or the art world itself?!