Cabinet of Wonders #1

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THE CABINET OF WONDERS #1 The Cabinet of Wonders #1 21/06 - 25/09 2016 The Cabinet of Wonders is an ongoing project devised and curated by Ian Wieczorek Presented in association with Linenhall Arts Centre

PREFACE Cabinets of Curiosities, also known as Kunstkabinette or Wunderkammern, were collections of unusual objects which offered insights into the rich and often curious diversity of the natural world and beyond, spanning everything from antiquities and religious relics to natural ‘freaks’, medical curiosities and other uncategorisable items. Inspired by the empirical approach of Classical thinkers such as Aristotle and Pliny the Elder, Cabinets of Curiosities found their beginnings in the time of the Renaissance. Initially seen as both edifying and as markers of status for their collector-curators, they offered a cocktail of learning and entertainment. The Cabinets remained a mostly exclusive preserve of the rich and influential, until in the 19th century the likes of showman PT Barnum’s American Museum introduced a more public and often sensationalist sensibility. While the fashion for Cabinets of Curiosities no longer holds popular currency (with a few notable exceptions), they paved the way for the more formal and rigorous museum model that we are familiar with today. Taking its inspiration from the Cabinet of Curiosities, The Cabinet of Wonders presents a series of objects mined from the creative imagination of a selection of contemporary visual artists. Inspired by the eclectic approach of the original collector-curators, it presents a range of works that will hopefully intrigue and engage the passing viewer.

CURATOR’S NOTE This first iteration of The Cabinet of Wonders, the result of an open call-out to artists, offers an artistic reflection on the original Cabinets of Curiosities, embodying the subjective eclecticism excercised by collectors as early exemplars of curatorial practice. While reflecting contemporary artistic practice, the works may also be viewed through this historical prism. And so to the artists: Sandra Corrigan Breathnach invites us into a world beyond the purely physical, where materials take on new associative significance; Bennie Reilly’s works explore the phenomenon of ‘manufactured’ curiosities, a fashion that was prevalent in the Cabinet of Curosities’ heyday; John Waid entertains us with the impossible, somewhere at the crossroads of perfection and complete impracticality; Mary Ryan offers an object of intrigue, with a clear yet elusive back story that we can only guess at; Fiona Coffey presents a wry contemporary take on a religious relic; Ian Wieczorek asks us to consider the implications of Science today, where everything seems possible; Sarah Lundy offers an arcane reconfiguring of the familiar into an esoteric echo of pagan ritual; and finally Medbh Gillard presents a true domestic curiosity - or is it?... I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the Linenhall Arts Centre for facilitating this project, and to all the artists who submitted proposals and made the selection process such an interesting and enjoyable one. Ian Wieczorek

Fiona Coffey Saint Abbain visits the West Cork Arts Centre

(bronze, steel, cotton)

I was inspired by a little stone carving of St Abbain, near Ballyvourney in West Cork, to create a series of pieces depicting the possible journeys of St Abbain. This one shows him visiting the new and architecturally controversial West Cork Arts Centre, in Skibbereen, Co Cork.

Sandra Corrigan Breathnach Perception

(willow, beetles)




(fired spheres with copper)


(bone, hair) The fundamental core of my practice deals with states of phenomenological expression of self and connectivity of the physical and meta-physical. Intent on transcending ego my work lifts me to a heightened state of communication, exploring natural materials as means of creation and expression to connect and open discourse through ritualistic action and objects. An intrinsic factor in the creation of work, comes in the form of intention, the context in which each work is created informs the process, being as vital as the finished aesthetic.

Medbh Gillard Dirty Little Fecker

(oak box frame with glass; fleece; glass eye and cat gut; found rusted padlock)

“Medbh Gillard’s sculptural works and wall hangings approach nature and it’s often stark interaction with the human world. There are maternal themes universal to all life, sheltering nests, young wildlife cocooned and protected, or exposed and vulnerable. With a grounding in drawing and 3D modelling she has a powerful sense of the visceral reaction art can induce in others. If it is real and tangible, it becomes more intense to the viewer. The made object mingles with the natural, you wonder where the boundaries are. Mice are caught in traps, it’s a practical everyday occurrence, but a shock to be confronted with in an art gallery setting. But why not? The real is what we face every day and often forget to question.” - Cormac O’Leary (artist)

Sarah Lundy -Seacht(seven crows claws and prosthetic eye on board)

-Seacht- continues Lundy’s interest into systems and The Self; recurring reference to the natural world in her practice juxtaposes the synthesis of society with selfreflexivity beyond and before cultural conditioning. Here it looks at the binary of the heathen versus the homogenised human of the here-and-now. Incorporating elements of pre-civilised ritualistic iconography and natures detritus, the piece harks to arcane arts and non-institutional provocation and parameters to cathartically create from destruction. A sacred number, paired with the ever presents ancient sigil of the ‘súil’, results in a cast shadow and a silhouette of an esoteric equation.

Bennie Reilly Siamese Crab (crab, rock)

Seashell Sheepstooth (large and small shell)


(sheep jaw with gold tooth, black box)

Blue Moon

(disco ball with seashells)

My practice draws from an interest in the natural world and natural history: the oddities and intricacies of natural forms and surfaces; the discovery, presentation and display of the rare and unfamiliar in nature, and the potential for manipulation, imagination and misinterpretation in this process. My current work is based on research accumulated over the last number of years at twelve natural history related museums throughout Europe. Whilst collecting imagery from these natural history collections I have also been forming a collection of my own – shells, rocks, plants, bones, feathers and other natural and man-made objects and curios. Using the historical ‘Cabinets of Curiosities’ or ‘Wunderkammern’ as a model, I am using my research and collection to develop a body of work which allows me to participate in and highlight the intrigue and peculiarities of natural and post-natural history.

Mary Ryan Bad Feng Shui Bottle

(broken turquoise botttle, glass display dome)

I hang onto objects that I cannot throw away. They used to inhabit boxes, drawers, shelves, the back of presses and other odd places. They survived every purge somehow. I finally gathered them together and they now form the basis of an ongoing project. Some have more direct associations than others but all are from different times and aspects of my life. What they have in common is that I cannot part with them. It is bad Feng Shui not to throw away broken objects, but sometimes...

John Waid False Teeth for the Perfect Man (dental plastic, dental plaster)

The Perfect Man would not require false teeth, so the idea is based on the realisation of a paradox. The teeth embrace the concept of perfection by their completion of a circle, which also reinforces their inability to actually function as false teeth. This means that their falsehood in action is both confirmed but also again contradicted by their perfection in form. The idea contains humour, but also challenges at a deeper level the notion of being perfect, and therefore having perfect teeth. Having or not having false teeth makes references to our vanity but also reminds us of our mortality.

Ian Wieczorek Specimen Tree

(mixed media in glass jar)

Specimen Tree is located in perceived notions of ‘Science’ as an institutional dynamic. It addresses the tendency of Science to study, categorise, and collect. It also alludes to the control Science is seen to exert over Nature both in the macro and also the micro (genetic) contexts. It establishes a metaphorical confluence between glass container and test tube, a powerful signifier of Scientific orthodoxy: Nature reduced, contained, controlled.

The Cabinet of Wonders Email: Website: Linenhall Arts Centre Linenhall Street, Castlebar, Co. Mayo F23 AN24 Ireland Tel: (+) 94 9023733 Email: Website: Ian Wieczorek Tel: (+) 353 86 8200886 Email: Website:

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