The Visual Artists’ News Sheet ISSUE 5 September – October 2017 Published by Visual Artists Ireland Ealaíontóirí Radharcacha Éire
Damien Flood, studio view, summer 2017; image courtesy of the artist
The Visual Artists’ News Sheet
September – October 2017
WELCOME to the September – October 2017 issue of the Visual Artists’ News Sheet.
Cover. Damien Flood, studio view, summer, 2017. 5. Column. Colin Martin. Painting as Material.
This themed issue focuses on contemporary Irish painting, offering timely insights into recent exhibitions, seminars, residencies and current studio practices. With so many vibrant painters currently working in Ireland and a wealth of painting exhibitions taking place nationwide, this thematic inquiry cannot be comprehensive. The issue places emphasis on materiality and the making process, while touching on discourse specific to the medium of painting.
6. Column. Marcus Cope. Marmite Prize for Painting. 7. Northern Ireland. Rob Hilken. Painting in Northern Ireland. 8. News. The latest developments in the visual arts sector. 9. How is it Made? From the Studio Of... Ailve McCormack interviews Mark Francis in his South London studio.
10. Extended Essay. Landscape and the Built Environment. Ramon Kassam looks at contemporary A series of extended essays has been commissioned to provide thematic surveys of contemporary Irish landscape painting in Ireland. painting: Ramon Kassam examines representations of the landscape; Mark O’Kelly discusses recent developments in portraiture; and Alison Pilkington offers valuable insights into contemporary abstract 12. How is it Made? I Am Not a Painter. James Merrigan reflects on two years spent making (and unmaking) a film about painting. painting. 13. Seminar Report. Painters Talking Paint. Marc Guinan reports on the panel discussion ‘Painters In the columns for this issue, Colin Martin introduces ‘The Materiality of Painting’ – an upcoming lec- Talking Paint’ at The LAB, Dublin. ture series at the RHA that seeks to explore material concerns specific to current painting practice. VAI NI Manager Rob Hilken discusses the trajectory of painting in Northern Ireland, while Marcus Cope outlines the evolution of the Marmite Prize for Painting. Also in this issue, Susan Connolly reports on her residency in Golden Paints, New York, while Marc Guinan discusses the seminar he organised at The LAB, Dublin, entitled ‘Painters Talking Paint’. In the organisation profiles, Ronan Lyons discusses the Molesworth Gallery, Dublin, while Valerie Ceregini interviews three painters – Colm MacAthlaoich, Natasha Conway and Dennis Kelly – who will present solo exhibitions at Pallas Projects and Studios in the autumn. In the ‘How is it Made?’ section, James Merrigan discusses All or Nothing, his new documentary film about painting. Ailve McCormack interviews Mark Francis in his London studio, while Helen G. Blake talks about her painting practice. Interviews by Joanne Laws and Martin Herbert offer insights into the work of Elizabeth Magill and Ronnie Hughes, to coincide with their high-profile touring exhibitions. Joanne Laws also interviews three Irish painters at various stages of their careers – Jane Rainey, Ciarán Murphy and Robert Armstrong – about the realities of maintaining a painting practice in Ireland. Reviewed in this issue’s extended Critique section are: ‘Painting NOW’ at Green on Red Gallery; ‘Memory Needs a Landscape’ at Taylor Galleries; ‘The Living and the Dead’ at Temple Bar Gallery and Studios; ‘International Ireland’ at the Ulster Museum; ‘Crooked Orbit’ at Kevin Kavanagh; ‘Faith After Saenredam and Other Paintings’ at Kerlin Gallery; ‘A Dream and an Argument’ at The MAC; and ‘What We Do in the Shadows’ at Almine Rech Gallery, Brussels.
14. Extended Essay. Texture of a Medium. Alison Pilkington looks at current practices in Irish abstract
16. Residency. Golden Fountain. Susan Connolly reports on her participation in the Golden
Foundation residency programme, New York.
17. Critique. ‘What We Do in the Shadows’, Almine Rech Gallery, Brussels; ‘Faith After Saenredam and Other Paintings’, Kerlin Gallery, Dublin; ‘Memory Needs a Landscape’, Taylor Galleries, Dublin; ‘Painting NOW’, Green on Red Gallery, Dublin; ‘International Ireland: Irish & International Art from the Ulster Museum Collection 1890 – 2016’, Ulster Museum, Belfast; ‘The Living & the Dead’, Temple Bar Gallery and Studios, Dublin; ‘A Dream and an Argument’, The MAC, Belfast; ‘Crooked Orbit’, Kevin Kavanagh Gallery, Dublin. 24. How is it Made? Haptic Encounters in Painting. Martin Herbert interviews Ronnie Hughes about his touring exhibition ‘Strange Attractors’. 26. Extended Essay. Existential Observers. Mark O’Kelly discusses aspects of portrait painting in
28. How is it Made? Biographical Landscapes. Joanne Laws interviews Elizabeth Magill about her painting practice. 30. Organisation. Fresh Paint. Valeria Ceregini interviews three painters exhibiting at Pallas Projects/
Studios in 2017.
31. Career Development. Clarity & Stillness. Helen G. Blake offers insights into her painting practice. 32. Career Development. Desire and Persistence. Joanne Laws interviews three artists at various stages of their careers about maintaining a painting practice in ireland.
As ever, we have details of upcoming VAI Professional Development Programme, exhibition and public 33. Organisation. Critical Context. Ronan Lyons gives insight into Dublin’s Molesworth Gallery. art roundups, news from the sector and current opportunities. 34. Public Art Roundup. Public art commissions, site-specific works, socially engaged practice and
other forms of art outside the gallery.
35. Opportunities. All the latest grants, awards, exhibition calls and commissions. 36. VAI Professional Development. Current and upcoming workshops, peer reviews and seminars.
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Production: Features Editor: Joanne Laws. Production Editors: Lily Power, Christopher Steenson. News/ Opportunities: Siobhan Mooney, Shelly McDonnell. Invoicing: Bernadette Beecher. Contributors: Colin Martin, Marcus Cope, Ramon Kassam, Alison Pilkington, Mark O’Kelly, James Merrigan, Martin Herbert, Ronnie Hughes, Elizabeth Magill, Susan Connolly, Marc Guinan, Valerie Ceregini, Colm MacAthlaoich, Natasha Conway, Dennis Kelly, Ronan Lyons, Ailve McCormack, Mark Francis, Helen G. Blake, Jane Rainey, Ciarán Murphy, Robert Armstrong, Clarissa Farrell, Pádraic E. Moore, Dorothy Hunter, John Graham, Mary Catherine Nolan, Ben Crothers. A: Visual Artists Ireland, Windmill View House, 4 Oliver Bond Street, Dublin 8 T: 353(0)1 672 9488 E: email@example.com W: visualartists.ie A: Visual Artists Ireland, Northern Ireland Office, 109 –113 Royal Avenue, Belfast, BT1 1FF W: visualartists-ni. org Board of Directors: Mary Kelly (Chair), Naomi Sex, Michael Corrigan, David Mahon, Niamh McCann, Donall Curtin, Richard Forrest, Clíodhna Ni Anluain. Staff: CEO/Director: Noel Kelly. Office Manager: Bernadette Beecher. Publications: Joanne Laws, Lily Power, Christopher Steenson. IVARO: Alex Davis. Communications Officer:/Listings Editor: Shelly McDonnell. Professional Development Officer: Monica Flynn. Book-keeping: Dina Mulchrone. Membership Services Officer/Listings Editor: Siobhan Mooney. Northern Ireland Manager: Rob Hilken (firstname.lastname@example.org).
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The Visual Artists’ News Sheet
September – October 2017
Colin Martin Painting as Material ‘PAINTING as Material’ is a series of public talks by leading painters that will run from September 2017 to May 2018 at the Royal Hibernian Academy (RHA). This series follows the successful 2016/2017 talk series ‘On Drawing’ that saw artists speak publicly about the role drawing plays within their practice. These talks are recorded on video and will be published online as a document of the series. ‘Painting as Material’ aims to examine how the materiality of paint itself is embedded within wider practice. It will feature contributions from Diana Copperwhite, Ronnie Hughes, Ciarán Murphy, Susan Connolly, Jane Rainey and Kathy Tynan in the first phase from September to November. The series will continue in 2018 with talks by Mark O’Kelly, Helen Blake and Donal Moloney (recipient of 2016 Visitors’ Choice award at the John Moores Painting Prize and editor of the recently published book Teaching Painting). More speakers will be confirmed at a later date. Many of the contributors have also participated in the RHA exhibition or studio programmes and each artist has been invited to talk about the development of their practice through the prism of the material they use. In addition, the RHA School is partnering with VAI to deliver a critical feedback clinic for professional artists with a focus on painting on Wednesday 25 October. This session will be led by critic James Merrigan and artist Phillip Allen who will also take part in a public conversation at 17:30 that evening. Such discursive events are informed by one of the core values of the RHA School: teaching the creative use of materials. One of the contradictions of skill-based education – and a difficulty frequently encountered when teaching painting – is how to impart best practice in relation to materials while avoiding a prescriptive methodology. As a medium, painting continuously evolves and reinvents itself. Craft has traditionally had a vexed relationship with fine art practices, yet the two realms are often interwoven in a manner that is difficult to parse. A distinctive quality of the medium is the ritualistic and intimate relationship that painters have with their material. There is a directness with paint that sets it apart from other forms of art making, in that it bypasses mediation. Paint itself has endless and fascinating qualities linked to pigmentation, viscosity and surface. Paint is paste, skin and liquid, with its own vocabulary and syntax including terms like paint application, scumbling, glazing, impasto, chiaroscuro and alla prima. This allows for abundant fields of enquiry that are wholly unique to the medium. With all these possibilities, painting still has the ability to surprise, invent and create meaning in relation not only to critical discourse but to our own material existence. Throughout the twentieth century, painting was characterised by numerous ideological turns. Current contemporary art-making practice provides a smorgasbord of material approaches, from moving image to performance. Painting has preserved a specific language and no longer occupies the heroic primacy that characterised the many radical shifts and developments throughout modernism. Discourses within painting have turned to the potential of what is specific to the medium itself. A caveat to these discussions is that such a unique and specific medium can occasionally risk becoming cornered in a self-reflexive dialogue. ‘Painting as Material’ will concentrate on the individual practices of each artist and will open a space for questions on the materiality of paint. When looking at a painting, a number of questions arise: How has it been made? How has the paint been applied? How is the paint supported? How has the painting been hung? All of these factors can influence interpretations and readings of the work. Outside of these considerations there are wider questions worth asking, such as: Is the medium the message? How is meaning embedded in the material itself? Is meaning overrated in art and can paint be contemplated in a purely material form? What potential is specific and unique to the medium? How does the tactility and physicality of the medium effect the outcome? What are the histories of materiality in painting and how do these dialogues manifest in current practice? Painting follows a long tradition with established codes and practices, but it might be worth considering the ways in which an artist – through experimentation and personal relationship with the medium – can extend that language. Is material research separate from primary research? Does materiality in painting lead to formalism and is this a bad thing? How do we reconcile illusionistic and representational strands with the material itself? Does painting that eschews an indexical link with representational or narrative painting become more authentic (to the medium)? How does painting relate to wider discourses and networks? Recent developments in art education have seen a shift away from the silos of departmental education. The material nature of painting has, at times, cast it in a peripheral position in relation to institutional and biennale platforms. The direct visual quality of painting has allowed it to resist excessive theorisation within current critical discourse, but there is a definite need to develop some of these issues in a specialised forum. Above all, ‘Painting as Material’ hopes to explore the material concerns and potentials that are specific to current painting practice. Colin Martin is an artist and current Principal of the RHA School.
Roundup THE OTHER DARK
Installation view, ‘The Other Dark’, Sirius Art Centre, Cobh
‘The Other Dark’, an exhibition curated by Kirstie North, featuring work by Jeremy Millar, Tacita Dean and Nashashibi/Skaer, ran at Sirius Arts Centre, Cobh (16 Jul – 26 Aug). This exhibition brings together a number of art historical works by Tacita Dean, Jeremy Millar and Nashashibi/Skaer (Rosalind Nashashibi and Lucy Skaer). Each of the works in the exhibition revisited, restaged or referred to a celebrated moment in art history by recalling older artworks, such as those by Robert Smithson, Aby Warburg and Paul Nash. ‘The Other Dark’, North stated, introduced “a new ‘art historical turn’ operating in contemporary art practice”, based around her PhD research. This research argued that “the recent revival of interest in art historical representation, combined with a preference for analogue mediums, is symptomatic of a problematic relationship with digital technology”. siriusartcentre.ie
mother’s own terminal illness. Using his mother’s collection of vases and seasonal flowers, the paintings aspired to be a celebration of life and a momento mori. The artist describes these paintings as a way of “seeing the fullness of life before it passes. Making paintings this way offered some release in the face of transience and mortality, while still gambling on an afterlife in pigment itself”.
Eithne Jordan, Pitch II, 2017, oil on linen
Nick Miller, Common Daisies, 2017, oil on linen hammondgallery.com
ATONAL SUPERSOUND Kathy Tynan’s exhibition ‘Atonal Supersound’ ran at the Kevin Kavanagh Gallery from 6 Jul to 5 Aug. With an eye for idiosyncrasies, and an ability to distil an essence from daily encounters, her paintings have a profundity that is interspersed with self-reflexive humour. Tynan’s paintings are often witty and playful but also inquisitive – imbued with their own revelatory purpose. Together the paintings in ‘Atonal Supersound’ converse with and often contradict one another. They exist as counter points reaffirming the idea that meaning is both deduced and created. It is somewhere between these two activities that Tynan’s work gathers its momentum.
Sarah Piecrce, image from ‘No Title’
Sarah Pierce’s exhibition ‘No Title’ ran at CCA, Derry, 22 Jul – 16 Sept, and examined “dementia as a marked disorder which also has the potential to reorder how we structure concepts of personal narrative and subjecthood”, the release noted. The body of work in ‘No Title’ emerged from Pierce’s time as lead artist on the ‘Our Neighbourhood’ project, CCA’s international residency programme that engages with the local community. During the residency, she developed a series of exercises through a number of experimental workshops in Derry for individuals with a medical diagnosis of dementia and their carers.
voice within Irish painting, yet few of his seminal works have been seen in major exhibitions. This ongoing retrospective hopes to rectify this and reposition Crozier as an important and noteworthy post-war painter.
The Butler Gallery, Kilkenny, presented an exhibition of gouaches and paintings by artist Eithne Jordan. ‘When Walking’ is a body of work made by Jordan during a one-year residency at the Tony O’Malley Studio in Callan, Kilkenny. Using her camera, Jordan captured and recorded the scenery she encountered while walking around Callan and the surrounding countryside. In particular, Jordan’s work finds inspiration from the vernacular architecture of public and domestic buildings dotted throughout this landscape, and the character and atmosphere they are imbued with. butlergallery.com
WE WILL REMEMBER VOLCANOES Alison Pilkington’s exhibition ‘We Will Remember Volcanoes’ ran from 12 Jun to 20 Jun at Westminster Reference Library, London. Her paintings explore the idea of nature in decay or decline. Birds, animals and hybrid figures are alluded to, inviting anthropomorphic interpretations. She is interested in creating space for the viewer to make his or her own interpretations. As the title of the exhibition suggests, Pilkington’s paintings refer to the process of remembering, through which we come to visually reconstruct the past.
SEEING THINGS Kevin Mooney’s exhibition ‘Seeing kevinkavanaghgallery.ie Things’ was a series of paintings inspired by the ancient history of art in THE EDGE OF THE LANDSCAPE Ireland and, in particular, the poetry of A major retrospective of William Seamus Heaney. The series of paintings Crozier (1930 – 2011) was exhibited at borrows its name from Heaney’s poem Uillin: West Cork Arts Centre from 15 Seeing Things, which refers to the passJul to 31 Aug. Comprising the paintings ing of the poet’s own father. According of lyrical landscapes for which he is best to curator Hilary Murray, in Heaney’s known, as well as earlier works inspired cca-derry-londonderry.com poem, “land becomes material, exposed by the Existentialist movement and the and reflexive, the stuff of life coming to anxieties of the post-war period, the VESSELS — NATURE MORTE the surface and what has gone before exhibition will be shown sequentially From 21 Jul to 10 Aug, the Catherine momentarily intermingling with the across two separate venues. His later Hammond Gallery, Skibereen, presentnow. It is here that much of Mooney’s work (from 1985) onwards was shown ed an exhibition of paintings by artist work resides”. The exhibition ran from 1 in Uillin, while his earlier works will be Nick Miller, titled ‘Vessels – Nature – 24 Jun at ArtBox gallery, Dublin. shown at IMMA from 12 Oct to 8 Apr Morte’. The series of paintings displayed artboxprojects.wordpress.com 2018. His connections to European were inspired by the artist’s time workpainting and Existentialist writings ing on a creative project at Sligo’s North have singled Crozier out as a unique West Hospice, as well as the artist’s Kathy Tynan, Laughter in the Blood
The Visual Artists’ News Sheet
Marmite Prize for Painting
Robert Moriarty, Unafraid Yellow
PROSCENIUM From 12 to 20 Aug, Helena Gorey and Rob Pearson exhibited paintings and ceramics in a studio show titled ‘Proscenium’ at Cuffesgrange, County Kilkenny. Gorey’s abstract colour field paintings reflect an ongoing dialogue between herself and the natural world. “Her senses, feelings and thoughts are developed by being immersed and rooted in her native place”, the press release noted. Rob Pearson’s tea bowls are based on the sixteenth-century Japanese aesthetics of “spontaneity and apparent artlessness”.
‘Unafraid Yellow’ opened on 3 Aug at QSS Gallery, Belfast, and ran until 31 Aug. Curated by artist Colin Darke, it is I don’t know why we called it the Marmite Prize for Painting. There was no strategy the second of four group exhibitions in the beginning. Certainly the ‘love it or hate it’ tag was one that we never consid- showing the work of QSS studio artists, preceded by ‘Unafraid Red’ and to be ered; if we had, we would have surely given the prize a different name. In late 2006, painter Stephanie Moran and I responded to a call for proposals followed by the exhibitions ‘Unafraid helenagory..com from the artist-run organisation The Residence Gallery in Hackney, London, over Blue’ and ‘Unafraid White’. To tackle a bottle or two of wine. The Residence, who had programmed a show per week for the task of dividing 23 artists with very the course of the year, asked “what would you do if you had the gallery for a week?” different stylistic practices into 4 the- I AM SITTING IN A VAULT We came up with the idea of a painting prize; being painters ourselves, it made matic categories, Darke settled on sense. We had already organised two large group shows that year: ‘The Circus assemblages based around colour. Show’ and ‘Through the Large Glass’, both at Three Colts Gallery in Bethnal Green. Doing so has allowed for a level of These shows had mostly featured the work of people we knew, but we really cohesion, while retaining the conceptual and aesthetic diversity that wanted to extend our network of painters. Those Three Colts shows had cost us a fair bit of cash and, wanting to avoid defines Queen Street Studios. queenstreetstudios.net this, we proposed a show that used the art prize model, comprising a token application fee. However, we wanted the prize to be more inclusive than other competitions, so all 77 entrants were subsequently exhibited in that first show. We didn’t WHERE HAS ALL THE SUGAR GONE? like the competitive element of the art world and still don’t. We had no social Rennie Buenting’s exhibition ‘Where media, no website, no money, no aspirations. We printed A4 poster-cum-applica- Has all the Sugar Gone?’ ran in the Fiona McDonnell, I am Sitting in a Vault tion forms from our desktop printer and handed them out at openings. There was Deighton Memorial Hall, Graigue, small print stating that the prize would be dedicated to Georg Baselitz and that the Carlow, 7 – 13 Jun, with support from I am Sitting in a Vault was a sonic arts pictures would be hung upside down. The fee to exhibit – a couple of pounds – was Artlinks and Carlow County Council. performance piece based on Alvin spent on a glossy flyer and crates of booze for the preview. The show ran for three The work owes its existence to the clo- Lucier’s pioneering work I am Sitting in a sure of the Carlow sugar factory and the Room. It took place on 12 Aug within the days and left us with a positive feeling. The prize has since run every two years or so, and has grown in ambition year end of the Irish sugar refining industry. unique setting of the vault in the old on year. It has taken place five times now. Stephanie decided not to continue after The artist researched the physical, Ulster Bank on the Newtonards Road as the fourth instalment. We now have a website, publish a colour catalogue and have social, economic, cultural and histori- a part of the East Side Arts Festival. The a distributor for it. We collect and return the selected works from artists’ studios in cal impact the closure has had on the performance explored the systems of the UK and Ireland. It is always judged by painters. We tour the show and have area. Materials such as aluminium, positive feedback ingrained within our introduced a student prize. Each year the number of submissions has increased by steel, etchings and silk screens were social and economic landscape and at least 150%. Last year the show toured to Ireland for the first time, to the wonder- used to highlight the industrial aspects questioned these systems’ influences ful Highlanes Gallery in Drogheda. Central to all this is the desire to promote the of sugar refining. The exhibition also within our lives. The piece was adapted best contemporary painting – often the stuff that isn’t represented in commercial included recordings of conversations by Christopher Steenson and Richard galleries. We have always held the prize in publicly funded spaces, artist-run or with ex-factory workers sharing memo- Baillie and was performed on the night university galleries. Having an anonymous submission process means that every ries of what they considered to be a sad by Constance Keane. eastsidearts.net painting is considered by the same criteria, from student work to pieces by lifelong and controversial loss. renniebuenting.weebly.com painters. We don’t ask for CVs and we don’t want to see them. We try to judge each CARRION FLOWERS painting on its own merit. I have always been slightly uneasy about promoting the idea of competition TO THE SEA within the painting community, but having a winner certainly encourages press The Gallery, Kinsale, Cork, presented coverage and adds to the prestige of the show. The winner receives a sculpture the exhibition ‘To the Sea’ from 4 to 14 donated by an eminent British sculptor – a passing of the mantle, so to speak. The Aug. It comprised a series of oil paint2016 winner Jessie Mackinson won an Alison Wilding RA sculpture. Mackinson ings by gallery artist Patrick Cashin. was joined on the podium by Anthony Banks, winner of the inaugural Student Best known for his work based on the Prize, who won a residency at the wonderful Bon Volks studios in Margate along coast and the sea, Cashin was born in with a bit of cash. It was an interesting pairing; both are young painters who were New York in 1965 to Irish parents, still studying. Jessie was on the Turps Studio Programme and Anthony was in the returning to Ireland aged seven, where final year of his MA Painting at the Royal College of Art. They are both excellent he was raised. Since becoming a full- Damien Flood, Common Room, 2017, on reversed black primed canvas, 140 x 180 cm painters and I urge you to look them up if you don’t know their work, as I would time artist in 1996, Cashin’s work has been featured in seventeen solo and Dublin-based artist Damien Flood was with all the past prize winners and exhibitors. We have shown over 250 paintings since the prize began and the variety has numerous group exhibitions in Ireland, working at the La Brea Artist Residency at the Cabin, Los Angeles from 29 Jul been fantastic. I was delighted to be able to bring the show to Ireland last year. It Europe and the United States. until 25 Aug. Inspired by his time in LA definitely encouraged more Irish painters to enter and gave us greater insights into during the residency, Flood created a the painting scene in Ireland. This was something I wanted to do after featuring new body of work that sees the developtwo Irish painters – Damien Flood and Alison Pilkington – in the 2012/2013 show. ment of new representational motifs. For me, they were two of the standout paintings that year. Alison was shortlisted thecabinla.com for the prize again last year too. On a personal level, this has been one of the driving forces behind continuing the prize: seeing painters develop and gaining a little SIGNS AND CIPHERS insight into their processes and concerns. It doesn’t really matter to me who wins Golden Thread Gallery, Belfast, is exhibthe prize; I think we are all equal as painters, all trying to represent our experience iting the works of Belfast-based artist of the world. Patrick Cashin, Bray Head, Valentia Island Alistair Wilson from 3 Aug to 16 Sept. Titled ‘Signs and Ciphers’, the exhibiMarcus Cope, co-founder and curator of the Marmite Prize for Painting. thegallerykinsale.com tion is made up of selected works spanning 40 years of production. It does not
September – October 2017
intend to be a definitive survey, but instead attempts to bring together key works that highlight the common themes prevalent in Wilson’s practice.
Alistair Wilson, Long Range, 2017, white linen on variable armature goldenthreadgallery.co.uk
SILENT TESTIMONY From 1 Jul to 8 Sept, Dublin Castle is exhibiting Colin Davidson’s ‘Silent Testimony’. This collection of portrait paintings reveals the stories of 18 people who are connected by their individual experiences of loss through the Troubles. Davidson, who himself grew up in Belfast, until now has not responded overtly to what he witnessed or experienced during the Troubles. ‘Silent Testimony’ reflects on how the conflict has had, and continues to have, a profound impact on thousands of individuals – the injured, their families, the families of those who died and the wider community.
Colin Davidson, Flo O’Riordan, 2014-15 dublincastle.ie
THERE’S THIS THING, THIS FEELING The Naughton Gallery at Queen’s University, Belfast, is showing an exhibition of work by London-based artist Adham Faramawy from 10 Aug until 1 Oct. Titled ‘There’s This Thing, This Feeling’, the exhibition uses live performances to camera with computer-mediated elements to create compelling, visceral and sexually-charged works displayed across a landscape of high-definition flat screens and sculptural assemblages. Faramawy uses technology to discuss issues of embodiment and identity construction. He explores changes in perception brought about by the digital age, co-opting the language
Adham Faramawy, Body Firming Lotion (SuX 2B U), 2017, video still (4 mins 49 secs)
The Visual Artists’ News Sheet
September – October 2017
of advertising to evoke desire for people, things and experiences.
Painting in Northern Ireland TASKED with the impossible challenge of summarising contemporary painting in Northern Ireland in eight hundred words, this column can only provide a fleeting glance at the many varied practices that contribute to the visual landscape of the region. Northern Ireland is an appealing place for painters: it has an established art college with substantial painting pedigree; inexpensive studios with the space that is so essential to the discipline; freedom to be different and not succumb to a regional style; and a large network of painters that continue to reinvent themselves and the medium. The Belfast School of Art cemented its reputation for painting during the 26-year watch of David Crone, himself a graduate of the school and a prolific artist who has had a lasting influence on painting in the region. His colourful and expressive, yet methodical, representational work continues to exert an influence on the current generation of tutors and graduates. Crone was the subject of an expansive retrospective in 2016. It was shown at the F.E. McWilliam Gallery in Banbridge and at the RHA in Dublin. It proved that his most recent work, made right at the very end of his long career, is still as vital as the work that first gained him recognition. Recently the painting department has been steerheaded by Paddy McCann, Louise Wallace and Dougal McKenzie. McCann presented new work in a solo show in Belfast at the MAC in 2015; the venue where McKenzie’s work is currently being exhibited. Wallace’s influence is also clear when viewing the annual degree show. A major survey of her work seems inevitable. Queen Street Studios (now QSS) was established in Belfast in 1984 against the backdrop of the Troubles. During its history, it has housed many painters that have become synonymous with the region like Jack Pakenham, Gerry Gleeson and Rita Duffy. Current studio members include established artists Jennifer Trouton, Mark McGreevy and Susan Connolly as well as exciting emerging talent such as Craig Donald and Catherine Davidson. Whilst QSS can lay claim to having the largest alumni of painters, most studio groups count painters amongst their members. Orchid Studios-based Simon McWilliams has an international reputation for his vibrant paintings of manmade structures and plants. Trina Hobson is a recent Ulster University graduate whose ambiguous portraits, like those of her former tutor Louise Wallace, are admired by her peers and collectors alike. Hobson founded a new painting studio group – Lombard Studios –with artists Jane Rainey and Hollie Sloan. Meanwhile, Hannah Casey creates small but intense abstract paintings from her studio at Platform Arts, where the bold use of colour, again, plays an essential role. Barry Mulholland works from Creative Exchange Studios in East Belfast to create geometric sculptural painting installations. Kevin Miller at Cathedral Studios has pushed his practice into the digital realm, creating abstract forms that refuse to be defined as simply paintings nor objects. His solo exhibition at the RHA in 2016 proved the strength of his current explorations that – alongside Susan Connolly, Craig Donald and Barry Mulholland – could be grouped under the term ‘Expanded Painting’. Although Belfast is the base of most artists working in Northern Ireland, some of the regions most interesting painters are based outside of the city. Elizabeth Magill, originally from Canada, grew up in Northern ireland and remains on the region’s most prodigious talents. Magill currently lives and works in London, but continues to exert her influence over a younger generation of talented Northern Irish painters, such as Lisa Ballard, and has a major solo exhibition scheduled in Limerick later this year. This continues into 2018, with solo exhibitions at RHA and Ulster Museum. Damien Duffy has returned to Derry after developing new work whilst undertaking the British School at Rome residency. His research-based paintings are firmly rooted in art history and continue his investigation into artists such as Cy Twombly and Richard Hamilton. By reimagining their work, Duffy has been able to talk about socio-political subjects close to his Derry home. Ballymoneybased artist Maurice Orr is one of a group of artists that work along the north coast, where the wild Atlantic Ocean is an ever-present theme of their work. He was commissioned in 2012 to create work for the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad Unlimited . Galleries make their own contribution to painting in Northern Ireland. More interested in abstract work than the heavily figurative works often seen in Dublin galleries, the Fenderesky Gallery has been hugely influential with its regular presentation of painting exhibitions. The MAC also continues its diverse programme, regularly featuring the best of painting from Ireland and around the world. Niamh McCann and Carole Rhodes have recently presented new and older work, for example, and established international artists such as David Hockney and Adrian Ghenie have drawn huge audiences to see their work, which are often described as modern masterpieces. Rob Hilken is Northern Ireland Manager for Visual Artists Ireland
Aug – 16 Sept, as part of the Eastside Arts Festival. The press release describes naughtongallery.org how Ballard’s paintings are “infused with rich colours and textures”. He AND CREATURES DREAM…A NEW paints directly onto the canvas with LANGUAGE vigorous brushstrokes, “recording the Wexford County Council and Wexford speed and the depth of the artist’s mind Arts Centre ran a two-venue group and showing the structural order, as exhibition from 3 Jul to 25 Aug. ‘And well as the pictorial range, and using Creatures Dream…A New Language’ bold slashes of rich hues and subtle focused on how the visual arts are rep- tones to capture the beauty in everyday resented in County Wexford, with a objects”. The exhibition features a selecparticular focus on painting. The artists tion of paintings and drawings, includincluded in the exhibition were Robert ing portraits of locals who are part of Armstrong, Ciaran Bowen, John Busher, the East Belfast Men’s Shed group. Eamonn Carter, Serena Caulfield, Helen ‘Pictures’ was curated by the ArtisAnn Gaynor, Aileen Murphy, Kate Murphy, Gallery. Rosie O’Gorman, Emma Roche, Breda eastsidearts.net Stacey, George Warren and Michael Warren. LINES TELL LIES
practices side-by-side”, while revealing the “lived stories and processes that define their working methods”. iamnotapainter.com
Alison Lowry, Home Babies, 2017, pate verde and flock; photograph by Glenn Noword
Myra Jago, Crash Repair; 2017, oil on canvas
An exhibition of paintings by Myra Jago ran at the Seamus Ennnis Centre, Naul, from 15 Aug to 2 Oct. Jago, the press release stated, “makes realistic oil paintings of improbable things”. Before beginning to paint, the artist layers her canvasses, smoothly sanding them to eliminate any distracting textures. Jago’s paintings “ask you to look again at the reflective nature of the work, embodied within dreamlike vistas and fine oil surfaces”. tseach.ie
CAN YOU SEE ME NOW? ‘Can You See Me Now?’, a collaboration between Justice for the Undocumented (JFU) and award-winning photographer Liam Murphy, was held at Filmbase, Dublin, 9 – 12 Aug. For the series, undocumented migrants stepped into the light and sat for large-scale portraits. For some, this was their very first time revealing their undocumented status. The exhibition was funded by Dublin City Council and the Community Foundation of Ireland. It is the first exhibition of its kind in Ireland.
Liam Murphy, Arielle, 2016, 122 x 81 cm mrci.ie
PICTURES Brian Ballard’s exhibition ‘Pictures’ runs at Eastside Art Gallery, Belfast, 3
‘(A) Dress’ runs 4 Aug – 27 Sept at Millennium Court Arts Centre, Portadown. This is a significant exhibition of new work by glass artist Alison Lowry and was part of the August Craft Marie Hanlon, Falling In, 2016, glass and glass paint Month programme of events in The Source Arts Centre, Thurles, Northern Ireland. The work displayed Tiperary presents the Marie Hanlon examines the themes of memory, childexhibition ‘Lines Tell Lies’ from 8 Sept hood and loss, which are echoed in the until 27 Oct. In this exhibition, Hanlon fragility of the work itself. The exhibiuses small sculptures, wall works and a tion features collaborations, a new film moving image piece to persuade the based on glass shoes and a large dress viewer to accept realities that do not suspended from the ceiling, raining exist. Lines are employed in the works down droplets into the gallery. as a transformative and provocative elemillenniumcourt.org ment that deceive the viewer into believing that, for example, air is solid WAANZINNIGE GRENZEN and that illusions have real substance. The Wilford X, Temse, Belgium is exhibIn this way, the exhibition attempts to iting work by the contemporary Dublinquestion the act of seeing and our ideas based painter Brian Maguire from 8 Jun about perception. until Mar 2018. Translated from Dutch thesourceartscentre.ie to English, the title of the exhibition roughly means ‘Insane Boundaries’ and PERIPHERIES 2017: SOUL-BEATING is a group exhibition exploring the artificial distinctions between the ideas of insanity and genius, insider and outsider. The exhibition also features work by Nico Beddeleem, Mekhitar Garabedian, Sachita Islam, Myriam Loyensm, Karl Meersman and Sven Unik. ‘Peripheries 2017: Sould-Beating’, Gorey School of Art; installation view; photo by Paul Carter, courtesy of James Merrigan
Curated by James Merrigan, ‘Peripheries 2017: Soul-Beating’ at Gorey School of Art (28 Jul – 3 Aug) brought together the work of 14 Irish painters – Robert Armstrong, Susan Connolly, Diana Copperwhite, Colin Crotty, Brian O’Doherty, Damien Flood, Paul Hallahan, Mark Joyce, Mark O’Kelly, Ciarán Murphy, Sheila Rennick, Emma Roche, Mark Swords and Kathy Tynan. The exhibition was activated by film screenings, live broadcasts, online texts and a series of public conversations with painters and filmmakers. A rotation of exhibited works took place midway through the show. According to the press release, the exhibition offered a “chance to experience peer painting
Brian Maguire, Aleppo 3, 2017, acrylic on linen wildfordx.be
sustainable career in the arts can be maintained. DRAFT POLICY FRAMEWORK FOR The draft document can be found CULTURE 2025 PUBLISHED via the Department of Culture, Heritage The Minister for Arts, Heritage, and the Gaeltacht website at chg.gov.ie. Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Heather Humphreys TD, has published the draft Framework Policy for Culture A-N LAUNCHES FIVE-YEAR VALUING 2025, Ireland’s first ever national cul- ARTISTS STRATEGY IN THE UK tural policy. The draft policy will now A-N has launched a five-year strategy to be submitted to the Joint Oireachtas tackle the growing challenges faced by Committee on Arts for its input and its members in sustaining their careers. consideration. Publication of Culture The aim of the strategy is to ensure that 2025 was identified as a priority in the artists themselves are valued, rather Programme for a Partnership Government. than just their art. With exit from the Minister Humphreys has also European Union looming, one core eleannounced that she intends to hold an ment of this strategy is ensuring that Annual Cultural Consultation Day, Brexit works in the favour of visual artsimilar to the workshop that was held ists working and living in the UK. As in the Royal Hospital Kilmainham last such, A-N aim to guarantee continued year as part of the Culture 2025 consul- freedom of movement, residency and tation process. rights for UK-based artists while conUnder seven key pillars, the tinuing to support them beyond the Framework Policy document sets out a 2019 Brexit deadline. series of priority measures for impleThe strategy also aspires to undermentation across government and pub- stand the wide range of challenges lic bodies. Some of the recommenda- faced by visual artists in sustaining tions outlined include progressively careers and livelihoods. A-N will tackle increasing funding to the arts as the these challenges by promoting credible economy improves and considering solutions to the UK government and how funding support could be gained continuing their core advocacy work to from non-governmental bodies. The ensure equitable artists’ payment. They document also recommends ways of are also partnering with other memberincreasing citizen participation in the ship organisations, such as Incorporated arts and examining the ways in which a Society of Musicians, to highlight how
Brexit-related issues are impacting different kinds of self-employed artists. The core members of A-N’s new Paying Artists Working Group will be announced over the summer and a research and advocacy partnership with Visual Artists Ireland on social security for artists will be announced in the autumn, followed by details of further campaigns and upcoming projects for 2018.
RUA RED PARTNERSHIP AND EXHIBITION SERIES WITH A/POLITICAL A major partnership has been announced between Rua Red and A/political. Both organisations will collaborate over the next year in encouraging the contemporary art world’s foremost socially and politically charged artists to respond to the unique context of South Dublin County. Rua Red is an arts centre based in Tallaght, Dublin, that is involved in serving a dynamic, multicultural youth population in the area. A/political is an arts organisation based in London, which collaborates with artists in the realisation of large-scale political projects. In partnership, both organisations aim to bring challenging, engaging and thought-provoking contemporary art to the area while aiming to engage audiences outside of the “usual art crowd”.
The inaugural exhibition of the collaborative project will begin in the autumn, with Rua Red hosting the first public presentation of works from the a/ political collection. This exhibition will be curated by the performance artist Franko B and will include key works from artists Barbara Kruger, Kendell Geers, Gustav Metzger and Santiago Sierra, many of which will be exhibited in Ireland for the first time. The partnership will continue throughout the year with further exhibitions, workshops, screenings and performances.
VAI News BELFAST OPEN STUDIOS 2017 We are pleased to announce that Belfast Open Studios returns on 21 October 2017. This event offers the public a chance to meet over 150 artists that work across the city in the context of their workspaces. In addition to Belfast Open Studios, there will also be a Studio Fair at the Black Box, Belfast, on 14 October from 3 – 5pm and a Speed Curating event on 4 November at Belfast Exposed. To find out more information, you can visit belfastopenstudios.com.
GET TOGETHER 2017 Visual Artists Ireland’s annual Get Together will be held on the 15 September 2017 at the Irish Museum of Modern Art. The programme for the national day is now open for registration with a wide range of artists, curators, critics and speakers invited. The theme of this year’s programme is ‘The Freedom to Make’. We’re thrilled to welcome keynote speakers Marie Korpe and Ole Reitov – co-founders of Freemuse, the world’s leading organisation defending artistic freedom. They will discuss how personal, political, religious and social attitudes impact on ideas, test the limitations of freedom of artistic expression and address how violations can be monitored. We will also have a series of panel discussions and artist talks. We’re maximising attendees’ options for our popular Clinics which offer focused one-onone advice about your practice. Speed Curating will return, which will provide opportunities to meet and show your work to over 30 different curators. VAI members can purchase a general admission ticket for €25. For nonmembers, general admission is €50. You can find out more about Get Together 2017 by visiting visualartists.ie.
The Visual Artists’ News Sheet
September – October 2017
HOW IS IT MADE?
Mark Francis’s studio, summer 2016; image (detail) courtesy of Mark Francis
Mark Francis’s studio, summer 2016; image (detail) courtesy of Ailve McCormack
From the Studio Of... AILVE MCCORMACK INTERVIEWS MARK FRANCIS IN HIS SOUTH LONDON STUDIO. ‘UNCERTAINTY’ is a nutshell description of the world we live in today, whether referring to the environmental, socioeconomic or political landscapes. It is also a term that fires the imagination of Irish-born artist Mark Francis, who I met at his studio in south London. From the microscopic structure of a fungus, to the infinite space of the universe, Francis creates his work through an impulsive, evolutionary process, the outputs of which question whether order and chaos can happily coexist.
MF: In the early days, a lot of my imagery came from examining biological forms, like fungi and plants. It was a micro process. Whereas, now, it’s more macro – I’m looking out to the universe. There’s always going to be elements that reflect what I’ve done before, but I’ve tried to restructure them in terms of what they mean to me. There are some paintings in the studio at the moment that echo the mycelial structure, but I’m now thinking more about the wider universe. I like to think of the universe as being made up of an immense grid. That empty space out there – what’s in it? Is it infinite? I bring together order and chaos in my work to investigate whether they can reside on the same plane. It’s interesting to combine something that’s naturally structured and something that’s lyrically and rhythmically chaotic on the same canvas.
Ailve McCormack: Your paintings are abstract artworks. What is it that drives you to create them? Mark Francis: My works start off with an idea. This idea might be about dark energy, the universe or something on a much smaller scale. Sometimes I get caught up in the process of painting and forget about the idea. It may not be until later on in the process that I think AM: The grid is a recurring motif in your work. Can you tell me about it again; occasionally, I don’t think about the original idea at about it? MF: Yes, the grid is a constant; it’s always been there. In recent years, all because the painting takes over and brings me somewhere else. I’ve brought it forward and made it more of a focus. The background grid is made on the wall. The last bit of the black is all done on the AM: Can you talk me through your process? MF: It changes with different paintings. For instance, the one I was floor. Then I tip the painting. I know in advance roughly what’s working on today has evolved from looking quite like one I had done going to happen but sometimes the paint does something unexbefore, to what might become something really interesting tomor- pected. I like the not knowing, the accidental. I want to make the row. This morning I thought that the lines looked a bit stiff, so I accidental much more a part of the work. I pour paint from pipettes poured another layer of really glossy paint on it. By layering it again, or basting tubes at the edge of the canvas and aberrations appear in with high-gloss paint over the semi-matt, I have broken up the form the surface, depending on where I start and stop pushing the paint underneath. In some ways, the shapes are starting to change again. out. It forms black triangles, which I like because it feels like an evoYou can see the shape on top, but the new layer has distorted it and lution of some of my earlier paintings, like the black dots intermade it something different. That’s what I find exciting. When I look spersed along the gridded structure. Gravity gives me the straight at that tomorrow, I’ll be looking at the structure of it as one shape lines after the pouring. Then I cartwheel the canvas around the sturather that two layers. I might be totally disappointed, but I’m excit- dio, creating shapes and lines on the canvas that I imagine are what energy sources might look like – I’m visualising the imaginings of ed about seeing what it becomes. what we can’t see. I find the grid and its association with mathematics fascinatAM: Tell me about the scientific influence on your work. MF: The scientific element of my work has always been strong. I’ve ing. For me, it’s lots of conduits that link A to Z and there are infinite always had an interest in science. Quite generally though, I would ways of getting there. I imagine plumbing systems, the internet, the never say that I am an expert in any particular area, but I certainly mycelial structures of mushrooms, road networks, mapping – they’re all connected and all have a form of mathematics behind do have various scientific fascinations. them. AM: You have previously spoken about an interest in mycology I enjoy mathematics and find it useful but I’m not hugely (the scientific study of fungi). How does this present itself in your knowledgeable about it. I like to have a basic understanding of what work? inspires my work, but sometimes having too much knowledge can
get in the way of the creative process: it sort of stifles you. Being naive, you can stumble upon things by accident and then make sense of what happens at a later date. For me that’s important. My paintings are made up of linear grids in the background and a number of subsequent layers. To start with, the colour is very thin, even transparent, so that the white of the canvas comes through, then there are layers of colour and lines that change from painting to painting. AM: Do you make sketches for the paintings? MF: I do works on paper and I’m also continually tearing up old paintings and working over them. There is a freedom to pouring the paint, tipping it. I feel relaxed. I don’t have to be overly precious. I think the confidence gained from creating the works on paper then translates to the large-scale paintings. There are a number of paintings in the studio, which may not be the best ones, but are important for me because they’ve sparked progressions into different areas. Certain paintings link key areas in terms of how I’ve evolved as an artist. They function almost like a sketch book. AM: How do you know when a piece is working? MF: There are times when I know immediately that a painting is working and there are other times that I’m unsure. In this instance, it’s best to leave it for a few days or weeks. Sometimes I can come into the studio and think something is terrible, feel demoralised, go away and do something else and then later in the day the piece has started to settle and I view it differently. I never make a decision straight away, but I generally come to know if something is working or not working. It’s a lot of looking; I can spend hours just looking! AM: What’s your favourite thing about coming into the studio? MF: It’s my sanctuary. My favourite thing is to come in and look at paintings and see that they have worked. It’s not so nice when they don’t, but it’s all part of the process. Taking a blank canvas and doing something on it; there’s nothing better than that. Ailve McCormack is an art consultant and producer based in London as well as founder and writer of the ongoing blog ‘From the Studio Of…’ Mark Francis is a Northern Irish painter living and working in London. He is included in the following upcoming exhibitions: ‘Abstract Painting Now!’, Kunsthalle Krems, Austria (2 July – 5 November); ‘The Underlying Shape’, Galerie Floss & Schultz, Cologne, Germany (7 September – 10 October); ‘Painting Black’, Foundation Conceptual Art, Soest, Germany (2 December – 4 March 2018). markfrancisstudio.com fromthestudioof.com
The Visual Artists’ News Sheet
Joy Gerrard, Protest Crowd, Chicago USA, Trump Rally 1, 2016, 2017, Japanese ink on linen; 130 x 220cm; photograph by Ros Kavanagh; image courtesy the artist
Landscape and the Built Environment RAMON KASSAM PRESENTS A SURVEY OF CONTEMPORARY LANDSCAPE PAINTING IN IRELAND.
Eithne Jordan, Street II, 2017, oil on linen, 97 x 130 cm
Gillian Lawler, Island, 2012, oil on canvas, 40 x 50 cm
September – October 2017
The Visual Artists’ News Sheet
September – October 2017
EXTENDED ESSAY THE 1920s and 30s saw an extraordinary increase in the popularity and production of landscape paintings in Ireland. Paul Henry and Jack B. Yeats, who are currently being exhibited side by side in Limerick’s Hunt Museum, were two of the major protagonists of that era. In contrast, European painting at that time was in the throes of Modernism, producing aesthetic innovation after innovation, which was largely self-analytical and retreating into its own flatness. Such concerns seemed secondary for many Irish artists, which would suggest that motivations were being shaped by different factors. These artists did engage in self-reflexive processes, but did so with the aim of exploring identity politics, with landscape painting becoming an important vehicle. The case is usually made that the prevailing subjects and sensibilities in Irish painting emerged as a result of post-independence Ireland’s distrust of Modernism, as well as the conservative social values asserted by the church and state. However, the precedence placed on landscape as a subject can also be perceived as the result of the newly-formed, post-colonial position of Irish artists. In this way, painting the landscape can be understood as an act of repossession, a reclaiming of territory and culture. In both amateur and professional ranks, it is probably safe to assume that landscape painting is the most popular, widely practiced, exhibited and collected form of visual art in Ireland. As a society, we seem to have inherited robust value systems pertaining to the genre. John Shinnors, Mary Lohan, Donald Teskey, Hughie O’Donoughe and many others continue to depict romantic and craggy environs that evoke emotive attachments to place. They remain some of Ireland’s most celebrated artists of the last few decades and this makes sense, because our cultural associations with landscape are a fundamental part of our national identity. This supports the idea that the distinctive conditions (political, social, topographical, etc.) of any place can encourage painterly approaches and methodologies that are particular to it. The influence that the dynamics of an environment have on the production or reception of art are always evident, but tend to be coded in the culture of landscape painting. Likewise, landscape painting can illuminate those very conditions that shape it. Many key Irish painters who engage with the genre today make works and exhibitions that reflect facets of contemporary Irish society and environment. A survey of some of these artists’ activities can illustrate the physical, social and psychological realities of our modern world. IRISH LANDSCAPE PAINTING: A WALKTHROUGH To set the scene for this imaginary walkthrough of recent Irish painting which makes reference to landscape themes, I am suggesting that the reader visualises these activities and related materials as being archived together in a single building. I’m proposing the site of a recent project of mine as the location for housing this fictional archive. Last summer I had the privilege of participating in ‘Welcome to the Neighbourhood’ – a two-week residency at Askeaton Contemporary Arts in County Limerick. The project I developed during the residency was a departure from my usual format of exhibiting canvases in a gallery context. In Askeaton, I intervened with the existing painted fabric of my workspace – a vacant commercial premises in the town – to create some propositional paintings. One of these works was a thin white stripe with embedded black tacks, painted on the edge of the facade along the gable end of the building. This gesture was intended to imitate the edge of a canvas and to recompose or re-imagine the face of the site in the context of a painted object or townscape. While not a requirement of the residency, the intention was to make some sort of re-presentation of Askeaton through the medium of painting, while making visible the existing surface quality of the building and town. The first of four rooms in this setting for an imaginary archive focuses on artworks that reference the built environment. In our towns and cities, almost everything is painted, artificially shaped or has some form of pigment running through it. This is most explicit in our streetscapes, buildings, road signs, street markings, even in the cars we drive, the clothes we wear and so on. The surface qualities of these spaces, and their existing and changing aesthetic and formal languages, can highlight anything from the economic to the social status of a given site. Mairead O’hEocha’s paintings focus on arbitrary but inviting sections of these worlds, depicting civic and residential buildings and ad hoc monuments in the public realm, picking apart the visual elements that form our perception of these spaces. Even when her paintings are not directly referencing the built environment, they are always still construction sites in themselves. She rebuilds in oil and
Kathy Tynan, Another Green World, 2017; oil on canvas; 50 x 40 cm; image courtesy Kevin Kavanagh Gallery
Mairead O’hEocha, Chopped Tree, Castle Leslie, 2014; image courtesy the artist and Mother’s Tankstation limited
re-imagines her optical deconstructions in versed gesture and lyrical use of colour and substance. In similar territory, Kathy Tynan paints the residue of the built environment through a lively shorthand style. Her depictions of residential areas and scenic details often feature brooding skies, as if capturing fleeting weather patterns might convey certain atmospheres of urban living. Colin Martin works across a range of media including moving image, and his paintings are imbued with an almost cinematic quality. His exterior landscapes depict undisclosed locations that appear to be socially or politically charged, while his domestic scenes convey the visual language of modern living and interior design. Meanwhile, Eithne Jordan has developed quite a catalogue of painted scenes that survey an extensive range of Irish buildings and streetscapes, so much so that studying her oeuvre would familiarise any visitor to Ireland with the country’s architectural texture, even before their arrival. A series of gouache paintings presented in Jordan’s recent exhibition, ‘When Walking’, at the Butler Gallery (24 June – 30 July) depict the vernacular public and residential architecture of Callan, County Kilkenny, and the surrounding area. Her depictions of domestic buildings channel our associations with such spaces beyond a description of their architectural form and texture. They are painted portraits of individual properties that mirror the visual language of the Irish property website daft.ie. These small, near-tablet-sized paintings echo a new and common form of contemporary online navigation through landscape; one that many of us seeking living space have experienced. In the next imaginary room, we stay in Kilkenny but turn our attention to the natural world. Bernadette Kiely’s paintings record areas around the river Nore in Thomastown to stunning effect. The sum of their material and ocular arrangements mimics natural ecosystems. Her paintings of the recent flooding events around Thomastown and surrounding areas cannot help but call to mind imminent global concerns around climate change. They trigger associations with the
increasingly familiar RTÉ news footage from around the country documenting areas that are being severely affected by changing weather patterns. If there is a frustrating aspect to encountering natural beauty in the landscape, it might be in our limited capacity to process it. Standing before it, we desperately try to soak everything up and commit it to memory. We take photos to store memories of these spaces and to share online. The technology available never quite seems to fully record these experiences, but through the perpetually-increasing capacities of virtual reality, it is getting better. In the early 2000s, Irishbased Austrian artist Gottfried Helnwein made a series of large, hyperrealistic, panoramic-format paintings, which reflect his desire to retain his experiences of scenery around Tipperary and Waterford. The images he created might be some of the most intricately-detailed paintings ever made of the Irish countryside. Now in the third room of our overview, we recognise that of course not all landscape paintings reference real-world places. There is a large contingent of contemporary Irish painters making images of ambiguous, unfamiliar and strange worlds. In this loose subset of landscape painting, artists get to more freely set the terms of the natural and narrative laws of the universes they create. For example, Micheal Beirne’s detailed paintings are intricately entangled. All the elements in his paintings, the terrain and its inhabitants, are familiar to us, but only in isolation. Coming together, they depict wild and bizarre scenes. Similarly, Gillian Lawler’s images feel even less familiar; the space between us and them feels vast, either in time, distance or both. These sci-fi-like paintings of chequered architecture and topography present the conditions and contextual settings for some unfolding drama or melancholy. In a similar vein, Sean Guinan’s work retreats even further from the recognisable. It is hard to establish at times whether they are even spaces at all. The laws of physics in the worlds he creates can change from painting to painting. With a great flair for form and colour, Guinan creates dense, impenetrable impasto terrains, or at other times, crisp minimal vistas and territories full of vitality and confusion in equal measure. In spite of many of these artists moving away from the physical appearance of our world, their landscapes often seem to more acutely portray its psychological realities. The final room in our imaginary archive highlights the ways in which Irish artists are addressing the tense and polarising political conditions of our times through landscape painting. Joy Gerrard’s paintings of protests from her 2016 exhibition ‘Shot Crowd’ at the RHA, feel stark and uncomfortably familiar. Huge monochromatic crowds move through cityscapes and seem just about ordered, but project the same threat of unpredictability and breakdown as the flowing ink used to depict them. In these works, technique, form and content converge to form hyper-mediated images that feel as if they exist on a knife-edge and are about to erupt. Closer to home, the recent mobilisation of political resistance in Irish society has found its voice in mural paintings. Though not always considered part of the painting canon, murals, specifically those associated with the Troubles in Northern Ireland, are perhaps the most internationally-famous examples of Irish painting alongside our illuminated manuscripts. A work that activated discussion on the politics of public space was Irish street artist Maser’s Repeal the 8th mural, painted on the wall of Project Arts Centre. The mural was ordered to be removed soon after its completion by Dublin City Council on the grounds of apparent planning violation. When news of what seemed like political censorship of the mural broke, its distribution as an image accelerated online. As a result, it has become one of the defining images of the movement. As a painting subject, landscape still very much has precedence within contemporary Irish visual art. The painters discussed in this text represent just a fraction of those making significant contributions to this ongoing discourse and ever-expanding archive. Collectively, these artistic inquiries offer insights into our current moment, through engagements with pivotal spaces and timely events, in Ireland and beyond. Ramon Kassam is an artist from Limerick city. Paintings form the basis of his practice. His work combines the thematic of the artist’s workspace (canvas, studio, gallery and urban environment) with formal and conceptual references to modernist abstraction. ramonkassam.com
The Visual Artists’ News Sheet
September – October 2017
HOW IS IT MADE?
I Am Not a Painter JAMES MERRIGAN REFLECTS ON TWO YEARS SPENT MAKING (AND UNMAKING) A FILM ABOUT PAINTING.
James Merrigan, Sheila Rennick; production still from All or Nothing, 2017, HD film
James Merrigan and Colin Crotty, RHA Library Room, 29 June 2016; production still from All or Nothing, 2017, HD film; all images courtesy Saskia Vermeulen and Gareth Nolan
“I am in blood stepped in so far that should I wade no more, returning were as tedious as go o’er” William Shakespeare, Macbeth: Act 3
THIS year’s National College of Art & Design (NCAD) undergraduate degree show had too much painting in it. There was nothing to offset the excess. This criticism is not really rational. It’s based on an expectation that I have formed over the last seven years reviewing the Dublin degree shows as an art critic. Until this year, I had become accustomed to seeing a lack of painting offset by an abundance of ‘everything else’. But whether dead or denied, painting’s rubber duck buoyancy keeps it forever bobbing on the horizon, waiting for the storm of commerce and technology to release its hold on the fickle art scene. Two years ago, a painter friend and I noticed a plastic duck cresting a new wave. In May 2015, Damien Flood and I headed to Belfast for two reasons: to see Romanian painter Adrian Ghenie’s solo exhibition at The MAC and (between you and me) to have a last social hurrah in anticipation of my second child, who arrived on 20 July 2015. After Ghenie, we headed to a Belfast pub, early. We drank. We talked. We drank some more – our ambitions and opinions glowing amber through the craft beer, the price of which we unfortunately forgot to ask until much later. But in 2015, things were looking up. The financial storm was calming and craft beer and flat whites were the froth and bubble of an emerging commercial optimism that would signal, like never before, the gradual gentrification of artist-run spaces and artist studios. The previous five years of recession, of squatter art (of good art!) was giving way to a new art environment where the plywood of institutional critique and social engagement was OUT and the capitalist excess of the art object was IN. I admit to drooling a little bit over those milliondollar ‘Ghenies’ in The MAC. So, if objects were back in, then painting was back in. And painting was back in, especially on the glossy covers of international art magazines and on Instagram. With objects on our minds and alcohol in our cheeks, our conversation turned to film, painting and then back to film again. See, film was in the air too, especially documentary film, due in part to the rising popularity of platforms like Netflix. So, in that Belfast bar in 2015, Damien and I positively speculated (for the first time since jointly graduating from NCAD in 2008, just before the Lehman Brothers financial hurricane blew in): “what about a documentary on Irish painting?” We proceeded to test that speculation through the doublyspeculative process of a funding proposal that didn’t pan out (one of many during this two-year period). But by that stage, we were already
James Merrigan, Mark Swords; production still from All or Nothing, 2017, HD film
committed to the idea. One good thing about failed funding proposals is that you critically evaluate your idea through the lens of financial pragmatism. Furthermore, through the process of writing down something with a specific readership in mind, the vagaries of art making become more grounded, for better or worse. We discovered that we needed to hand over the idea to filmmakers who had the necessary skills and an objective vision of painting, something Damien and I clearly didn’t possess, as we slid around in our own drool at The MAC. Luckily for us, the filmmakers Saskia Vermeulen and Gareth Nolan were interested in the idea. Saskia had an art background and Gareth originally came from journalism, so they approached the idea from cinematic and narrative perspectives. In our first meeting, I divulged that I was a lapsed painter, giving up on my love of painting during my MFA at NCAD in 2007, followed by giving up on art making altogether in anticipation of the birth of my first child in 2012. For Saskia and Gareth, my personal story became the narrative hook for the film, which would be offset by the critical reflections of Irish painters who, unlike me, stayed the course. Saskia and Gareth’s first task was to interview me on camera for three hours against a black backdrop – a choice that became significant later. During the interview, a lot of biographical detail was shared – hard stuff I hadn’t thought about for years, like the death of my mother when I was 13 and my father 10 years later, and how painting played a part in expelling those traumas. But what I learned most from the interview was that reading about the lives of artists, especially painters, was a natural obsession of mine from very early on, forming a belief that life was inextricable from art, no matter how much art was theorised, politicised and professionalised. The film project was now moving away from a hierarchical overview of ‘painting now’ (a ‘zombie narrative’ on painting’s perennial death and resurrection), to a critical reflection on the ‘nature and nurture’ of painting. The main script-driver became my four-year old son Noah. Watching his own playful development with crayon and paintbrush, I began to examine the expressive qualities of painting when removed from education, careers and the gallery space. Over the course of the next year, one filmed interview followed another; one redacted script replaced another, until we were shortlisted for the very competitive Reel Art Film Award in December 2016, which meant potentially big funding. Although we failed to secure this funding, the panel feedback shored up valuable criticism that influenced our decision to scale down the project, revealing the essence of what this film was really about. This meant reevaluating a year’s worth of filming, of scriptwriting and of life. The rolling title of
the film, All or Nothing, became an ironic ultimatum. We set two dates in the Spring of 2017 to interview six Irish painters – Diana Copperwhite, Damien Flood, Mark Joyce, Mark Swords, Shelia Rennick and Emma Roche – in a dark, prop free film studio in Dublin. Gone were the beautiful location shots of the previous interviews; we had returned to the black backdrop of the first interview from a year earlier, when I had spilled my own guts on camera. Likewise, we wanted our six painters to spill their guts too.1 And they did. Not wishing to divulge too much – as the film is still in production and decisions still have to made regarding which footage will make the final cut – during those two days in Dublin, the artists revealed rich lives bound up in an addiction to painting. They discussed doubt as a painter, the emotional aftermath of exhibiting and the uppers, downers, pleasures and frustrations of the addiction. I posited Francis Bacon’s ‘all or nothing’ notion of ‘emptying out’ on the canvas. They shared details of their childhoods and first memories, discussing how validation from parents, teachers and friends was enough to ‘wade on’ and to make a life out of painting. We argued about how being a painter can only tolerate monogamy – that the responsibilities of life will inevitably get in the way of the pursuit of painting. Sitting face-to-face with six artists over a 48-hour period in a blacked-out film studio, projecting opinions and feelings about the lifelong motivations behind becoming a painter, was testing but invigorating. It really felt like we were doing something different, tackling human creativity at its kernel. During these interviews, I was accused of being too personal and psychological in my questioning; occasionally I felt I was poking at things that were strictly out of bounds. But we achieved what we set out to capture: the nature and nurture of painting, relayed through the critical reflections of six Irish painters in response to the biographically-intimate self-questioning of a lapsed painter (yours truly). All or Nothing is presently in the edit room. By the time you read this article, the film will be complete. Saskia and Gareth presented raw interview footage, offering a work-in-progress presentation of the film as part of a painting exhibition I curated entitled ‘Peripheries 2017: Soul-beating’, which ran from 28 July to 5 August at Gorey School of Art. James Merrigan is an artist and art critic based in Waterford City. iamnotapainter.com Note 1. Other artists that were interviewed on camera or along the way include: Robert Armstrong, Susan Connolly, Colin Crotty, Ramon Kassam, Mairead O’hEocha, Mark O’Kelly, Eoin Mc Hugh, Kevin Mooney, Aileen Murphy, Alison Pilkington and Kathy Tynan.
The Visual Artists’ News Sheet
September – October 2017
‘Painters Talking Paint’ at The LAB, 22 February, Dublin; photo by Marc Guinan
Marc Guinan, 22617, 2017, mixed media on canvas
Painters Talking Paint
instinctual” reaction to painting from an early age and emphasised that, over time, the skill of “learning to listen” must be refined. He added that the medium itself will always want to do its own thing and that viscosity was extremely important. He explained that once he began to listen more to the material, his “marriage-like” relationship with the medium flourished. His comments were widely met with agreement among the panel and provided a catalyst for further discussion. The concept of ‘intimacy’ in the studio space, between the painter and the paint, is an ongoing interest of mine. At times during the event, there was some resistance to use of this term, but as discussion mediator I found ways to steer this inquiry in positive directions. Another point agreed on by the panel was that stepping back from a piece of work, while remaining engaged with it, can be beneficial. O’hEocha described this process as “critical distance”, which I feel is directly linked to the concept of intuition. O’hEocha described her painting method as a “precise dance between intuition and a conscious, critical decision-making process”. Kasam, Martin and Flood all agreed that self-awareness can be crippling at times and that too much awareness can actually hamper a truly intimate connection. There is no doubt that something special happens when we, as painters, create. We enter the studio and the engagement begins. Flood described this process as “lending to the very questioning of reality”. The creative thinking that happens when the artist is in front of the canvas can be both meditative, calming, cruel or painful, highlighting the fact that it is a relationship just like any other. ‘Painters Talking Paint’ offered glimpses into the nuts and bolts of painting, as described by five contemporary Irish painters. It’s also important to note the enthusiasm that was felt in the room. As the microphone went around the floor, the panel were asked some really interesting questions on a variety of topics including preparing for studio visits and the relevance of mediation in a painter’s research. I took from the event that touch, feel and viscosity are relevant, but hold different levels of importance for individual painters, and that this might change or intensify during their careers. Similarly, intuition is also key, but comes with the double-edged sword of self-awareness. Apart from Flood, most of the artists did not find that touching the material enhanced or was relevant to their process. For me, the feel of the paint is something that will always keep my interest and I was delighted to have the opportunity to enter into wide-ranging discussions with such important and well-respected Irish painters.
MARC GUINAN REPORTS ON THE PANEL DISCUSSION ‘PAINTERS TALKING PAINT’ AT THE LAB, DUBLIN. WHILE studying on the Art and Research Collaboration (ARC) MA programme at IADT, I organised and facilitated the public discussion ‘Painters Talking Paint’ on the evening of 22 February 2017 at The LAB, Dublin. With this event, I wanted to focus on the research engagement of painters when working in the studio, as well as their relationship with the materials they use. ‘Painters Talking Paint’ was a two-hour panel discussion, framed as an exploration of painters’ experiences with their medium. I invited five contemporary Irish painters to contribute to the event: Damien Flood, Ramon Kassam, Colin Martin, Sinéad Ní Mhaonaigh and Mairead O’hEocha. The conversation was underpinned by three initial questions: As painters, are touch, feel and viscosity relevant? What is the role of intuition in the painting process? Does handling or touching the material enhance the painting process? Each invited speaker gave a five-minute presentation responding to these themed questions, and afterwards I mediated a conversation between the artists followed by some audience participation. The attendees included artists, students, curators and painters, all of whom seemed to share an enthusiasm for the medium of painting. It was clear from the outset that the speakers adopted very different approaches, both in the ways they described their studio practices and in how they responded to the original questions posed. Limerick-based artist Ramon Kassam got the ball rolling by offering a vibrant account of old masters and the wars that tormented them as they tried to paint. Exploring the artist as a creative subject, Kassam often references the autonomous reality of modernist abstraction within his paintings. He stated that there is no doubt that our “fetishised attachment” is a physical thing and that the blood and gore-laden images of such wartorn periods hold implicit links to tactility, in relation to the coloured liquid. He warmly described this art historical engagement as “a random collusion of coloured goo”. Continuing this sensual inquiry, Damien Flood spoke about the direct connections with memory that occur when the artist is exposed to the smell and physicality of paint. Flood – whose work is grounded in early writings on philosophy, theology, alchemy and the natural sciences – often undertakes a period of research that feeds his thoughts before he engages with any material. The most enjoyable aspect of Flood’s participation was his clear passion for the medium of painting. When asked about the role of intuition, he became visibly animated, pointing out that, for him, painting still had a “mystery and unpredictability that kept him coming back”. Sinéad Ní Mhaonaigh responded in a different way, explaining
‘Painters Talking Paint’ at The LAB, Dublin; photo by Marc Guinan
how artists rely on their own form of branding with a warmly-told story about brand withdrawal. She pointed out that painting creates a deep connection between the artist and their material. It can take years of practice and training to get to grips with even the most basic formal qualities of paint – something the panel unanimously agreed with. Ní Mhaonaigh explained that she felt her painting – which has previously been described as “reflecting her interest in the specifics of (non) place” – is only one strand of her multi-faceted practice. For her, continual engagement with the material of paint is part of a visual language that needs to be learned over time. As an early-career artist, I found Mairead O’hEocha’s insights to be refreshing, astute and brilliantly articulated. O’hEocha described painting as the “magical transformation of a liquid” and her passion for the medium was evident. She said that painting is something quite special and that, when compared to lens-based media, painting offers “a release from reality”. She noted that a gentle coercing takes place between the painter and the paint, requiring him or her to deal with their strengths and weaknesses, which in turn can lead to increased fluency. She emphasised that the materiality of paint gives the viewer access to any emotions or feelings the artist may have had, and that the medium offers a degree of honesty that is uniquely distinctive. As pointed out by Dublin-based artist Colin Martin, subject matter has always been centrally embedded within conversations about painting. Martin noted that it is rare for artists to come together to talk publicly about their actual material, adding that “painting resists theorisation in this day and age”. Martin went on to talk about his “purely
Marc Guinan is a Dublin-based visual artist interested in the material qualities of paint, who often describes his practice as ‘scientific’ and his studio as a ‘laboratory’. A full recording of the ‘Painters Talking Paint’ event is available on Vimeo and YouTube.
The Visual Artists’ News Sheet
Texture of a Medium ALISON PILKINGTON LOOKS AT CURRENT PRACTICES IN IRISH ABSTRACT PAINTING.
Richard Gorman, Tilted, 2017, oil on linen, 150 x 150 cm; image courtesy the artist and Kerlin Gallery
Kian Benson Bailes, Untitled, 2017, digital rendering and mixed media
William McKeown, Untitled, (2009 – 2011), oil on linen, 40.5 x 40.5 cm; mage courtesy The William McKeown Foundation and Kerlin Gallery
Mark Joyce, The Ballyconnell Colours (after Dermot Healy), 2017, oil on linen, 140 x 110 cm
September – October 2017
The Visual Artists’ News Sheet
September – October 2017
Helen O’Leary, Unravelling Developments, 2017; installation view; American Academy of Arts and Letters, New York
Fergus Feehily, Country, 2008 (left); North Star, 2008; courtesy the artist, Misako and Rosen,Tokyo and Galerie Christian Lethert, Cologne
“We are all at present, far more divided, less empowered and certainly far less paintings make connections between music and colour theory, testing connected to the effects of our world than we should be. It is for this reason that how colour interacts with composition and form. The intersection of formal concerns with the physical act of I am deeply involved in the texture of a medium capable of universalizing so mark-making can be further observed in the paintings of Diana much lost intimacy.” 1 Copperwhite and Damien Flood. Though their work could not be THE term ‘abstract painting’ is historical and, over time, the parame- considered purely abstract, it “supports the position of the human ters of the genre seem to have collapsed. It could be argued that to hand”, to paraphrase American painter John Lasker’s descriptions of write about abstract painting as if it were a genre that has some sig- his own work.4 For Copperwhite and Flood, the gesture of the brush as nificant position within contemporary art, might be a somewhat it moves across the surface and the chance elements that emerge redundant inquiry. The term itself has been debated and contested through this action, seem paramount. Furthermore, their work points throughout the history of twentieth century art, with the traditional to the waning importance of a clear division between abstract and meaning of abstraction shifting considerably. To say that ‘abstract figurative painting. The idea that ‘figuration’ and ‘abstraction’ hold painting is alive and well’ in current Irish painting practices also conflicting positions within painting appears to be outmoded. It seems an outmoded way of summarising what painters do with their seems that the contemporary painter is no longer restricted either by material and medium. As described by Briony Fer in her book, On the formal concerns of abstraction, or the narrative implications of Abstract Art: “As a label, abstract art is on the one hand too all inclusive: figurative painting. A more explicit form of deconstruction in painting is evident in it covers a diversity of art and different historical movements that the practices of Irish artists Helen O’Leary and Fergus Feehily. In really hold nothing in common except a refusal to figure objects.”2 In tracing the lineage of Irish twentieth century art through the expanding the definition of what makes something a ‘painting’, a blurlens of abstraction, it is clear that formalism has been a central artistic ring of boundaries between ‘object’ and ‘image’ is central to their work. concern. Manine Jellet, Patrick Scott, and more recently Sean Scully Such ‘bricolage’ approaches to painting can be traced back to the and Richard Gorman, offer good examples. The ROSC series of exhibi- montage works of Kurt Schwitters and other Dada artists.5 Attentive to tions also had a significant influence on abstract painting in Ireland in the apparatus of the medium, Helen O’Leary explicitly investigates the 1970s and 1980s. Whilst appearing to have roots in the formal how paintings are built and the materials involved in their making. abstraction of the late 1950s, the practice of the late William McKeown She recently stated that her new work “delves into my own history as continues to adopt a range of positions in modern painting, utilising a painter, rooting in the ruins and failures of my own studio for both elements of installation, abstraction and figuration. McKeown’s work subject matter and raw material.” O’Leary frequently disassembles the invites the viewer to consider boundaries, both physical and non- “wooden structures of previous paintings – the stretchers, panels, and physical. Implicit in his work was the artist’s attention to the appara- frames”, cutting them back to “rudimentary hand-built slabs of wood, tus of the medium of painting. Suggesting that material supports are glued and patched together” making “their history of being stapled, integral to viewer engagement with his paintings, McKeown stated splashed with bits of paint, and stapled again to linen clearly evident.”6 that “I want the sense that the oil is in the linen, rather than on the In contrast to the recycling of older paintings, Fergus Feehily assembles works from found objects and materials. As described by Martin surface”.3 Within the current generation of Irish painters, formal abstrac- Herbert in his review of Feehily’s 2011 exhibition at Modern Art, tion still has a place, but it is blended with other ideas – beyond pure London: “Deliberation vs. accident; hard vs. soft; fixity vs. impermaform and colour – coming from diverse fields such as philosophy, nence … There are many paths to the painterly.”7 Among recent Irish art graduates, notions of abstraction and figumathematical theory, science and music. Such interdisciplinary influence is evident in the work of numerous contemporary Irish abstract ration appear to be less prominent than engagements with the virtual painters such as Ronnie Hughes, Helen Blake and Mark Joyce. These world. There is a growing sophistication in understandings and naviartists have embraced a kind of ‘soft formalism’, where personal inter- gations of virtual platforms for art making and how these can relate to ests converge with formal concerns around composition, colour and painting. Such inquiries are evident in the work of emerging artists pattern-making. Helen Blake’s paintings focus on how colour and like Jane Rainey, Kian Benson Bailes and Bassam Al-Sabbah whose texture can literally weave a pattern, drawing the viewer into the sur- imaginary landscapes allude to the digital realm, comprising gliches, face of the painting. The handmade quality of Blake’s paintings leaves screen savers and software imagery. It strikes me that such work could space for both accident and design. Pattern-making and structure are not have been made before the internet. However, it’s not just the aessimilarly evident in the work of Ronnie Hughes, as are his concerns for thetics of digital imagery that have influenced recent painting; the human and scientific systems. Among other things, Mark Joyce’s impact of digital tools on the construction of painting has also become
increasingly evident. A recent exhibition at The Hole Gallery, New York, titled ‘Post Analog Painting II’ examined how “digital tools have affected our way of thinking” and explored the ways in which the “logic of Photoshop or structure of pixelation shapes a painter’s approach to color, form, light or texture, even when away from their laptops.”8 In the early twentieth century, British art historian Clive Bell proposed form and colour as the two principles of formal abstraction, stating that “to appreciate a work of art, we need bring with us nothing but a sense of form and colour and a knowledge of three-dimensional space”.9 Writing candidly about the tensions between representation and abstraction, New York-based painter Amy Sillman asserted that “the real, like the body, is embarrassing: your hand is too moist, your fly is open, there turns out to be something on your nostril, somebody blurts out something that I wasn’t supposed to know, your ex-partner shows up with their new lover (and your work is uncool). But you’re stuck there. That tension is what abstraction is partly about: the subject no longer entirely in control of the plot, representation peeled away from realness”.10 For me, these paired statements create a spectrum of ideas that circulate within the complex sphere of abstraction. On one hand, Bell’s description prompts the reader to imagine cool and elegant abstract shapes that are vaguely familiar and comforting, while on the other, Sillmans’s words conjure a kind of brash, dirty abstraction with images that are risky and aesthetically challenging. Perhaps there is something between these two statements that highlights what is so compelling about abstract painting: it communicates something that is so intrinsically known to us, yet is almost impossible to fully articulate. Alison Pilkington is an artist who lives and works in Dublin. Notesv 1. Jonathan Lasker interview in Suzanne Hudson, Painting Now, Thames & Hudson, 2015. 2. Briony Fer, On Abstract Art, New Haven and London: Yale University, 1997, p.5. 3. Corinna Lotz, ‘Accepting the Blur’ in, William Mc Keown, IMMA Catalogue, 2008. p. 61. 4. Jonathan Lasker interview in Suzanne Hudson, Painting Now, Thames & Hudson, 2015. 5. Bricolage is a French term which translates roughly as ‘do-it-yourself’. In an art context, it is applied to artists who use a diverse range of non-traditional art materials. The bricolage approach became popular in the early twentieth century when resources were scarce, with many Surrealist, Dadaist and Cubist works having a bricolage character. However, it was not until the early 1960s, with the formation of the Italian movement Arte Povera, that bricolage took on a political aspect. Arte Povera artists constructed sculptures out of rubbish, in an attempt to bypass the commercialism of the art world, effectively devaluing the art object and asserting the value of ordinary, everyday objects and materials. 6. Sharon Butler, ‘Ideas and Influences: Helen O’Leary’, twocoatsofpaint.com. October 2014. 7. Martin Herbert, ‘Fergus Feehily’, Frieze, October 2011. 8. Raymond Bulman, Post Analog Painting II, exhibition text, The Hole Gallery, New York, 2017. theholenyc. com. 9. Clive Bell, Art, London: Chatto and Windus, 1914, p.115. 10. Amy Sillman ‘Shit Happens: Notes on Awkwardness’, Frieze, November 2015.
The Visual Artists’ News Sheet
September – October 2017
Golden Fountain SUSAN CONNOLLY REPORTS ON HER PARTICIPATION IN THE GOLDEN FOUNDATION RESIDENCY PROGRAMME, NEW YORK.
Residency Building, The Golden Foundation, New Berlin, New York, March 2017; image courtesy of the artist
EARLIER this year I was selected to do a monthlong artist residency at one of the world’s most renowned artist quality paint companies, Golden Artist Colors, located in New Berlin in upstate New York. That is where I found myself between February and March, alongside two fellow artists, Marcy Rosewater (USA) and Brandon Dalmer (Canada). The residency aims to offer unlimited use of innovative materials. In addition, the residents are educated through workshops and demonstrations, which actively encourage them to experiment and to try out different processes and media throughout the duration of their stay. The experience of engaging with a fully operational paint factory that produces the highest quality paints internationally really changed my approach to painting, making me consider questions such as: How is paint made? Who are the people making it? Where does it come from? How is it put into tubes? What is viscosity, liquidity, even fugitivity? During the residency, I learned the answers to all of these questions and many more that I had never felt the need to ask before. The significance of this is manifold, as the residency has had a dramatic positive impact on my own work. Previously, I would have been content to buy ‘readymade’ tubes of paint that are available in the art supply shops we have around Ireland. I know through experience that I prefer certain paint brands over others, and in recent years I have had limited opportunities to explore new products at all, mainly because I have been developing a reductive research project in my studio. This basically requires me to use only process paint (cyan, magenta, lemon and black) – that horrid product designed to ‘teach’ students how to mix colour – which even amateur painters know is nothing more than the poorest quality pigmentation. The process of working with such high-quality paints, juxtaposed with my deliberate use of inferior quality process paint, proved to be a revelation, and has given me many possibilities and ideas for future studio work. GOLDEN ARTIST COLORS Golden Artist Colors started production in June 1980 when the then 67-year-old Sam Golden decided to come out of retirement to develop a new acrylic paint which he believed would be better than all the other paints available on the market at the time. Sam had substantial experience and knowledge about how to make exceptionally high quality artist materials, having spent 35 years of his life in partnership with his uncle Leonard Bacour of Bacour Paints on 15th Street in New York City. As early as the 1940s at Bacour, Sam is credited with having invented and developed many acrylic paint products, all of which have become staples in contemporary artist studios. He acknowledged that many of these products, such as mediums, gels and iridescent paint colours, were realised after simply listening to what artists
wanted. It was a job he refers to as “making tools for artists”. Sam used his expertise at Bacour Paints to establish a new paint company, Golden Artist Colors. The initial company was a small, family-run operation, comprising Sam and his business-minded wife Adele, their youngest son Mark and his wife Barbara. By that point Sam Golden had created 36 new colours and 5 mediums. He began to visit studios in Manhattan, calling on artists whom he had previously worked with, such as Roy Lichtenstein and Kenneth Noland, and soliciting their advice on the kinds of products they were looking for, in order to develop customised, high-quality paints for a specific market. Today the company is one of the few American companies that is majority employee-owned and, although their products are sold worldwide, the production of every single item for sale is still done from the same site and factory established by Sam Golden over 30 years ago. Golden Artist Colors Inc. has become synonymous with quality and excellence. They still value and work closely with artists and conservationists to develop and supply the best possible product, including custom items for individual needs. Many materials and technologies are developed by the company within their labs for distribution throughout the world.
Golden Artist Colors acrylic paints
daylight, with the studios equally well lit for evening and night working. The studios are furnished with everything you might need and the Goldens ensure you are well prepared for the practicalities of using the space by having artist and former Golden employee Lori Wilson introduce you to the set up and suggest how best to use your time whilst on the residency. This was of enormous benefit, as my time there passed by very quickly and it was great to have the expertise of someone who had gone through this experience multiple times with other residents. It is a very busy residency. Each morning for the first two weeks was taken up by visits to the factory, where we were given detailed demonstrations by expert technicians and artists (Mike, Cathy, Stacey, Greg and Ulysses) on how to use each product that Golden make. These workshops were great and I learned so much about materials that I previously had little or no experience of – materials that I had often wondered about but never purchased due to cost or lack of knowledge. Predictably, since returning to Ireland I have expanded my choice of mediums and have also purchased resin products that I would probably never have tried without this first-hand experience. On a nerdy personal note, I loved hearing how some of the products were developed and their histories. For example, the Fluid Acrylics were specially made for animation; other GAC products were first RESIDENCY PROGRAMME developed for specific artists such as Helen Frankenthaler before going The Golden Foundation Residency Programme first opened its doors into mass production and distribution. in 2012 and offers one of the most unique artist residencies around for This residency has had a profound impact on my work, in terms a painter interested in paint products and process. As part of the fac- of exploring new products and approaches to painting. It also pretory production residency, the Golden Foundation team – comprising sented me with different challenges that I believe will become a source Barbara and Emma Golden, with the help of an external committee of of interest and influence on my work in the months and years to come. art professionals – select and welcome 18 artists each year from all In April of next year, I will get the chance to exhibit new work alongaround the world through an open call. The residents live, learn and side all 17 of the resident artists in the annual ‘Made in Paint’ exhibiexplore all that Golden Artist Colors has to offer: the house, studios, tion, an opportunity I hope will take me back to New Berlin! factory – literally nothing is off limits. The residency itself is housed in a beautifully refurbished barn a For more information on the residency and upcoming deadlines short distance away from the factory. The barn occupies three floors, see goldenfoundation.org. For more in-depth information on the with the living quarters on the bottom level having been divided up paint, including specialist advice, see goldenpaints.com and justinto three individual apartments. This level also includes a large paint.org. shared communal kitchen and living room area. A library houses many publications that document the work of experimental painters. Susan Connolly’s practice explores the extendable paint surface It is a homely building, with great views of the spectacular winter and the provisionality this causes within traditional notions of sunsets and rolling landscape, which was a snowy winter wonderland painting. Connolly is currently a PhD candidate at Ulster for most of my time there. University and has lectured in the Fine Art Department at The studios occupy the other two floors, broken up into four Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT). Next year she will preopen-plan areas, a small office space and a fully stocked paint materi- sent a new body of work in Platform Arts, Belfast, as well as als store (yes, that is a fully stocked and free materials store!). Each exhibiting in group shows in Glasgow, Dublin and New York. individual studio is large with high ceilings and offers lots of natural
The Visual Artists’ News Sheet
CRITIQUE SUPPLEMENT EDITION 33: SEPTEMBER – OCTOBER 2017
Genieve Figgis, Pink stage, 2017, acrylic on canvas, 80 x 100 x 4 cm; courtesy of Genieve Figgis and Almine Rech Gallery
Genieve Figgis, Castle by day, 201; acrylic on canvas, 165 x 202 x 3.5 cm; courtesy of Genieve Figgis and Almine Rech Gallery
Genieve Figgis ‘What We Do in the Shadows’ Almine Rech Gallery, Brussels , 3 June – 29 July WHEN J.K. Huysmans’s Á Rebours (Against Nature) was published in 1884, it was embraced immediately as epitomising the decadent movement in art and literature. The protagonist of this literary gem is the Duc des Esseintes, an aristocratic aesthete who withdraws from society into a self-made sanctuary of aesthetic beauty. Finding daylight unbearably shrill, the jaded, misanthropic Duc lives by night, staving off crushing ennui by spending all his time and money on obscure, extreme and perverted pursuits. The crepuscular world of Á Rebours came to
mind repeatedly as I viewed ‘What We Do in the Shadows’, an exhibition at Almine Rech by the Irish artist Genieve Figgis. Several of the characters inhabiting Figgis’s paintings resembled the image I’d developed of Esseintes over the years: frail, sickly and effeminate, face pitted and pocked by absinthe consumption or syphilis. Moreover, several of the characters depicted in Figgis’s paintings share his penchant for transgressive sexual pleasure. As well as Huysmans’s aforementioned novel, Figgis’s paintings conjure a constellation of other references. Stately homes decay along with the fading bloodlines that once inhabited them – their once opulent imperial chambers now inhabited only by ghosts. Several paintings capture the claustrophobia of drawing room life. I found the empty interiors and sinister landscapes particularly successful. At first glance, these compositions appear almost abstract, suggesting that they have emerged from a spontaneous process in which the artist has revelled in the jouissance of paint. One feels that they are the fruits of a physical grappling with materials from which the artist derived the upmost pleasure. In a previous interview, Figgis affirmed that nothing has been planned or contrived in any
way; everything happens by chance. Figgis’s technical virtuosity was well demonstrated in this exhibition. Several new paintings were notably larger in scale than earlier works, making visible greater levels of detail regarding the range of techniques and methods employed: paint, in livid and juicy hues, is splashed, poured and dotted across the canvas; gestural swathes of mixing and marbling create biomorphic blobs; an array of striking surface textures evoke Surrealist decalcomania. Although humour, even frivolity, are consistent features of Figgis’s paintings, there is also a preoccupation with the hypocrisy that distinguishes high society. One can see the tendency to focus on how the privilege of peerage doesn’t prevent one from being repugnant. It is perhaps this aspect of Figgis’s work that has resulted in so many viewing it as a response to colonial Irish history. One of my first impressions when first encountering Figgis’s paintings in 2014 was how they represented and reflected upon particular aspects of Irish history. Indeed, many have suggested that her paintings elicit a very particular Anglo-Irish atmosphere. While this is certainly the case, it would be a mistake to view these images as referring exclusively to any one particular socio-cultural context. The show at Almine Rech certainly resonated as much with the Belgians as it would with any Irish audience. In fact, viewing the exhibition in the Brussels context seemed particularly apposite, with several paintings depicting courtly culture and seeming to summon up episodes from the chequered history of the Belgian Royal Family. In particular, I was reminded of episodes of the life of King Leopold II (1835 – 1909) who was known not only for his lavish palaces and monuments, but also for establishing a private fiefdom in the Belgian Congo. Between 1896 and 1906, Leopold made at least three million francs from this operation, which was illegally run as a private business, with forced labour used to extract tons of ivory and rubber. To assist in the process, the King employed a mercenary military police known as Force Publique whose brutality contributed directly to millions of deaths. In Belgium, Leopold was also very unpopular, not just because of these acts of genocide, but because he was viewed by many as an immoral philanderer. Just before his death in 1909, he married the 26-yearold courtesan with whom he had been living amongst the palm trees in one of his palatial glasshouses. Another reason Figgis’s exhibition had such local resonance was the fact that several works seemed to echo those of James Ensor (1860 – 1949), one of Belgium’s most intriguing painters. Figgis acknowledged the importance of his legacy in her group portrait Ensor and Friends, and there is certainly much that connects their work. Both artists have a proclivity for the macabre; their paintings reveal the influence of Bosch and Breugel, PreRenaissance artists who prioritised the visceral and expressive over the idealised. Both Ensor and Figgis reinterpret art history on a personal level, aligning classical painting traditions with contemporary concerns. But what unifies these artists most – and what made Figgis’s show such a pleasure to view – is their inimitable ability to produce artworks of unnerving beauty: seductive and lurid scenes from which it can be a struggle to avert one’s gaze. Pádraic E. Moore is a writer, curator and art historian currently based in Brussels and Dublin. padraicmoore.com
Paul Winstanley ‘Faith After Saenredam and Other Paintings’ Kerlin Gallery, Dublin, 20 May – 01 July 2017 WRITING a review of an exhibition means finding an angle, a perspective, a particular point of view from which to approach the work. In the case of ‘Faith After Saenredam and Other Paintings’ this is particularly challenging, as Paul Winstanley’s recent work here is almost all about angles, perspectives and points of view, in the physical, rather than metaphorical, sense. The main gallery contains 10 paintings, while two preparatory drawings are located in the gallery office. Both their inclusion and location seem puzzling at first, but as with so many aspects of this exhibition, clarification only comes with further investigation. Pieter Saenredam was a seventeenth-century Dutch painter who specialised in church interiors. A preparatory sketch of the Mariakerk in Utrecht made by Saenredam in 1642 (the final painting is missing) provided Winstanley with the starting point for this exhibition, and therefore the justification for including the preparatory sketches mentioned above. In fact, closer examination of these two works shows that Winstanley is already playing with perspective, choosing in one case a two-point perspective, in the other a one-point perspective. From these drawings, Winstanley produced two paintings: while Lost is a re-creation, Faith After Saenredam (2016) is a re-imagining. In the latter, he includes a window and a tapestry known to have existed in the church. In doing so, he keeps to the same dimensions and uses gold leaf as Saenredam did, while maintaining the same clarity of line and muted palette. With these four paintings alone, Winstanley is demonstrating how representational art is something of a misnomer. The painting never simply represents: it shows us reality from a new perspective. In this case, however, there is another angle to be considered: which reality is being represented? That of the Mariakerk, or that of Saenredam’s version of the Mariakerk? In fact, the Mariakerk was demolished during the first half of the nineteenth century, so Winstanley can only interpret or imagine Saenredam’s view of the church. With this in mind, his preparatory drawings add a further layer of dissimulation in the ostensible ‘truth’ of these works. The ground underneath the viewer becomes even shakier when we learn that Saenredam himself did not always respect the reality before him. He is known to have enlarged, heightened and broadened elements for greater effect. Saenredam also played with the perspective of the viewer, according to Arthur Wheelock, of the National Gallery of Art, Washington, who points out, for example, that “the rapidly receding barrel
Paul Winstanley, Looking at Vermeer, 2017, oil and gold leaf on gesso on panel, 66 x 55 cm; image courtesy of Kerlin Gallery
vault in St. Anthony’s Chapel in the St. Janskerk in Utrecht … only works spatially when the viewer is situated at the proper distance point and directly opposite the vanishing point.”1 This insight provides, albeit obliquely, a neat segue to another group of paintings in this exhibition – Apostasy (Enrapture), Apostasy (Drift) and Looking at Vermeer. – where Winstanley depicts viewers observing paintings. In these works, the viewer (in the Kerlin) is looking at a painting (in the painting) from behind other viewers (who are depicted in the painting), conjuring a Chinese box effect which seems to ask: what does it mean to view? Are we drawn into the painting (within the painting) on its own merits, or is it the fact that someone else is looking at it that brings us in? Let’s be honest, who doesn’t feel more at ease, particularly in a gallery setting, when there are others present? In the two Apostasy works, some of the viewers in the painting are moving – an effect created by Winstanley through blurring of lines, in strong contrast to the precision seen elsewhere. This highlights the static, single perspective of the image on view in the painting while simultaneously reminding us that we can move around to find other vantage points. Is it any wonder that this exhibition can feel vertiginous at times? Looking at Vermeer (2017) feels less successful because it lacks this juxtaposition of motion and motionlessness, and indeed the remaining paintings add little to the delicious rollercoaster effect engendered by those discussed above. Metaphysic 1 and Metaphysic 2 do at least reference the gold leaf, which is an intrinsic element of the After Saenredam works, but Sunlit Birch is a jarring element that undermines the impact of the exhibition as a whole. For a body of work, which at first appears classically representational and easily interpretable, ‘Faith After Saenredam and Other Paintings’ is, in fact, a magnificent exercise in ambiguity. Even the title lends itself to multiple interpretation – the ‘after’ could mean both chronologically and as an homage. On reflection, the inclusion of ‘other paintings’ may well be a deliberate attempt to further confound the viewer, who is, after all, already being challenged on many levels. What’s one more spanner in the works, in an exhibition which is as layered as an optical illusion by Escher? Mary Catherine Nolan is a Dublin-based artist with a background in linguistics. Note 1. hnanews.org/archive
Paul Winstanley, Trial (After Saenredam), 2017; oil and gold leaf on gesso on panel; image courtesy of Kerlin Gallery
Bernadette Kiely ‘Memory Needs a Landscape’ Taylor Galleries, Dublin, 5 – 27 May 2017
Bernadette Kiely, No Fun Today, oil on canvas; image courtesy of the artist
THE relationship between rural Irish communities and the land is both pragmatic and poetic, played out through intimacy with its anatomy: fields, hedgerows, rights of way and historical provenance. Bernadette Kiely’s approach to landscape painting mines these psychological and physiological relationships as a site of labour, ownership and heritage. Traditional landscape painting tends to depict scenic views at the beginning or the end of the day, when people are absent and it is transformed into a form of poetry. For Kiely, daily labour provides inspiration in paintings that chronicle the cycle of farming life. In her recent exhibition, ‘Memory Needs a Landscape’, her subject is challenged by the most uncompromising grey shroud of a damp winter, which has encouraged an expansion in her stylistic range, evident in the inclusion of more abstracted and conceptually-based monotypes and more folkish and mystical paintings. The exhibition breaks with the solid painterly compositions that signified Kiely’s past work as she steps into unknown territories of flattened perspectives, washed surfaces and diminishing layers of thin paint. The transition is tentative and not yet resolved, but its inherent risk bears out through the artist’s skill and consistency across the exhibition. In each work, the original sketch remains evident as it untidily structures the painted forms between lines of smudged charcoal, graphite and paint. The effect is raw, reflecting a theme of coming to terms with change and adapting to an altered landscape, both in life and in art. Silence, River Nore documents the effects of unrelenting rainfall obliterating the horizon of the riverbank. In No Fun Today, a flooded playground sits at the literal and metaphorical edge of town and appears to be silently drifting downriver. It Could Be Graiguenamanagh I brings old-fashioned Irish humour to temper frustration at increasingly mercurial weather patterns. In The Past is Present, it’s the Future Too, a farm gate and tarpaulin-covered mound are barely visible through mist and smoke, while the shadow of a farm worker stands by. It is neither poetic nor beautiful, but, without needing to be literal, it captures the damp monotony of an Irish winter. A series of monotypes trace old ordnance maps with a convincing archival quality that implicates civil administration in the complex relationship between people and the land. The King’s River (and Church), Old Map Image I and II track a tributary of the Nore that once had seven working mills dotted along its banks. Shadow Trees I, Flooded Land II and V,
and Ground, County Home denote an artform that sits somewhere between cartography and drawing, pulling the viewer into an intimate investigation of detailed marks. Though brittle and threadbare, they convey the importance of title deeds and rights to land. Rising Water is the most surprising work, made from a deliberately naïve perspective in both an emotional and a graphic sense. Similar in function to an ordnance map, this work reflects the significance of recording geographic phenomenon for civic purposes. Embedded in the composition is key visual information outlining the vulnerability of the area to rising waters, marked out in the waterline on higher ground – knowledge that will be usefully referenced for drainage solutions in the future. Contrasting with this pictorial diagram, in Rising Waters, River Nore, Kiely has worked up an image of a flooded field with striking lucidity using only a minimal application of charcoal, white chalk and water. These works underpin the metaphysical aspect of Kiely’s approach to landscape painting and her implicit acknowledgement of the land as a precious and fragile resource. More poetic and allegorical are several paintings that focus on the spaces between tracts of working land: the boundaries of farms, the banks of rivers and, in one painting, a distant image of the mythically-significant Sliabh na mBan. Agricultural superstition in Ireland is extant where farmers sprinkle holy water along the edges and corners of fields to prevent piseogs from ruining their crops and livestock. The co-existence of modern farming with these practices highlights the elemental and sometimes contradictory nature of how farming communities think and feel about the land. Kiely paints The Garden I, Fading Landscape and Fading Memories in soft-focus, with feathery trees and undergrowth blurred by a mystical haze. When compared to weightier paintings such as Welcome to Claregalway II, the world they depict gradually materialises, just as the otherworlds of Túatha de Dannan and Tir Na nÓg emerge in Irish mythology. Kiely has pushed her painting to a place that digs deep, trying to distinguish the intangible from the tangible. In doing so she creates a kind of visual doublethink in which collective memory, folklore and ritual are at odds with twenty-first-century farming, climate change and civil bureaucracy. Carissa Farrell is a writer and curator based in Dublin.
John Graham ‘Painting NOW’ Green on Red Gallery, Dublin, 25 April – 22 July 2017 PAINTING, despite the implied immediacy of the title, doesn’t happen all at once. Between them, the nine gallery artists here – not all primarily painters – have been doing it for about 150 years. For the viewer, it can be a slow game too, that exclamatory ‘NOW’ perhaps better phrased as ‘now and then and again’. Currency aside, the more specific thing shared by this eclectic grouping is the room itself – a very large, overtly raw gallery space overlooking the rapidly changing landscape of Dublin’s Docklands. Ramon Kassam’s Gallery (2015) is a predominantly white acrylic painting on two unequally-sized linen panels. In black vinyl lettering near the top of the right-hand panel, the word ‘gallery’ appears. Below it, the artist’s name wraps around onto the left panel, in the distinctive style of the gallery logo. As the subject of the painting becomes the wall it hangs upon (so to speak), we’re reminded of how paintings can obscure reality, while feigning to show us things as they really are. If Kassam’s painting is gallery-bound, Mark Joyce often breaks free of such contexts. Joyce’s work appears as painted panels in a Connecticut woodland (staged at the Albers Foundation in 2007) or as a series of coloured columns on a motorway interchange in south Dublin, Wave (2009). The Ballyconnell Colours (after Dermot Healy) (2017) consists of variously coloured bands on unprimed linen. Rainbow-like curves are painted and repainted, creating a kaleidoscopic effect, as though refracted through a series of second thoughts. Made with pure pigment, charcoal and animal fat, two drawings by Nigel Rolfe are the products of live performances in Poland and France. Like Kassam’s Gallery, their titles appear as pictorial content
Damien Flood, Anomaly Garden, 2017, 150 x 125 cm
within the work, their respective phrases, Hide in Dark Corners (2017) and Democracy is Broken (2017), repeatedly drawn and erased. On the gallery’s concrete floor, an unlisted work consists of a sheet of paper with a black spiral motif. Objects around it – bowls of pigment, a measuring jug, a wrapped stick – testify to actions we might witness or conjure in our heads. While John Cronin and Caroline McCarthy both make paintings with a certain wow factor, each artist brings a different approach to the act of painting itself. Reimagining everyday materials, McCarthy seems all about control, the verisimilitude of her painted tapes on canvas allied to a conceptual acuity. Her two small acrylic paintings, Bloom, Bloom and Cascade (both 2016) are remarkably accomplished. Cronin, in some respects, is about the loss of control, his liquid paint smeared and poured across vast, smooth surfaces. Cronin’s ZXX NO.13 (2016) is characteristic of his recent RHA show, its veils of oil paint arrested like a translucent screengrab, or a blown up, microscopic slide. Cronin’s title refers to anxieties around technologies of seeing. A short video work by Mary Fitzgerald is called Canthus (2016), a word denoting the corner of the eye, hinting at another kind of optical anxiety. Presented within a picture frame, a fixed shot of a misty headland gradually dissolves and reconstitutes. First shown at the Crawford Gallery in the company of paintings by Paul Henry, it seems out of place here, its play of correspondence lost in this setting. Several of these artists have been showing with Green on Red since its halcyon days in Fitzwilliam Square. Fergus Martin’s paintings often looked their best there, the Georgian rooms a perfect foil for the naked exactitude of his painted oblongs. Untitled (2017) is almost three metres long, but only 41 centimetres high. On a fabricated aluminium panel, a silvery-grey area extends across the lower section and upwards at both ends to configure an elongated ‘u’. The work has a machined perfection, but I prefer his paintings on canvas. The unyielding metal support is like armour on skin: invulnerable but less seductive. A two-part mural, Kavalier and Clay, was first presented in ‘Just Left of Copernicus’, Niamh McCann’s solo show at VISUAL, Carlow, in 2015. An Aer Lingus air hostess – like a figure from a Soviet propaganda poster – is emblematic of brighter horizons, but as the paint she’s made from drips down the wall, her sangfroid is quietly undone. On an adjacent wall, a more bamboozling figure rests, hooded, vaguely labial, transforming into a fish or a snake. Named after Michel Chabon’s 2000 novel The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, McCann’s habit of conflating narratives is not always easy to follow. Damien Flood is also inscrutable at times. The billowing shapes and bird-like forms of Avery (2017) drift across the shallow space of the canvas, opening up here and there, to a background of tumbling ovoids. Reminiscent of Joan Miro, an adroit juggling of the material and the illusionistic adds a surprising physicality to Flood’s laconic surrealism. In his second painting, a hard-edged triangle plays against softer forms. Suggesting cultivated difference, the title, Anomaly Garden (2017), might serve as well for the show overall. John Graham is an artist based in Dublin.
Caroline McCarthy, Cascade, 2016, 60 x 40 cm
‘International Ireland: Irish & International Art from the Ulster Museum Collection 1890 – 2016’ Ulster Museum, Belfast,10 February – 3 September 2017
‘International Ireland: Irish & International Art from the Ulster Museum Collection 1890 – 2016’; installation view; image courtesy of the Ulster Museum
THERE’S an implicit understanding of the museum’s finite resources and loaded remit when viewing a permanent collection show. The limited pool from which these exhibitions are curated often leads to a loose circle being drawn around the works, its content used to simultaneously demonstrate and educate. It becomes a balance of signposting and illustrating, where singular artworks are laden with significance, denoting the development of an artist’s full career or even those of their peers. When seen repeatedly in different configurations, pieces can easily be experienced as historical artefacts rather than artworks. The spectrum of contact an audience will have with a permanent collection is huge, yet heightened exposure to works does no favours for broad exhibition making. The influence of international art and modernism on Irish work is such an allencompassing premise that I struggled to experience this exhibition distinctly from past and even surrounding shows. If previously unseen by a viewer, it would still be difficult for 31 works to ‘fulfil’ the vast reach of the exhibition’s title. Instead they become like stills representative of an unknown, feature-length film: not demonstrative but signalling something that could be more thoroughly explored, should you be so inclined. The exhibition is loosely organised both chronologically and thematically, with each work contextualised by a short text. This format often connects the paintings with artistic influences, perhaps a fellow artist who is more widely known than the one presented. Some blurbs are repeated across more than one artwork, some not; others feature trivia that’s irrelevant. In trying to strike a balance between justifying the placement of works and highlighting important connections for the uninitiated, the effect is focused for some clearly key artists, but is listless in places. It abandons continuity – perhaps rightly – and places many of the works at the edges of various historical art movements. The first space showcases artistic departures from figuration and landscape into Cubism, Impressionism and Fauvism, most prominently by Mainie Jellett in Seated Female Nude and Abstract, and Roderic O’Conor in View of Pont-Aven and Field of Corn, Pont-Aven. This selection is punctuated by some of Jellett’s more abstract paintings, with the volume of work allowing for some cross-comparison within her wider practice, and, to a lesser extent, that of O’Conor. A Cubist influence segues further into Patrick Swift’s Postiano, Mary Swanzy’s Samoan Scene and William Scott’s Aloes, where modernism’s freedom from strict representation shows the joy and alien brightness of botanical scenes. On the other side of the gallery, William Scott’s Brown Still life and Antoni Tapies’s Peinture Verte
counterbalance the explosive forms and colours of these tropical works. Yet they are visually echoed in Patrick Scott’s Yellow Device – painted in 1962 in protest at the testing of nuclear bombs – where paint is dripped on raw canvas in the colour field tradition. This painting is an example of how a limited permanent collection can find contemporary relevance through its own historiographic process of being housed in a museum environment. It’s a work that, through its political basis, shows more potently a passage through the chronology of this collection, and a ‘defanging’ that occurs in pictorialisation. The painting itself (and now its content) has become normalised – a marker for where history repeats itself. This process is echoed in Michael Farrell’s Presse Series with Cream. Palestinian flag colours are put through a juicer in a weirdly glib, pop-like abstraction, producing a reduction of then-current (and recurrent) politics. Yellow Device marks an abandonment of minidemonstrations of career-arcs and personal relationships between artists, and into singular American colour field and then place-based work. The latter is seen in Sean Scully’s painting Fourth Layer, Tooley Street, G.L. Gabriel’s S-Bahnhof Friendrichstrasse and Willie Doherty’s Apparatus. Unfortunately this isn’t capitalised, especially Doherty’s photographic works, deadening the alienation within them. Morris Louis’s Golden Age and Kenneth Noland’s Crystal show a process of object making that assimilates paint and canvas. They also offer colour field connections with William McKeown’s Untitled (2005), which is based on morning light, seemingly the crossover point of these themes. This particular painting’s abstracted and unfamiliar coolness of place is a deft counterpoint to the warmth underpinning the foreign scenes in the first room. Yet, while the exhibition commences by showcasing a forward-thinking art collection in the mid twentieth century, it gradually trails off. It finishes with the recent acquisition of I Overslept Until the Evening by Makiko Kudo. Under the exhibition theme, this work by a Japanese artist could be perceived as an aposiopesis on future Irish art influences, or a general loosening of influence to embrace introspection and alternative avenues of pop culture. As a whole, ‘International Ireland’ does what it sets out to: it ‘showcases’, yet its broad parameters seem self-defeating. However, certain artworks offer glimpses into how a more forthright use of the history-making function of museum collecting might offer a heightened sense of urgency for new and familiar artwork – and visitors – alike. Dorothy Hunter is an artist and writer based in Belfast.
The Visual Artists’ News Sheet CRITIQUE SUPPLEMENT
September – October 2017
Mark Swords ‘The Living & the Dead’ Temple Bar Gallery and Studios, Dublin, 15 April – 17 June 2017
Mark Swords, ‘The Living and the Dead’, installation view; image courtesy of Temple Bar Gallery and Studios and Peter Rowen
THE American street photographer Gary Winogrand said of his work: “I photograph to see what the world looks like in a photograph”. I thought of Winogrand and of this quote when visiting Mark Swords’s exhibition, ‘The Living and the Dead’, at Temple Bar Gallery and Studios (TBG + S), as it could be said that Swords paints pictures to see what his world looks like through painting. Swords uses his everyday life as his inspiration for the show. The paintings are about things that surround him, “things that are consciously or unconsciously always present”. Drawing on daily observations, he collects images of bric-a-brac from charity shops, his young daughter’s toys and drawings, as well as the objects and paraphernalia that surround him in the studio. All these elements are utilised in a playful manner and are presented as two large wall pieces that contain myriad visual ideas and painting approaches. These wall pieces are held together through his use of a wallpaper-style striped background on one wall and large black painted sheets on the other. The work operates extremely well in the gallery space. Two large assembled painting pieces draw the viewer in to examine their individual elements, perhaps in the way that one might pick through a charity shop, searching for little gems. The individual paintings are equally engaging, with a theatrical motif running through the works. Stages, sets and costumes are all referenced in the paintings. Much like theatre, the show itself is an immersive experience. According to Swords, the installation should be a place that brings elements together – narrative, colour and pattern – and where “everything becomes a play”. There is great attention given by Swords to pattern and pattern-making within the work. Echoes of Matisse can be seen in these paintings, yet it could be argued that the work challenges one of Matisse’s aesthetic positions: that “a work of art must be harmonious in its entirety”. In Swords’s work, composition and pattern-making are often in conflict with each other. One such example is Stock Required Urgently Please, a painting within a painting surrounded by other paintings. It creates a visual cacophony, an excess of pattern and design which is complimented by the more muted works on show. In these works, colour is redacted in a similar manner to the text pieces that he writes and then paints out. The assemblage of the paintings within the tableau seems carefully considered. I wonder if Swords might have purposefully blacked out
paintings as he went, in order to make them fit within the assemblage? If so, it was a fruitful exercise in considering the function of a painting within the larger scheme of an exhibition. The salon hang also avoids any obvious hierarchy among the paintings. The viewer can engage with the work from any position, while a connecting narrative is alluded to between the paintings. The paintings could be described as ‘faux naïve’, a style that has trended for a number of years largely through a resurgence of interest in the work of artists such as Forrest Bess and Etel Edan. It can be also seen in the work of Tal R and other international artists. The aesthetics of Outsider Art and its impact can be observed among the work emerging from art colleges of late as well. Arguably, its popularity can be understood through its apparent ease of construction. However, Swords has a naturally elegant touch with paint, which indicates the depth of his skill with a material that not everyone can handle as effectively as he can. The work asks the viewer to consider how we might see our everyday lives, how the smallest of incidents or observations can gain significance. The world that is conjured is one that acknowledges the fleeting nature of time. He creates a childlike view of an adult world. One particular painting, Family Magic Show, seems charged with this view. The magician waves from the depths of a child’s imagination, now carefully captured through the eye of the adult artist. The quality of children’s drawings, imbued as they are with a sense of joy and freedom, are also captured in the large painting Tapestry, where a child’s fantasy is played out complete with superman and glittery fairy costumes. The exhibition title ‘The Living and The Dead’ makes reference to James Joyce’s story The Dead, but another writer that springs to mind when viewing Swords’s work is Seamus Heaney, in particular his book The Human Chain, in which he reflects on the fleeting moments that shape our lives and our connections to each other: “A letting go which will not come again”. The title seems apt when one considers the everyday subject matter that Swords draws on to create narratives within the work. It reminds us that we are in a constant dialogue with our surroundings and that they continually confirm our existence in the world.
Dougal McKenzie ‘A Dream and an Argument’ The MAC, Belfast, 30 June – 8 October 2017 DOUGAL McKenzie is one of the finest painters working in Northern Ireland today and this major solo exhibition of new work at The MAC has been much anticipated. ‘A Dream and an Argument’ comprises a body of recent work by the Edinburgh-born artist, exploring key themes in his current practice: history, storytelling and memory. Inspired by recent trips to Edinburgh, McKenzie launched an investigation into his relationship with the city’s streets and landmarks, giving personal insights into different locations. Edinburgh University’s Old College Quad, for example, is recalled by the artist as the site of student riots which his father attended, a location for parts of James Mason’s 1959 film, Journey to the Centre of the Earth, and a place where McKenzie has watched his own son playing. The MAC’s Upper Gallery can be a difficult, perhaps even intimidating, space for an artist, particularly when work is wall-based, leaving the vast central space empty. However, McKenzie’s large-scale paintings confidently command the gallery, never screaming for our attention, but quietly emanating power, like a Pollock or a Rothko. The rich colour palette – and McKenzie really is a master of colour – is simultaneously vibrant and muted, with hot pinks, acid greens and putrid yellows washed with greys, browns and blacks. The majority of the paintings have some kind of figurative element: a man and woman in conversation; a boy playing; a group running down a street; a couple kissing in a heart-shaped bath. These figures draw us in to observe the true nuances of the work. Ghostly figures haunt the large canvases underneath layers of paint – hazy like memories – and the artist shows a sophisticated use of mise en scène which aids our understanding of the narratives at play. However, McKenzie’s work is difficult to fully appreciate without understanding his intentions, sources and references. The paintings can certainly be enjoyed by a casual viewer for their compositions and use of colour, but the specificity and complexity of the work requires further reading and engagement. I had a similar experience with McKenzie’s work when featuring it in the recent exhibition ‘Get’cha Head in the Game’ at the Naughton Gallery (6 April – 21 May 2017). The exhibition included two of his small paintings, read as a diptych, which were hung close together with a cotton dress draped over the corner of each. As described in the gallery’s printed guide, the works specifically referenced events at the Munich Olympics of 1972. Similarly, our understanding and appreciation of the exhibition at The MAC is significantly extended by the accompanying
printed material. While most exhibitions nowadays feature some sort of written introduction, for McKenzie’s work, this textual element feels like essential reading. We learn that the exhibition’s title is taken from a chapter of Allan Massie’s book The Ragged Lion, a part-fictional account of the life of Sir Walter Scott. (McKenzie also refers to re-reading Scott’s The Heart of Mid-Lothian on a recent trip to Edinburgh.) Both Massie and McKenzie weave together fact and fiction to present history and memory as simultaneously subjective and objective. The MAC provides a second handout, consisting of quotes from the artist about specific works in the exhibition. These quotations offer insights, not just into McKenzie’s references (I found the links to cinema particularly interesting), but also the physical production of the work: “…the painting was begun on a random red, green and blue ground which is still visible”; “This painting…began as a different work which is now beneath the fauxsatin cloth on the reverse”; “At a later stage in the painting, I decided to invert the figure and move it partially out of the frame”. Knowledge of McKenzie’s process contributes to a greater sense of engagement beyond subject matter, but such insights were not offered for all works in the exhibition, leaving about 50 percent of the paintings somewhat impenetrable. Whilst certainly not desiring to be told a work’s definitive meaning, I felt that more detail would have been beneficial. One of my favourite works was Set for Painting (Quad) (2017), a large-scale painting fixed to a freestanding timber structure. Jutting out from the wall at a 45-degree angle, this work slightly disrupted the exhibition’s linear hang and allowed the canvas to be read as sculptural, rather than simply a flat surface to be painted on. Another highlight was the aforementioned intimately-scaled painting of a man and woman bathing in a heart-shaped bath, the man’s legs outstretched over the edge of the tub as the woman – almost feline in her appearance, with what appear to be cat ears and whiskers – kisses him. The vibrant colours evoke the kitsch setting of a motel – somewhere like California’s famed Madonna Inn – but disappointingly, this work is one of those omitted from the gallery’s exhibition guide. I was keen to know more. Nonetheless, ‘A Dream and an Argument’ is an accomplished and confident exhibition of an undeniable international standard which comes at a very prolific stage in the artist’s career. Ben Crothers is the Curator/Collections Manager at the Naughton Gallery, Queen’s University Belfast.
Alison Pilkington is an artist who lives and works in Dublin. Installation view, ‘A Dream and an Argument’.; Dougal McKenzie, Set for Painting (Quad) 2017; Netherbow I & II (Mob), (2016-17); image courtesy of The MAC, Belfast
September – October 2017
The Visual Artists’ News Sheet CRITIQUE SUPPLEMENT
Diana Copperwhite ‘Crooked Orbit’ Kevin Kavanagh Gallery, Dublin, 1 June – 1 July 2017 adjectives like ‘discordant’ and ‘harmony’ when describing the tensions and contrasts inherent in her paintings. But music is music and painting is painting, and when we discuss discordance and harmony in terms of antonyms, painting is not in the same unforgiving register as music. The visual register is more subjective, while noise is… just noise. I notice straight away at Kevin Kavanagh that there’s no sign of Copperwhite’s signature paintslapped portraits – those featureless faces of hers that I have gravitated towards in past solo shows as a stabilising visual anchor. Feeling ‘scrooged’ by their absence pushes me to search out some other orientating subject hiding under the fat duvets of Copperwhite’s corrective abstraction. But everything here is lost in suggestion, like mauled figures lying in post-coital beds. Everything is Ibid. So, I call upon some referential history to orient myself. If the orbit were straight, it’d be boring. Broadly speaking, Copperwhite’s paintings augment postwar European and American painting and drawing. In her handling, however, the existentialism, expressionism and machismo of postwar famine-figuration, by, let’s say artists like Alberto Giacometti and Edward Hopper, have got all fat and luminous. Copperwhite’s figures aren’t collectively alone in a diner in Manhattan drinking coffee à la Hopper’s Nighthawks (1942), or chiseled away to a nub of unmovable humanity in the manner of Giacometti. Copperwhite’s figuration pushes against wads of paint like a knuckle sandwich pressed against a pinscreen toy. Virtuoso Romanian painter Adrian Ghenie comes to mind as a contemporary peer, but while Copperwhite is a miser of figurative detail and a miner of intuitive judgments, Ghenie provides a little more muscle and bone for our viewing pleasure. Copperwhite’s architectures cower under a deluge of colourful greys; her tubular spectrums and bunmuddy dialogue. The filmed conversations were dles of neon are smothered in a miasma of grey more centred around the general ‘whys?’ of painting indecision and uncertainty, looking like New and the painter, the nature and nurture of it all; Politics. Although there’s enough of those rocket painting as a verb rather than a noun. When I was asked to write a review of thrusters of atomic tangerine and Nighthawks green Copperwhite’s solo show, ‘Crooked Orbit’, at Kevin neon to soak up at Kevin Kavanagh, sometimes I Kavanagh Gallery – which meant confronting the think there’s too much chance and intuition and ‘whats?’ head on – I tossed and turned before accept- not enough precision and control in Copperwhite’s ing the invitation. What I discovered was that approach (that’s why I believe the artist’s incisive knowing the ‘whys?’ can colour your vision. But paint-slapped portraits are an essential element in a before we go there, first a description. (Note: I will solo presentation of her work). The title of the exhibition forces a double-take not be doing an obligatory round-robin description of each and every painting in the gallery because on the ground below and the sky above – our place when you describe one of Copperwhite’s paintings, between. And then to daydream: I am a kid again, you describe them all. Sounds harsh – a premature hovering in wonder above the planetary system critique before the window dressing – but this is the colourfully illustrated in some smelly encyclopedia case for most solo presentations of painting that of yore, and imagining what it looks and feels like lean on the side of abstraction. Painting like this beyond the Great Red Spot on Jupiter. But Copperwhite’s paintings – although still indebted defeats description). Composed of around 10 paintings, ranging in to a deep sense of wonder – are closer to the floor, scale from medium-sized to quite large (in Irish- closer to home, closer to the self. On film, Copperwhite described a first memopainting-scale terms), the initial impression of Copperwhite’s new body of work is that there is lit- ry in which she is reaching for a bundle of highlighttle variation in application, tone, form and composi- ers and her father blocks her approach. She then tion from one painting to the next. Like the way described what she perceived as an oppressive grey someone who is tone deaf to the nuances of ‘diddley- environment in contrast to the out-of-reach lumieye music’ might say: “It all sounds the same to me!” nosity of the highlighters. Look familiar? But such a musical analogy is not wasted here. Like Mondrian’s jazz-inspired Broadway Boogie James Merrigan is an artist and art critic based in Woogie (1943) or Kandinsky’s use of ‘compositions’, Waterford City. His film All or Nothing is also ‘impressions’ and ‘improvisations’ to title his paint- profiled in this issue of the VAN. iamnotapainter.com ings, Copperwhite also waxes lyrical with musical LET me begin by confessing something: over the course of the last two years, I have interviewed Diana Copperwhite twice on camera. During those conversations, we barely touched upon the formalist ‘whats?’ of her paintings in an effort to avoid
Diana Copperwhite, Crooked Orbit, 2017, oil on canvas, 56 x 71 cm
Diana Copperwhite, Relative Telepathy, 2017, oil on canvas, 170 x 180 cm
The Visual Artists’ News Sheet
HOW IS IT MADE?
Ronnie Hughes, Klikklak, 2015, acrylic co-polymer on cotton, 188 x 183 cm
Ronnie Hughes, Badass, 2016, acrylic co-polymer on canvas, 119 x 112 cm
Haptic Encounters in Painting MARTIN HERBERT INTERVIEWS RONNIE HUGHES ABOUT HIS TOURING EXHIBITION ‘STRANGE ATTRACTORS’.
Ronnie Hughes, Weaver, 2015, acrylic co-polymer on cotton, 188 x 183 cm; all images courtesy of the artist
September – October 2017
The Visual Artists’ News Sheet
September – October 2017
HOW IS IT MADE? like a random bunch of colours, I’ll often fret over for months, trying to get certain shades that appear in a balanced sequence. Painting is very much about material. The main thing that’s special for me about painting is the haptic experience and the touch quality of someone making something. I very much feel that a painting is a handmade object. It’s very different from seeing a reproduction of an image on a screen. I’m interested in play when I’m painting. There are not really tremendous rewards from being an artist a lot of the time, but one of the greatest rewards is when you can be involved in your own work – that’s a fantastic and important aspect: to spend time doing what you enjoy. MH: The classic question: how do you know when a painting is finished? RH: Very few paintings are safe forever. If they come back to the studio, they can often be changed. These days, I typically stop working on a painting for six months before I let it out of the studio. If I’m in the studio and I feel that I’m doing something habitual then I’ll try and knock it sideways, spoil it or add something, to try and give me a different set of obstacles to work with. The problem is that after a certain length of time you can’t but help end up making things that look like your work, no matter how hard you try to avoid it! But that’s a paradox that most artists have to deal with. MH: You live in rural Sligo, yet the colours in your recent paintings are very synthetic and almost deliberately artificial. When and how did this element enter your work? RH: When I moved to Sligo first, all these forms, shapes and colours from the landscape came into my work. I didn’t really recognise it at the time, but I can see it very clearly now. Over the last eight years, the Ronnie Hughes, ‘Strange Attractors’ installation view, The Model, Sligo (left to right): The Space Between, Detonate, Propus I-III work is just getting more artificial in terms of the colours and the colour relationships. When I made the switch from working with oil paints to using acrylics, my main focus for a while was making them Martin Herbert: Perhaps we could start with a simple question: it’s there as a kind of energy. Colour is a very important aspect of my look like they were oil paintings, which I realised one day was quite Why did you choose the title ‘Strange Attractors’ for this work and colour is always very relational; it doesn’t exist by itself. ridiculous. I’m interested in this idea of plasticity and using a plastic Certain hues become notes that you can’t deal with. You have to make medium, so at one point I just decided to be a bit braver about the exhibition? Ronnie Hughes: As some people might know, it’s a term from Chaos things more subtle or nuanced, shift them sideways or make them colour that I would use. Theory. I’ve had a layman’s interest in science and science fiction for come alive in some way. years. Attractors are determinants within a given system that cause it MH: Are you interested in acknowledging known paradigms in to take a certain kind of form, while a strange attractor is one that has MH: Your works have the feel of diagrams that don’t explain abstract painting? a fractal dimension. It’s a sequential or mathematical relationship, in anything and that unravel as you look. There’s quite a lot of RH: Sometimes you make things and they look like other people’s part, that I like to use as an analogue for what happens in the doubt in these works. Is this personal or universal? work. This is often problematic within abstract painting. Sometimes paintings. For years, chaos was something that people didn’t RH: I was born in 1965 and there was this sense, in the books I read as you pitch things and then subvert them, and other times you do it understand. It was mystical, immeasurable and awesome in a fearful a kid, of a futuristic utopia. I used to fantasise about Disneyland, where completely subconsciously. Occasionally, you see other people’s work way. The natural entropy that builds in a swinging pendulum was you could find hover-rail trains, automated robots and so on. I was also scream out at you; it’s a question of whether you can deal with that largely ignored by Newtonian physics until someone recognised that an avid Star Trek fan. I take pleasure in diagrams and graphic designs and you just have to make the choice on an individual basis. there is a pattern that goes behind things. That sense of a pattern from the 1960s, which manifest in the work, but are counterbalanced. running throughout existence is something that I have always been I often create structures and expectations but then undermine them. I MH: Am I right in saying that the most recent works in the show fascinated by. It’s something that’s central, not just to art, but to all paint something that looks like a grid, then you realise it’s not a grid at are all drawings? branches of human activity: to try to make sense of the mystical. But all – it’s been knocked sideways in some way. I think painting, RH: I typically can’t work on two things at one time. If I’m painting, I’m then there’s also this implied pun, that I see the paintings themselves compared to many other artforms, is very slow, in terms of how it’s painting. I’ve been working quite intensely for a long time, so I took a as strange attractors because they are quite colourful and optically made, but also in terms of its reception. Ideally, you’d like to be in front break and decided to do some drawing. Drawing is interesting because interesting, as well as there being a strangeness about why they exist. of a painting time after time and let it unfold in different ways. That’s you generate things in a different way. The drawings in this show are the way I make paintings, hoping that they will unfold in that way, but small scale and were made quite quickly. Some of the drawings may MH: Something that is relatively consistent is that you work accepting that people don’t always have the chance to experience have taken up to a week to make, which is nothing compared to the with geometry, but it’s a very humanised geometry: your grids them like that. five years it can take to bring certain paintings to fruition. For me, are off and things that look very regular to start with have this drawing and painting are separate, but drawing is implicit in painting MH: How do you start a new painting? humanised quality. Is that an autobiographical impulse? anyway. It’s very difficult to get away from the idea of drawing. RH: It may be. I had a very particular early life in terms of where I grew RH: When I was younger, I would start with an idea or an intention, up. There’s no question that for anyone being creative, there are but that doesn’t really happen too much anymore. It’s quite random in Martin Herbert is a writer and critic living in Berlin. He is always forces that are trying to express themselves. I do feel that, even some ways. I usually work with wood now, and there may be little associate editor of ArtReview and a regular contributor to though I make abstract paintings, they are very definitely expressive. glitches on the wood, so that’s enough for me to see if there’s a pattern Artforum, Frieze and Art Monthly. Ronnie Hughes is an When I create a painting that I momentarily feel is successful, it’s between the notches. I’ll mark them and draw lines between them or internationally-renowned Irish artist who lives in County Sligo usually because there’s a moment of tension in it. I’m always aware of separate them and that’s how it starts. In my paintings, there could be where he is a lecturer in Fine Art at Sligo Institute of Technology. the onset of a system falling apart, or of a sense of entropy or violence all sorts of layers happening underneath the finished surface. I work in Note interview is an edited version of a public conversation that took place between Ronnie Hughes a certain way that means I can pour paint over the surfaces so I can This suspended, and that’s a recurring note in my work. and Martin Herbert on 15 April 2017 at The Model, Sligo. ‘Strange Attractors’ is curated and toured by suppress things completely. I’m always fishing around, waiting to find The Model in partnership with Limerick City Gallery of Art and the Royal Hibernian Academy, Dublin. The project has been supported through the Arts Council’s Touring and Dissemination of Work something. If it doesn’t work out, you can sometimes turn it in another Scheme. The exhibition was previously presented at The Model (16 April - 22 June) and Limerick City MH: Why circles, for example? Gallery of Art (29 June - 27 August) and will show at the RHA, Dublin, from 7 September to 22 October RH: There are a number of motif type things that happen in my work, direction and find interest elsewhere. 2017. such as geometrical lines, grids, triangles, circles, spheres and occasionally ellipses. To create an agency in people’s minds, you have MH: Do you have a consistent process? to create a figurative situation. I used to make these lozenge or ovoid The thing about the process is that you can’t decide to make a specific type shapes, which I think came from the west of Ireland landscape. I painting, because you can’t even imagine it at that stage – it hasn’t see circles as primary shapes that are very nonreferential, but they previously existed in any way, even as an idea. I have a painting wall start off as a kind of pulse point. When you paint a particular colour, in my studio and I work on multiple paintings at once. What looks
The Visual Artists’ News Sheet
September – October 2017
Existential Observers MARK O’KELLY DISCUSSES ASPECTS OF PORTRAIT PAINTING IN IRELAND.
Blaise Smith, Eight Scientists, 2016, oil on gesso panel; collection of the Royal Irish Academy; commissioned as part of Accenture’s ‘Women on Walls’ Campaign; winner of the US Council/Irish Arts Review Portraiture Award 2017; image courtesy of the artist
Shiela Rennick, The Doggers, 2014, acrylic on paper; image courtesy of Hillsboro Fine Art
Geraldine O’Neill, John Rocha (b.1953), Designer, 2015, oil on linen; commissioned for the National Portrait Collection; image courtesy of National Gallery of Ireland
The Visual Artists’ News Sheet
September – October 2017
Nick Miller, Last Sitting Portrait of Barrie Cooke, 2013; image courtesy of the artist and the National Gallery of Ireland
EARLY portraiture can be viewed as an historical instrument of class identification, patriarchal gaze and institutional hegemony. It could also be argued that, over the years, important significations of portraiture have been exploited and aesthetically challenged through the deconstructive approaches of key historical and contemporary Irish artists. This complex field has huge public appeal and carries immense prestige for artist and subject at the level of national identity, recognition and status. The historical context for contemporary Irish portraiture and the breadth of current practice have been highlighted in a range of recent events: the Freud Project at IMMA; the reopening of the National Portrait Collection; and numerous high-profile portrait commissions by the Royal Irish Academy (RIA), the National Gallery and the Hennessy Portrait Prize. The specific genre of portrait painting in Ireland has been largely sustained through the work of the Royal Hibernian Academy (RHA). Such ongoing efforts to collect, exhibit and commission portraiture attest to the importance of the genre within many of this country’s most important institutions. Irish portraiture has, by virtue of its practice, innovated the process of commissioning: practical fulfilment of criteria generally conveys the significance of the sitter’s esteem or office as part of a strategy to celebrate national life in general. At the same time, in a parallel postmodern development, the commitment to producing a likeness of the sitter has increasingly been dispensed with. The cultural context and the historical agency of the subject (portraiture itself), as a paradigm of political and social capital, have become the artist’s main frame of reference. In contemporary visual culture, pictures and portraits flatten out hierarchies of either fame or achievement and, in so doing, undercut linear approaches to the subject. Nowadays, the criteria determining achievement and notoriety are less clear cut. These conditions not only reprioritise the motivations behind choosing the subjects of portraiture but also drive practices of painting which utilise the image of the person to ends other than veneration and commemoration. ARCHIVAL TRADITIONS The commissioned portrait relates to the archive according to customs governing an index registrar of state. A good example is the commissioning of a portrait of every serving Taoiseach, producing a relatively simple customary requirement for the visual record of government. Reflecting the complexity of an evolving society, more complex commissioning criteria are now commonplace regarding the election of both sitter and artist. Consequently, in the field of portraiture today, public and private interests compete to register and authorise more socially inclusive and politically diverse figures of authority for commendation. Historically significant and accomplished portrait paintings by
Irish artists continue to convey a mastery of technical detail in describing the sitter’s likeness and the context of their achievements. Many officially commissioned portraits specify the accurate depiction of vestments, symbols of office and other regal insignia. Following in this tradition, Irish artists of rigour and commitment include Carey Clarke, James Hanley and Conor Walton – true image-makers in paint and perception who persist in innovation through distinct signature styles. Similarly, Mick O’Dea is a relentless portrait artist, but, in pursuing images beyond presidents and chairs, he has developed a more personal archive of portraiture. Through many projects of his own design, O’Dea has increased the circle of social inclusion in his eclectic and ever generous practice. O’Dea’s 2013 portrait of the artist Stephen McKenna (1939 – 2017) is a notably moving example of his ability to negotiate such paradoxes of affinity and affiliation. The painting gently acknowledges McKenna’s institutional legacy but primarily foregrounds his presence as an artist in a studio. Viewed from a similar moment of contemporary hindsight, Nick Miller’s affirmative portrait of the late Barrie Cooke (1931 – 2014) also provides an important historical record, not least in terms of friendships between artists. Miller’s Last Sitting: Portrait of Barrie Cooke (2013) conveys Cooke’s presence in a direct and uninhibited encounter and was awarded the Hennessy Portrait Prize in 2014. By contrast, following the example of painters such as Lucian Freud, sitters often remain unnamed, the paintings testament to the artist as existential observer. However, Freud’s complex painting of Queen Elizabeth II is an exceptional work which contradicts this characteristic approach, driven to an extreme image realisation in his request that she suffer the duress of wearing the weighty crown of England for the duration of the sitting. It seems significant that 2016 – a year of Irish commemoration – saw the establishment of the Freud Project at IMMA. The portraits on show emphasise an Irish legacy to Freud’s oeuvre, much in the way that the transposition of Bacon’s studio to Dublin in 1998 reasserted an Irish dimension to post-war British figurative painting. In this way, the portraits themselves will no doubt deepen the dialogue surrounding the Anglo-Irish milieu depicted in Freud’s work, including familial histories, sporting achievements and other examples of cultural exchange between our neighbouring states. In a survey of Irish portrait painting, globally accelerated and conflicting image-agendas are influential factors, especially when one considers the all-pervading presence of photography and digital imagery. In Colin Davidson’s 2015 painting of the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel: In Abstentia, commissioned for the cover of Time Magazine, we can observe many complex factors at work. The influence of Freud on Davidson is evident in his equivocation of the immediacy and materiality of paint. This painting is also a significant cultural landmark and succeeds in addressing subjects wider in scope than the depiction of person and place, expanding the structural paradigm of Davidson’s practice as painter-auteur. It functions as a point of origin for widespread mediation and signifies the dividing/ unifying paradox of the European project as perceived by a Northern Irish artist. The portrait manifests the gendered artistic and political identities at stake in the performance of painting. Davidson’s heroic artistic project becomes the embattled lens through which EastGerman-born Merkel’s stabilising presence comes to be globally visible. Geraldine O’Neill was commissioned by the National Gallery of Ireland in 2015 to paint a portrait of the Hong-Kong-born fashion designer John Rocha. Rocha has lived in Ireland since the late 1970s and was awarded a CBE in 2002. In O’Neill’s full-length portrait, he is depicted informally in an interior setting that suggests a draped studio, consistent with O’Neill’s abundant paintings of brightlycoloured studio interiors, often warmly inhabited by family members. In this painting, O’Neill’s characteristically robust structuring of space and her use of a muted colour palette is attuned to Rocha’s minimalist sensibility. This mediates a conceptual alignment between divergent aesthetic agendas – linked to craft, surface and colour, as well as implied cultural transactions – that are highlighted through the depiction of Rocha’s materials. RECENT COMMISSIONS Beyond the significant new portrait commissions by established Irish artists, younger artists are beginning to get a crack of the whip. The Hennessey Portrait Prize recently commissioned Gerry Davis – who won the 2016 award with his intimate portrait of fellow artist Seán
Guinan – to make a portrait of All-Ireland championship hurler Henry Shefflin. The portrait was installed in the National Gallery – the first time a GAA player has ever been included in the collection. Davis is a forensically accomplished painter. In the two paintings cited, his range of focus, from close-up to infinite distance, conveys the ‘airspace’ inhabited by the subjects, lending a temporal poignancy of heroic melancholy. Another artist who has made remarkable contributions to the expanded field of portraiture in Ireland is Vera Klute, who won the Hennessey Portrait in 2015. One of Klute’s most tender works is her official portrait of Sister Stanislaus Kennedy, commissioned by the National Gallery in 2014 in recognition of her life’s work as a campaigner for social justice. Klute was also invited to develop four new portraits for the RIA’s ‘Women on Walls’, a commissioning project that sought to “make women leaders visible” through a series of new portraits. Klute’s sensitively observed portraits depict eminent historical Irish female scientists – the first female members of the RIA – elected in 1949 (164 years after The RIA was first established). Perhaps the most outstandingly original work of portraiture to be completed in recent years in Ireland is Blaise Smith’s group portrait, Eight Scientists (2016), also developed for ‘Women on Walls’. This painting has been the subject of much commentary and celebration, both for its technical accomplishment and the way in which it imaginatively communicates the spirit and personality of its subjects. Smith’s rationale behind the portrait was to promote notable achievements among leading female scientists in Ireland today. His composition is witty, original and skilful and is significant because it reinvents the genre of academic group portraiture according to our times. Each figure depicted in the painting appears to possess special powers, their dynamic research discoveries wielded bodily like magical totems, mythologising these female scientists as superhero archetypes – the ‘X-Women’ of Irish science. NARRATIVE GESTURES Aside from the conventional matrix of commissioning and the depiction of notable sitters, many Irish artists paint faces and figures as important central motifs of their practice. As in Freud’s works, the sitter is often unidentified and the historical model of the genre itself evoked for narrative and dialogical effect. Genieve Figgis is another prolific Irish artist who has become internationally recognised for her paintings, which make reference to the ‘big houses’ and landed gentry of imperial history. Anglo-Irish culture and literature frame Figgis’s work, pointing to familiar narratives of identity made ubiquitous through art and costumed period drama. Her work reimagines the art historical canon of portrait painting as a nightmare of darkly comic satires, in which Rorschach-style abstraction conjures figures of colonial whimsy according to the dictates of historical cliché. Her paintings appropriate from all manner of portrait iconology, subjecting the genre itself to a systematic evacuation of its contextual historical fetishes, biases and privileges. Sheila Rennick is another iconoclast whose work addresses questions on how the human subject is approached in contemporary terms. In Rennick’s work, idiomatic likenesses and the durational process of optical analysis are dispensed with in favour of a gestural approach and palette, not unlike the aesthetic posture of Austrian painter and perpetual self-portraitist Maria Lassnig or the neoexpressionist Philip Guston. Characterised by freewheeling compositions, feckless improvisation and the abject application of thick impasto, Rennick’s loud and bawdy paintings are concerned with eliciting empathy for the marginalised subcultures she depicts. In her double portrait The Doggers (2014) – runner-up in last year’s Marmite Prize for Painting – the masked lovers return our judgmental gaze, in a composition reminiscent of a television screen, creating a fly-on-the-wall frame for deviant, alienated identities, made only partially visible to our world via broadcast media. Mark O’Kelly is an artist who lives and works in Dublin and Limerick. He is a lecturer in Fine Art at Limerick School of Art and Design (LSAD). His work is the outcome of a practice of research that explores the space between the photographic document and the cosmetic image. markokelly.ie
The Visual Artists’ News Sheet
HOW IS IT MADE?
Biographical Landscapes JOANNE LAWS INTERVIEWS ELIZABETH MAGILL ABOUT HER PAINTING PRACTICE.
Elizabeth Magill, Headland, 2016–17, oil and silkscreen on canvas; image courtesy Hugo Glendinning and the artist
Elizabeth Magill, Return, 2016, oil and collage on canvas; image courtesy of Hugo Glendinning and the artist
September – October 2017
The Visual Artists’ News Sheet
September – October 2017
HOW IS IT MADE? break away from the tranquillity (and historical baggage) of the pastoral scene? EM: The startling or supernatural elements you refer to may just be a signature of temperament. I’m not sure. I guess I’m attracted to contrasting elements and pivotal times of day, like dawn or dusk, where one could easily tip into the other; the darkness threatening to consume the light, or vice versa. For me this sets up some sort of visual friction or the potential for events to unfold. It seems to me that, as night falls, the sky can often appear so bright, in stark contrast with the darkness of the land. It’s always a real struggle for me to bring my work into a place that fully resonates with how I feel, think and interpret the world. I try to create a percussion of different elements that coexist. I like the finished work to somehow appear open to possibility, but finite too. JL: There is an almost batique-like quality to some of your recent paintings, with the surfaces resembling cracked wax, while other works employ printmaking processes. As a painter, how do you approach surface? EM: The surface of the work is something that can hold visual attention and perhaps meaning. The texture is a fully integrated part of the painting and yet a separate thing in itself. It is achieved through a build-up of diluted oil paint and mark-making, often over many months, sometimes years, until I reach a sense of place or something semi-believable to continue working with. The canvas never feels complete until this surface quality becomes a visual entity in itself. With recent works, I’ve created another type of surface by using silkscreen printing on top of the painted canvas. With this introduction, I’ve found direct ways to incorporate my photographs into the painted area. This in turn sets up a dialogue between painting and the photographic image or blurs the boundary between the two genres.
Elizabeth Magill, Along, 2016 –17; image courtesy of the Wilkinson Gallery and the artist
Joanne Laws: Can you describe your studio setting and your painting routine? Elizabeth Magill: My studio is in a complex with other artists run by the organisation ACME in East London. It’s a 700-square-foot white cube with light coming in from the south and looking onto Mill Row, a narrow one-way street shadowed by a four-storey brown brick and grey concrete block of council flats, built in the 1970s. I’ve been here for a long time, so I’m used to this view. I like its low-level visual interference. I also have a smaller workspace on the Antrim coast, but when I’m there, I just seem to stare at the beautiful views overlooking the sea. My routine is intermittent, as I am often running around doing other things. I’ve had more condensed studio periods in the past, when I’d work for at least six days a week, sometimes working all day and into the night, but this isn’t me anymore. JL: I read somewhere that you don’t necessarily refer to yourself as a landscape painter and yet a lifelong commitment to landscape is evident in your work. What national landscapes do you tend to draw on, if any? EM: I’m preoccupied with the genre of landscape as a way to explore the language of art, the possibilities of painting and ideas around personal biography. For me it seems to offer a space to try to think about the bigger picture and what it means to be a part of this world. The landscape that enters into my work mostly comes from the geographic features around the Glens of Antrim where I grew up. This seems to have provided me with some kind of a visual backdrop. This particular corner of Ireland is scenically quite beautiful but the history there often seems at odds, or in conflict, with this natural beauty. The late, great John Berger, in his last publication, Landscapes: John Berger on Art, wrote: “Sometimes a landscape seems less a setting for the life of its inhabitants than a curtain behind which their struggles, achievements and accidents take place… landmarks are no longer only geographical but also biographical and personal”. JL: Which aspects of the traditional landscape-painting canon interest you most? EM: There are many artists that I admire who specifically fall into this more ‘traditional’ category of landscape painting. To name a few I’d include Van Gogh, Cezanne, Turner, Courbet, Munch, Balka, Constable, Whistler, Corot and many nineteenth-century Russian artists, especially Levitan. I also really like the landscape paintings of Kurt
JL: Architecture and figures are rarely depicted in your landscapes. Is this a deliberate focus on the awe-inspiring vastness of nature Schwitters, when he lived in rural Norway after fleeing Nazi Germany. beyond a more humanised scale? Contemporary artists I like whose paintings also embody landscape EM: Although my work is perceived as uninhabited, figures and include Per Kirkeby, Gerhard Richter, Ed Ruscha, Richard Long, Peter buildings often appear. I try to work with these elements in such a way Doig and Chris Ofili, perhaps Keifer’s early works, Mamma Andersson that they don’t become too dominant a feature. I find that if a and Neo Rauch. But I’m just as interested in photographers, especially manmade structure or figure is the main focus of attention, the overall Annelies Strba, Thomas Struth and some Victorians such as Henry work can be compromised, with the landscape becoming secondary or Peach Robinson, Oscar Gustave Rejlander, and Clementina Hawarden. a backdrop for some implied narrative. However, a number of years ago I visited the studio buildings that Henry Moore had built in the JL: Literature, particularly Irish literature, is an art form that has village of Much Hadham, in Hertfordshire, England, known locally as grappled with the complexities of landscape over time. Does this ‘Hogsland’. I find studios are like centres where thoughts and art can influence your work at all? form internally. Perhaps inside an artist’s head, there’s a ‘studio’ of EM: With my photographic and printing interests, and my use of thoughts going on all the time. In 2016, I completed a painting titled several different mediums, I try to create a sense of hybridity in my Hogsland, placing the structure of Moore’s studio building at the centre work, so it can’t be easily contained in one discourse. Experimental of my canvas like a hub of ideas. This train of thought also had some modernist Irish writers Beckett and Joyce have hugely influenced my influence with the title of my upcoming touring exhibition ‘Headland’. thinking with their incredible talent for holding onto the structure of Headland is a geographical landmark (often seen from a distance) that, their stories whilst seemingly throwing them up in the air. It’s this for me, also represents the mental processes that go on in one’s mind. confidence with language, mixed with a healthy disregard and a love of the medium, that I try to emulate. Other books that have enriched Elizabeth Magill was born in Canada, raised in the North of my thinking, especially in relation to landscape, could be described as Ireland and lives in London. She is represented by Anthony semi-wanderings or journalistic observations. Wilkinson, London, and the Kerlin Gallery, Dublin. I Crossed the Minch by Louis MacNeice was a commissioned travel book he undertook in the spring and summer of 1937 when visiting Magill’s solo exhibition, ‘Headland’, is curated and toured by the Western Isles of Scotland. It turned out to be a kind of irreverent Limerick City Gallery of Art (LCGA) in partnership the RHA, jaunt. However, contrasting the physical and emotional difficulties Dublin, and the Ulster Museum, Belfast. The project has been MacNeice encountered, he concludes his book with an incredibly supported through the Arts Council’s Touring and Dissemination moving poem, On Those Islands, which transforms the harshness he of Work Scheme. The exhibition will launch at LCGA on 8 experienced into a profound portrayal of a people and their all-butSeptember 2017, with an introduction by Dr. Barbara Dawson, vanished culture at the water’s edge. Simon Schama’s Landscape and Director of the Hugh Lane Gallery, Dublin. The exhibition will Memory, Roger Deakin’s Wildwood: A Journey Through Trees and The subsequently be presented at the RHA from 18 January 2018 and Rings of Saturn by W.G. Sebald also relate to travel, both geographic and the Ulster Museum from May 2018 onward. The artist will be in of the mind. I also enjoyed Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, Truman conversation with Stephen Snoddy on Saturday 9 September at Capotes’s In Cold Blood, J.M. Coetzee’s In the Heart of the Country, 12 noon in LCGA. Flannery O’Connor’s, Wise Blood and Adam Nicholson’s, Sea Room. I elizabethmagill.com like the way these writers create a strong sense of place, evocatively but firmly rooting the reader in another world. JL: For me, your landscape paintings often feature startling, unnatural or even supernatural elements: an ominous glow, an implied explosion or stray components such as a syntheticallycoloured tree. Is there a sense that you are trying to subvert or
The Visual Artists’ News Sheet
September – October 2017
Natasha Conway, Self Preservation, 2014, oil on linen on panel, 40 x 45 cm
Denis Kelly, Untitled (Pink Brown Green), 2016, oil on found wood on birch plywood
Fresh Paint VALERIA CEREGINI INTERVIEWS THREE PAINTERS EXHIBITING AT PALLAS PROJECTS/STUDIOS IN 2017. Valerie Ceregini: Can you describe your research material and your painting techniques? Colm Mac Athlaoich: My painting technique is automatic and often impulsive. I will build up a painting and proceed to over paint the composition until something begins to form. This process forces me to tackle form and colour in an improvised fashion. I need to draw from memorised research material when working in this way, not always, but most of the time. Natasha Conway: For me, painting is a form of research. The studio should be like a laboratory, a place where I can learn and discover as I go and where accidents and unplanned things are an important part of the process. This can be quite playful or occasionally brutal and is at the core of everything I make. As an undergrad, I devoured books on painting only to reaffirm the fact that, for me, ideas come through physically making work. Denis Kelly: My paintings are inspired by the geometry of the outside world. As a starting point, I do a sketch, take a photograph or make a note of something that I have seen. Generally, it is about being attentive to daily experience where elements of architecture or design play a leading role. A railing, a gate, a doorway or light and shadow on a building all have the potential to generate responses in my work. In other cases, a painting may come from a previously made painting, where I wish to further explore a certain nuance of form or colour.
VC: As a painter, how do you approach formal elements like composition, colour, palette and surface? CMA: I believe most people have a built-in colour palette and composition setting, which may change from time to time but is always there. I find myself referring to mine subconsciously a lot, but I’m conscious that there are some blatant influences from artists like Bonnard, Vuillard and Gauguin that I’m not even going to try to hide. NC: My materials are simple and fairly traditional. I use oil paint on linen or wooden panels. The paintings occasionally have a fixture or collaged element and it’s usually something that finds me rather than something I go searching for. The collaged element echoes or counters the illusionistic space created within the painting. I’m still fascinated with that push/pull effect. Colour can be the most arbitrary or the most important element in my mind, depending on the painting. I have, in the past, worked in muted monochrome tones, but I currently have a full array of colour back on my palette. I have great admiration for artists who use colour in powerful ways, the late Howard Hodgkin being the most accomplished that I have seen. I’m obsessed with composition; it’s first and foremost. The studio is at its best when there are many small paintings in progress and in conversation, when forms seem to migrate from one painting to another. It’s a messy, ill-disciplined process. I’ve been told that I make more interesting paintings when I don’t know what I’m doing, and I’m sure that’s very true.
Colm Mac Athlaoich, The Climb, 2017, 69 x 58 cm
the same time. NC: For me, abstract painting is largely spontaneous. I do of course have ideas for a composition, mood, tone or form I want to use. However, this plan invariably changes, evolves and takes on a life of its own. Ideas are lost and found through this process. While it can be challenging to not know where you will arrive, it’s also exciting and it’s the reason I paint. I believe that painting can do what music and poetry do in visual form: it can be engaged with both emotionally and intellectually. The painter Jonathan Lasker wrote an essay in 2001 about painting and its relationship to technology and the human metabolism. It stuck with me and is more relevant right now than it was when it was written. Analogue all the way.
VC: Denis, you are a non-figurative painter but, rather than abstract, free brush strokes, your painting style is quite rigorous, with an emphasis on tonal balance and spatial equilibrium. Can you describe your painting process and your approach to composition, colour palette and surface? DK: The process is usually rigorous as well as laboriously planned, though I would like to think that there is an element of playfulness and wit coming through. I sometimes like to interrupt the ‘seriousness’ with a twist of sorts. The support material will often do this for me. I normally use a manufactured lightweight plywood veneer originally used as outer protective packaging for construction industry products. A large percentage of this wood reveals the history of its transportation – abrasions, indentations, tears – along with partlyraised lettering, which is often retained in the final composition. My painting technique is systematic and ‘hard-edged’, and is juxtaposed against the poetic characteristics of the wood material. The idea is to create tension and achieve some type of illusionist space while retainVC: Colm, how important is the ‘creative subconscious’? Are ing equilibrium across the pictorial plane. Conversely, the undulating there literary comparisons to Joyce’s ‘stream of consciousness’ in nature of the found wood surface encourages episodes of chance, which allow the paint to creep through. Colour is mostly intuitive and ‘Ulysses’? CMA: I’m more influenced by The Third Policeman than Ulysses, how- often goes through some ‘testing’ on smaller pieces of wood or paper ever I do find the creative subconscious an invaluable tool for my until a balance is achieved. Colour theory – notably complimentary, approach to painting. As in Ulysses, where the reader is incapable of analogous or monochromatic use of colour – often plays a part. distinguishing truth from fiction, it is important for me that the Valeria Ceregini is an Italian art historian, critic and independent viewer interprets my work for themselves. curator. She is currently writer-in-residence at Pallas Projects/ VC: Sometimes you place theatrical scenes within your paint- Studios, as part of the INI European internship programme. Colm Mac Athlaoich is an Irish artist whose practice focuses on ings; why do you use this kind of scenic illusion? CMA: My current work, the Dublin paintings, look at the canvas sur- the convergence of painting and printmaking methodologies. face and explore the medium and potential in layering. This work His solo exhibition, ‘Traveling Without Moving’, ran at Pallas deliberately plays with overlapping almost as a metaphor for stages of from 6 to 8 July 2017. Natasha Conway is an Irish artist who works on small-scale oil paintings on linen or wood. Her solo thought. Stages of the painting play out like props used in theatre. exhibition, ‘The Lost and Found’, will be presented at Pallas from VC: What does abstract painting mean for you? Is it a spontane- 27 to 30 September 2017. Denis Kelly is an Irish artist who makes abstract paintings characterised by hard-edge colour motifs on ous and intuitive act, devoid of any premeditation? CMA: I’m interested in the painting process as a mobiliser of ideas and predominantly wooden surfaces. Kelly’s solo exhibition, action. The various techniques and rudiments that exist within my ‘Impeccable Defect’, will run at Pallas from 19 – 21 October 2017.
VC: Which art historical traditions in painting most interest you? CMA: I have a keen interest in what is occurring in painting today, particularly artists who embrace and challenge historical traditions in their work. I’m interested in the primitivism of early to mid-twentiethcentury art, when form and colour were liberated. DK: Twentieth-century modernist abstract painting has been an interest of mine for a long time. This includes movements such as Malevich’s Suprematism and Mondrian’s De Stijl or the later mid-century work of the American abstract painters: Agnes Martin, Frank Stella and Ellsworth Kelly, among others. I am intrigued by the simplicity of form and how powerful and forceful these works can be. However, I would hope my work is less exacting and stringent. NC: I am also interested in the beginnings of early-twentieth-century abstract painting. Since I was a student, I’ve been very interested in Paul Klee, in the Paris School, lyrical abstraction, Cubism, Braque and of course Picasso. These influences are often reflected in the work I make. I’m equally interested in contemporary painting. Nothing excites me more than fresh paint in paintings that I haven’t seen before, or when someone does something inventive with a very old language. A Richard Tuttle assemblage can be as interesting to me as Picasso’s work. I enjoy the idea that painting’s history is cyclical rather practice are a means to the end. For me, abstract painting draws on all than linear. aspects of my practice – narrative, composition, colour and form – at
The Visual Artists’ News Sheet
September – October 2017
Clarity & Stillness HELEN G. BLAKE OFFERS INSIGHTS INTO HER PAINTING PRACTICE.
Helen G. Blake, A Prowler through the Dark, 2017, oil on linen, 48 x 60 cm; image courtesy of the artist
AS a painter, I’m interested in all forms and periods of painting, both historic and contemporary, but I particularly love Flemish and early Netherlandish painting from the early fifteenth to mid-sixteenth centuries. I enjoy the carefully constructed composition, the richness of colour and the strange gothic angularity, but in particular it is the clarity and stillness of atmosphere in works from this period that strikes a chord with me; indeed, these are qualities I’m trying to generate in my own work. Since 2006 I’ve been developing a particular way of working that involves layering and repetition – primarily in relation to individual brush strokes, but increasingly regarding my use of line and shape as well. This was originally triggered by a new brush I bought, a synthetic flat which could produce a very clear and defined square brushstroke. By making layered linear marks in different colours, I explored how the slight unintentional irregularities of the brushstrokes would build up and produce optical effects. For example, unanticipated colour interactions occurred, as tiny fragments of colours from deeper layers peeped through the gaps between brushstrokes on upper layers. In the works where I employed this process, I only allowed myself to make decisions about colour. The results informed later works where I further explored building repetition and rhythm through the use of line and geometric shapes. I like to embrace the idea of chance: accidents, flaws and discrepancies are allowed. Although I make very careful, deliberate choices about colour, it’s the evolution of repeating forms and their slight irregularities that influence my finished paintings. I am interested in observing the placement and visibility of those colours, seeing where the layers will interact. I work slowly. It’s a lengthy process of looking and contemplating, layering and allowing each layer to dry before I work on it further. I keep detailed records of colours, pigments and mixing recipes, drawing diagrams of what I’ve done. Anyone looking at my notebooks might assume that I’ve made sketches and then produced paintings based on the sketches, but it’s actually the other way around – I never know how something will turn out. The record of what happened is the actual painting itself. As part of my practice I also make small-scale, monochromatic and dichromatic, repeat patterns on paper in ink and watercolour. These have become a kind of visual dictionary that I sometimes refer to. I never look too far ahead. Each decision I make on a painting is made solely in response to what has already happened. I work to various self-imposed rules, but the most important one is that I don’t allow myself to use anything on the painting other than paint, a brush and my hand; the painting’s surface is constructed solely from paint, lin-
Helen G. Blake, Playing God, 2015, oil on linen on board, 26 x 32 cm; image courtesy of the artist
Helen G. Blake, Blue Kisses, 2016, oil on linen, 32 x 26cm (detail)
in no way an illustration of that line, but when I came across it, the phrase felt somehow right. Other titles are words or simple phrases, while some are references to memories or simply to pigments used in the painting. Each new series of paintings follows on from the previous body of work, but not in any conscious or deliberate way. When I begin a series of paintings I am not referring to previous works; however, as I am working from the same starting point each time, a natural progression and evolution has developed over the years. I think a loose connection between all of my works is evident. While I number each series, and am aware which one each individual painting belongs to, I see all the paintings I have made since 2006 as belonging to one ongoing body of work, which I hope to continue. I approach installing an exhibition in the same way as I approach making individual paintings: I have no preconceived ideas about how the show will look or what will go where. Similarly, I do not intentionally make paintings that will be shown together as a group, nor do these works respond to the architecture of a particular venue. My aim is simply to make a series of paintings from which I select and arrange until the ‘composition’ achieved within the gallery feels right. In some ways, the installation process is an extension of my method for constructing paintings. In 2015 I exhibited work as part of the Cairde Sligo Arts Festival and was awarded The Model’s Cara Award, which provided a six-week residency at The Model from April to May 2016. This was very timely for me, as I was preparing for upcoming solo exhibitions in Mermaid Arts Centre, Bray (September – October 2016) and in the Molesworth Gallery, Dublin (March – April 2017). I had commenced a new body of work in December 2015 and was able to bring a large number of paintings that were already underway with me to the residency in Sligo. While at The Model, I was the sole occupant of the residency studio and apartment. Unusually, the bed was situated in the studio rather than the apartment, so the paintings were the last thing I saw when I closed my eyes at night, and the first thing I saw when I opened them in the morning – in short, I dreamed and breathed the work. It was a fantastic, intense and mostly solitary six weeks, and an experience that I still find myself thinking about. I have been awarded a residency fellowship at Ballinglen Arts Foundation and am looking forward to undertaking two residencies there in late 2017 and early 2018, when I will work on new paintings for inclusion in a series of group shows that Ballinglen have planned for their 25th anniversary next year.
seed oil and turpentine, with no other materials permitted. Over the last couple of years I have sometimes laid out paper shapes before painting, in order to plan out the different shapes occurring in a particular composition. However, the actual painting is always freehand. I like the quality of line produced by a brush drawn slowly across the surface, which is very different from one produced by masking tape. I don’t want the patterns or shapes to be perfect, just to be as near perfect as I can make them by hand. Because of the drying times involved, I always have a number of paintings on the go at once and I move between them as each one becomes dry enough to work on again. Normally works evolve slowly over a long period of time. I always make my own supports: stretchers which are then faced with board and covered with raw linen. The main focus of my practice is colour and I spend a lot of time mixing pigments. I work in oils and mostly use Michael Harding paints, with a few pigments from other ranges. I do picture framing work for other people when I have time, so have access to waste glass offcuts, and I use these to mix paint on. I cut the glass into small squares and only mix one colour on each piece. In this way, I avoid ‘muddying’ a colour by accidentally adding in a trace of another pigment. I have boxes of these individual glass palettes which provide a useful colour library. When a painting reaches the point where I think it is finished, I spend a long time deciding its orientation. I then start thinking about a title. These are chosen to fit the feel of the painting. And some are ‘found’ titles. For example, A Prowler through the Dark came from Seamus Heaney’s translation of Beowulf: “…Then a powerful demon, a Helen Blake is an artist based in County Wicklow. prowler through the dark, nursed a hard grievance…”. The painting is
The Visual Artists’ News Sheet
September – October 2017
Desire and Persistence JOANNE LAWS INTERVIEWS THREE ARTISTS AT VARIOUS STAGES OF THEIR CAREERS ABOUT MAINTAINING A PAINTING PRACTICE IN IRELAND.
Jane Rainey, Wanderer, 2016, oil on canvas, 150 x 120cm; image courtesy of the artist
Joanne Laws: Can you say something about your formal training as a painter? On reflection, what was the most important thing you learned in art college? Jane Rainey: I completed a degree in Fine Art at Ulster University, Belfast, in 2014. I was then awarded a scholarship for postgraduate study at NCAD and graduated with an MA in Fine Art in 2016. The most important thing I learned at art college was the necessity of experimentation within your practice. During my time at university, I developed technical skills such as drawing and colour-mixing through the guidance of tutors and fellow students, as well as self-directed study. Through the discipline of learning these skills, I was able to take this knowledge and push the boundaries of the painting medium. This type of experimentation is something that takes time. The six years in art college gave me the space to really experiment and to try out different things. In this way, I began to develop my own painting language, based on what I wanted to say and how I was going to say it.
Ciarán Murphy, Standby (Model), 2013, oil on linen, 35 x 40 cm; courtesy of the artist and Grimm Gallery
JR: I think that there are a lot of opportunities across Ireland for artists, which includes painters. I feel that there are a lot of people wanting to nurture local talent by providing different awards, exhibitions and grants. In my own experience, I cannot thank certain people and organisations enough for providing me with so many great opportunities and supports, especially so soon after leaving college. You really don’t need to look far to see people doing all sorts of exciting things for the arts in Ireland.
CM: I’m not so keen on the tendency for painters to be grouped as a separate species in relation to other artists, either as a kind of ‘special status’ medium or as some kind of anachronistic refuge. I see artists using paint as being similar to artists working in other mediums, and, like them, they need the space and time to develop their work, if it is to be of a high standard. Although it’s important to acknowledge the support that does exist in terms of funding grants and so on, it couldn’t be described as adequate. I think there needs to be more recognition of Ciarán Murphy: Early in my visual arts education, I was introduced the time and resources it takes to develop an art practice – it’s not to Josef Albers’s book Interaction of Color, which I continue to find really something that can simply be knocked out over a weekend or between inspiring. I love the way it had a very rigorous, almost scientific multiple other jobs. The other aspect that really needs to be addressed approach to the study of colour without disregarding the more is the adequate provision of suitable and affordable artists’ workspaces. subjective and expressive features of colour perception. There’s I believe the Creative Spaces Collective is doing important work in something about the instability of vision that I find fascinating: how campaigning on this issue. our eyes can never be trusted; how by looking at images they, in turn, look back you; and how the act of visual perception involves elusive, RA: The current strength of Irish painting is the best-kept secret in pre-coded responses. Later, when undertaking an MA in Visual Arts Irish art. However, in my view, the official support from institutions is Practice at IADT, I was encouraged to read theory, philosophy and pitiful. “Being an artist now,” declared Joseph Kosuth in 1969, “means literature which benefited my practice a lot, because it helped me to to question the nature of art. If one is questioning the nature of find kinships in different forms of artistic enquiry. Being encouraged painting, one cannot be questioning the nature of art . . . If you make to analyse and talk about my work was also helpful – it gave me more paintings you are already accepting (not questioning) the nature of confidence regarding the relevance and worth of my enquiries. art.” This blinkered philiosohy appears to have been embraced by many institutions and curators, particularly in Ireland, who fail to Robert Armstrong: In 1969, I was 17 and Apollo 11 landed on the comprehend the interesting positions being adopted by Irish painters moon just weeks before I arrived at the National College of Art. I was right now. The last painter to represent Ireland with a solo presentation excited about the future. However, at the time, the college was run by of paintings at the Venice Biennale was Patrick Scott in 1960. Other the Department of Education and staffed mostly by conservative countries seem to have no such reticence about painting. For example, members of the Royal Hibernian Academy (RHA). They believed in over the last 20 years, Great Britain has featured conventional painting strict academic training as the only basis for art education and insisted shows at Venice by Gary Hume and Chris Ofili; the US has been on long periods of study in the ‘life’ room, drawing from antique represented by Robert Colescott, Ed Ruscha and Mark Bradford; plaster casts. Conscious of the spirit of Paris 1968, students were Belgium has shown Luc Tuymans (twice); Wales has presented the already protesting about a regime that was so sceptical of Modernism. paintings of Merlin James and so on. We rejected this kind of formal training and instead discovered a different sort of agency through agitation, sit-ins, strikes and lobbying JL: What advice would you give to emerging graduates about politicians. After sackings, expulsions (me, twice!) and closure, the maintaining a lifelong painting practice? Government instituted the NCAD Act of 1971, which gave JR: My advice would be to apply for as many opportunities as possible, independence to the college and brought about major structural with the aim of getting your work out there and seen, even in the early changes and reform. stages of your career. Another thing would be to stay committed once leaving college. It is comparatively easy to make art in a college JL: Do you think that there are enough supports and opportunities environment, but once you leave, you might have less time. My advice currently available for painters in Ireland? would be to just commit yourself to making it work. If that means
Robert Armstrong, Summit, 2016, oil on linen, 60x50cm; courtesy of the artist
working around a busy schedule and going to the studio at unusual hours, then that is just something you have to do. I would also advise getting involved in a studio group with likeminded people. When you leave art college, you suddenly don’t have the critical support of your peers and tutors, so being in a studio group where your peers can comment or advise you is necessary – it helps you get out of your own head. CM: Given that I’m what could be described as ‘mid-career’ artist, I hope I’m not fully qualified to answer this one yet! I stumbled across this John Cage quote some time ago: “When you start working, everybody is in your studio – the past, your friends, enemies, the art world, and above all, your own ideas – all are there. But as you continue painting, they start leaving, one by one, and you are left completely alone. Then, if you are lucky, even you leave.” Perhaps this is more a description of a process, rather than advice as such, but it’s an idea I like to keep in mind when I work. There’s something about the ability to surprise oneself and that slippage between the intentions at the start and the outcomes that keeps me engaged with my work. I guess it also describes a kind of trust in both following a process and allowing for chance or unexpected happenings. RA: Desire, hard work, persistence and luck are essential in order to sustain a practice. Intense personal focus and engagement is necessary, and a healthy skepticism of fashion and trends is advisable. It is important to be distinctive – nobody wants to be a Luc Tuymans lookalike! Support of peer networks must be harnessed and maintained after college in a group studio context. It is important to seek out critical opinions of peers. Visibility is key to a successful career. Instagram is becomming important in this regard and reaches beyond this small island. Without opportunities to exhibit, it is very difficult to transition from being a student to being a practicing artist. Young artists must create their own opportunities because commercial galleries are slow to take on unproven artists. Worldwide, now is a good time for painting. Be ambitious! It is only a matter of time before Irish painting gets its due reward. Jane Rainey is a painter based in Belfast. Since graduation, she has exhibited extensively throughout Ireland and has recently exhibited further afield, in Italy and the US. janeraineyart.com
Ciarán Murphy is an artist who lives and works in Callan, Kilkenny. He is represented by Grimm Gallery, Amsterdam. ciaranmurphy.ie
Robert Armstrong is a founding member of Temple Bar Gallery and Studios and head of Painting at the National College of Art & Design. He is represented by the Kevin Kavanagh gallery, Dublin. kevinkavanagh.ie
The Visual Artists’ News Sheet
September – October 2017
Critical Context RONAN LYONS OFFERS INSIGHTS INTO DUBLIN’S MOLESWORTH GALLERY.
Francis Matthews, Pearse Station Tunnel, 2017, oil on linen, 90 x140 cm; image courtesy Molesworth Gallery
THE Molesworth Gallery was established to represent and promote the work of contemporary artists, mostly Irish or Ireland-based. The start-up costs were met from the resources of its founders and from bank borrowings. The gallery is funded on an ongoing basis by charging a commission on the sales of work by the artists it represents. These sales take place in the gallery, at art fairs or in other venues that the gallery collaborates with to stage exhibitions. Ordinarily, all sales of work from the studios of its artists would also pass through the gallery. The programming of exhibitions at the Molesworth and other private galleries is not just driven by the need to sell work, however. Critical context is also paramount; the need to sell work must be balanced against the quality of the work exhibited, how it reflects on
the gallery and on the stable of artists it represents. Inevitably, the work shown also reflects the personal tastes of gallerists or of the curators they work with, which can make a commercial imperative secondary or entirely irrele-vant. Of course, the very fact of a gallery showing an artist’s work can, in itself, add to its commer-cial appeal. A good gallery will rarely take the path of least resistance by showing purely decorative pieces and will instead endeavour to bring their collector base with them and introduce them to more challenging work. Galleries work in partnership with their artists on the basis of trust and a mutual understanding of the benefits of the relationship. At the outset, the gallery will set out its terms and expectations but should also make explicit what the artist should expect from the gallery. As regards recruiting art-ists, the Molesworth is open to yearround submissions, although we take on very few new artists and most of these are on a referral basis or from our own scouting of graduate and postgraduate shows and open-submission exhibitions like the RHA Annual. We prefer initial contact to be via email, with a selection of images of recent work along with a CV and a covering letter. We do try to respond to every submission, though we can’t always offer detailed feedback, given the number of submissions we receive. It’s generally obvious when an artist has taken the time to visit the gallery first or, at the very least, had a thorough look at our website to get a sense of the kind of work we show, and we are more likely to respond promptly to such an approach. Reports of painting’s demise have been grossly exaggerated time and time again. A look at this year’s graduate shows and, in particular, the NCAD MFA show, attests to the robust health of the painting and its enduring fascination for artists, who continue to find fresh and
exciting seams of expression to mine. The widespread programming of painting exhibitions in galleries also points to the endurance of the medium. The mainstay of most commercial galleries’ revenue comes from 2D, wall-mounted works, predominantly oil paintings on canvas or board. This applies to galleries at all levels of the market, from London’s White Cube gallery, down to a high street gallery in a regional town. In the hierarchy of sales, drawings and original works on paper come next, followed by prints, sculpture, photography, video and installation pieces. Our autumn/winter schedule features four established painters who have already achieved critical affirmation, as well as commercial success. This September, we’ll be showing a series of paintings by Francis Matthews at the START Art Fair in London’s Saatchi Gallery. In October, we’ll have a solo show by Gabhann Dunne at the gallery. Writing in The Sunday Times, Cristín Leach described Dunne as “one of the best Irish painters of his generation”. Cian McLoughlin, who will show at the gallery in November, announced himself onto the Irish art scene with an audacious exhibition of portraits of actors in character, staged as part of Dublin’s Beckett Festival in 2006, and has gone on to establish himself as one of the most outstanding figurative painters working in Ireland today. December sees the gallery host a solo show by Blaise Smith. Blaise was elected as a full member of the RHA this year and featured on the cover of the summer 2017 edition of Irish Arts Review. Ronan Lyons is a founding director of the Molesworth Gallery and a former staff writer with The Economist Group. His debut novel, Lead White, was published in July 2017. molesworthgallery.com
The Visual Artists’ News Sheet
September – October 2017
PUBLIC ART ROUNDUP
Public Art PUBLIC ART COMMISSIONS, SOCIALLY-ENGAGED PRACTICE, SITE-SPECIFIC WORKS AND OTHER FORMS OF ART OUTSIDE THE GALLERY. OUT TOO FAR (WISHING TOO MANY THINGS)
Artist’s name: Thomas Brezing Title of work: Out Too Far Commissioning body: Arts Council of Ireland Date sited: 1 May 2017 Budget: approximately €2000 (€14,963 total) Commission type: Visual Arts Bursary Project Partners: Arts Council, Fingal County Council, Creative Spark/Create Louth Description: Out Too Far (Wishing Too Many Things) is an ongoing project by Thomas Brezing, which deals with marine plastic pollution. Brezing collected hundreds of old/burst GAA balls from schools, clubs and individuals around the country. The installation, which com-
prised a whale-like structure/giant cocoon, was fabricated in the Boathouse Studio, Loughshinny, Fingal, from January to April 2017. With the help of several collaborators it was set up on the adjoining beach on 1 May in order to be filmed by drone (by film maker Liam McGrath in collaboration with Aerial Photography Ireland) and photographed by Davey Moor for a forthcoming film and publication. While this took place, Carpet Man – an ongoing performance project of Brezing’s – also performed. This work will be shown at 126, during Galway Arts Festival, in July 2017.
A TROJAN WAR HORSE
Description: The horse has always been an important element in Greek and Irish culture. And of course, the wooden horse of Troy (invented by Odysseus) has become a symbol of trickery and cunning. Inspired by references within Friel’s works to Greek myths and the classics, this specially commissioned giant wooden horse dominated Guildhall Square for the duration of the Brian Friel International Festival. Rising almost 6.5 metres high, it was installed onsite in the early hours of a Saturday morning, so appeared in secret overnight, like the Trojan Horse of mythology. And like the mythic horse, this Trojan Horse held a secret inside – the storyteller Joe Brennan descended on a rope-ladder from a secret chamber within the Trojan Horse each afternoon to an assembled audience.
Artists’ names: Ewan Berry, Cathal McGinley and Paddy Bloomer Title of work: A Trojan War Horse Site: Guildhall Square, Derry. Date sited: 19 – 28 August 2017 Commission type: Arts Festival Commissioning body: FrielFest: Brian Friel International Festival Budget: £20,000 Project partners: Nerve Centre, Derry City and Strabane District Council, Tourism Northern Ireland.
PUBLIC ART FOR THE PEOPLE Artist’s name: Joanna Hopkins Title of work: Public Art for the People Commissioning body: Sound and Vision Scheme, Broadcasting Authority of Ireland, Castlebar Community Radio Commission type: Documentary Radio Programme Project partners: Castlebar Community Radio, Mayo Arts Office Description: Public Art for the People is a documentary exploring a selection of thought provoking public art projects in County Mayo. It focuses on Public Arts Coordinator for Mayo County Council Gaynor Seville and her role as curator, manager and commissioner of these public art projects. Covering film, live performance and theatre, the 50-minute documentary includes various artists and members of the public, including Alice Maher, Aideen Barry, Aileen Lambert, Noah Rose, Amanda Rice and Nuala Clarke. The programme explores how the role of public art in Ireland is changing in our current society, producing temporary, intriguing artworks that directly engage with the communities in which they inhabit. Public Art for the People was produced and written by Joanna Hopkins and edited by Sol O’Carroll and Community Radio Castlebar. The music, Knocknagow, was composed by Deirdre Gavin.
The Visual Artists’ News Sheet
September – October 2017
Opportunities COMMISSIONS FINGAL COUNTY COUNCIL INFRASTRUCTURE Fingal County Council has launched its Public Art Commissioning Programme, Infrastructure 2017 – 2021, as part of the Creative Ireland Programme. This programme endeavours to bring art to the public in a new and exciting way, and to the highest standard. Infrastructure is open to artists working across all art forms, providing routes to public participation and engagement through four commissioning strands. The Public Art Awards offer artists the opportunity to produce flagship projects, which can represent Fingal at national and international level. The coproduction strand encourages artists to collaborate with communities, creating work that speaks to their place or activities. The People’s Purchase strand will be a ‘community collection’, promoting discussion on submitted work and its suitability to become part of a local public meeting place. The Buildings and Public Spaces Panel invites submissions for work within the built environment, with potential of permanent commissions in public spaces countywide. Commissions will be awarded by open competition, with selections being made by panels comprising artists, curators and public representatives from Fingal’s Public Participation Network and Fingal County Council. Fingal County Council’s Public Art Coordinator Caroline Cowley and Curator Aisling Prior, who collectively bring a wealth of public art commissioning experience to the field, have devised the extensive artist brief. Deadline 5pm, 28 September Website fingalarts.ie/infrastructure Email firstname.lastname@example.org Telephone 018 905 097 WICKLOW EDUCATE TOGETHER Wicklow Educate Together National School (WETNS) have recently moved to a brand-new premises located on the outskirts of Wicklow Town and will commission works of art under the Per Cent for Art Scheme. Artists are invited to tender for the project in a two-stage process as outlined in the artist’s brief. WETNS are eager that the new building, grounds and artworks should reflect the school’s identity. WETNS are looking for submissions that will enlighten the children and reflect the ethos of the school. The artist’s brief and application form can be downloaded from the VAI
website. The budget is €36,500 (inclusive of VAT). In stage 1, artists are invited to express their interest in being considered for this project. Artists may do this by completing the application form and by submitting preliminary sketches and ideas, a CV and examples outlining details of relevant previous work if applicable. Please note that all submissions should be posted in hard copy to the address below. From the completed stage 1 applications, a panel jury comprising WETNS staff, parents, community representatives and an independent artist will select a shortlist of artists. Shortlisted artists will be paid a concept development fee of €150 to work on a detailed proposal for final selection. The award of the commission will be made following receipt of the stage 2 applications. Deadline 12 noon, 29 September Website wicklowetns.com Email email@example.com Address Public Art Commission, Wicklow Educate Together National School, Hawkstown Road, Wicklow Town GAELSCOIL RIABHACH Gaelscoil Riabhach’s Public Art Working Group have made the decision to commission Permanent Artworks for both the internal and exterior spaces of their new school. The exterior artwork to help express their welcoming identity, visualise their presence and help to express their vision. They wish the artist(s) to engage meaningfully with as many of their 183 students as is possible as part of this process. Various approaches and levels of engagement are welcomed as part of this Per Cent for Art project. Collaborative partnerships are also welcome, should artists wish to partner with another artist for this project. Fluency in the Irish language is not a requirement to be considered for this commission, however, the artist(s), the process and final artworks should be cognisant of and sympathetic to the central role of the Irish language in the school and the school’s identity. It must be noted that the new school building is ‘on site’ at present with an estimated completion date of October, 2017. The budget for the commission is €29,000. The selection process will take the form of a two stage open competition. It is open to all interested professional artists at any stage of their career or experience. Selection will be based on the information supplied, establishing the competence of the artists to carry out this commission. No designs or detailed proposals are required in stage 1.
From the completed stage 1 applications the panel jury will select a shortlist of artists. The selection panel will consist of two/three members of the Public Art Working Group and two professional artists and will be chaired by the curator/project manager. Stage 2 shortlisted artists will be paid a concept development fee of €150 to work on a detailed proposal for final selection. A stage 2 brief will be available to shortlisted artists and a site visit is expected at this stage. The stage 1 application form and supporting information should be returned by hard copy to the address below. Deadline 12 noon, 29 September Email firstname.lastname@example.org Telephone 087 238 9591 Address Per Cent for Art Commission, Rina Whyte, C/O The Principal, Gaelscoil Riabhach, Loughrea, Co. Galway ILDÁNA TG4 and the Arts Council/an Chomhairle Ealaíon, in association with Galway Film Centre announce a new round of ilDÁNA. This is an exciting new opportunity for documentary filmmakers to make a one-off, landmark and cinematic long-form documentary on the arts in Irish. Two projects will be selected with funding of €80,000 each for creative documentaries which will have both a theatrical window as well as a primetime TG4 broadcast. Filmmakers are encouraged to explore subject matter and approaches that are creative, inspired, distinctive and ambitious in scope to deliver a 60 to 70 minute film. Films commissioned for ilDÁNA will provide a definitive creative treatment of their arts subject. All artistic disciplines will be considered. Contemporary subjects are preferred but contemporary treatments of historical works may also be considered. Deadline 20 October Website galwayfilmcentre.ie
been born, have studied, or currently reside in the Fingal administrative area. The selection panel is Colin Martin, RHA School Principal, Val Connor, Lecturer and Curator and Sarah O’Neill, Deputy Arts Officer, Fingal Arts. Deadline 15 September Email email@example.com Telephone 016 612 558 VISUAL ARTS WORKSPACE SCHEME The Arts Council invites applications for grants of up to a maximum of €40,000 towards the cost of running visual artists’ workspaces for 2018. The Visual Arts Workspace Scheme is for the calendar year 2018. This scheme is open to all visual artists’ workspaces in the Republic of Ireland (except those currently in receipt of Annual Funding or those who wish to apply for Strategic Funding 2018 grants from the Arts Council). The scheme is administered by Visual Artists Ireland on behalf of the Arts Council. Only applications made through the online system will be considered. The scheme is eligble to applications from groups/collectives of visual artists and/or workspaces for professional visual artists. Workspaces/studios/collectives that accomodate atleast four visual artists are eligible. Deadline 5:30pm, 12 October Website visualartists.ie
GOLDEN FLEECE AWARD The trustees of the Golden Fleece Award are delighted to announce that applications are now open for the 2017 Award. The mission of the Golden Fleece Award is to provide resources for practicing Irish craft and visual artists aspiring to innovate and develop their artistic vision. It aims to help outstanding artists needing support at strategic stages in their careers. The award is intended for artists working in the area of figurative visual art or of craft and applied arts. They will normally live and carry out their creative work on the island of Ireland or otherwise will have strong artisFUNDING/AWARDS/ tic connections with Ireland. The Golden Fleece is an annual BURSARIES prize fund of €20,000. This winner is FINGAL STUDIO AWARVD usually awarded between €12,000 and The RHA School in partnership with €15,000 and others on the shortlist Fingal Arts are offering an opportunity receive smaller awards. These generous of a funded studio space for a profes- awards make the Golden Fleece one of sional artist for the period of one year, the most valuable arts prizes made by a the residency will commence at the end private philanthropist in Ireland. of November 2017. The award offers an All applications must be made artist the opportunity to develop their through the online application form. practice within the institutional frame- Please note an administration fee of €20 work of the RHA and covers the cost of applies to all applications. studio rental and administration. Deadline The award is open to practicing 2pm, 25 November artists at all stages in their professional Website careers working in visual art. To be goldenfleeceaward.com eligible to apply, applicants must: have
RESIDENCIES ARTIST-IN-RESIDENCE AUSTRIA In cooperation with KulturKontakt Austria, the Austrian Federal Chancellery makes available 50 residencies in Austria (Vienna and Salzburg) for the year 2018. The residency is designed to offer an opportunity to familiarise oneself with the Austrian art scene and cultural environment and to make contact with Austrian artists. Residents are expected to complete a project during their stay. The stay is primarily designed to foster exchanges and networking and not the realisation of a project. Deadline 18 September Website artists-in-residence-austria.at
COURSES/WORKSHOPS/ TRAINING SKETCHBOOK WORKSHOPS Bookings are now open for Sketchbook Workshops at the Schoolhouse for Art, Enniskerry, Wicklow. Come and spend two mornings with artist Yanny Petters drawing and sketching in your book which you can use throughout the year. Yanny will guide you through beginning a sketchbook in which you can sketch from your garden or when you’re out and about, in cafés or sitting at the kitchen table. The basic tools and a sketchbook will be provided. Dates are Fridays 22 and 29 September, and Saturdays 23 and 30 September. The cost of the workshop is €70 for two mornings from 10:30am to 1pm. It is recommended that you book by 10 September. Website schoolhouseforart.com Email firstname.lastname@example.org BEGINNERS ETCHING WORKSHOP Bookings are now open for a Beginners Etching workshop at Black Church Print Studio, Dublin. This course will provide an introduction to etching and is suitable for beginners and those with some previous experience who would like to refresh their knowledge. Basic etching techniques including drypoint, etching using soft and hard ground and aquatint will be covered. Students will experiment with both aluminium and copper. Editioning and experimenting with colour and different types of paper (chine colle) will also be included. The course runs for six Wednesday evenings and one Saturday evening, 13 September – 18 and 21 October 2017. Times for Wednesdays is 6:30 – 9:30pm and 10am – 5pm on the Saturday. The fee is €265 (including materials). Website print.ie Email email@example.com
The Visual Artists’ News Sheet
September – October 2017
VISUAL ARTISTS IRELAND operates a wide range of professional development training events throughout the year. The delivery of this programme is greatly supported by our relationship with local and international visual art professionals and partner organisations throughout the island of Ireland.
ROI Dublin City DOCUMENTING YOUR WORK WITH TIM DURHAM Fri 1 Sept (10.00 – 17.00) @ Visual Artists Ireland Places: 10. Cost: €80/40 (VAI members) WORKING WITH DIGITAL IMAGES WITH TIM DURHAM 29 Sept (10.00 – 17.00) @ Visual Artists Ireland Places: 10. Cost: €80/40 (VAI members) SELF-EMPLOYMENT AND THE VISUAL ARTS WITH GABY SMYTH Fri 6 Oct (10.30 – 15.00) @ Visual Artists Ireland Places: 10 – 12. Cost: €80/40 (VAI members) FILING YOUR TAXES ONLINE WITH REVENUE ONLINE SERVICES WITH GABY SMYTH Fri 13 Oct, 2017 (10.30 – 13.30) @ Visual Artists Ireland, Dublin Workshop – Places: 10 – 15 people. Cost: €50/25 (VAI members) Clinic – Places: 10 – 12 Cost : €20/10 (VAI members)
WHY PAINT? A CONVERSATION ABOUT PAINTING WITH JAMES MERRIGAN AND PHILLIP ALLEN VAI In partnership with the RHA School Wed 25 Oct (17.30 – 18.30) @ RHA School, RHA, Ely Place, Dublin 2 Places: 20+. Cost: Free
Fingal PUBLIC ART I – CROSS ARTFORM COMMISSIONS FROM AMBITION TO REALISATION with Caroline Cowley Fingal Public Arts Officer; Patrick Fox Heart of Glass; Gareth Phelan and others tba In partnership with Fingal County Council Wed 6 Sept @ Malahide Castle Visitors Centre Places: 20+. Cost: €40/20 (VAI members) PUBLIC ART II – COMMISSIONING THE PRACTICALITIES with Kevin Gaffney & Jacinta Lynch, O’Driscoll O’Neill Insurances and Fiona Woods In partnership with Fingal County Council Wed 20 Sept @ Malahide Castle Visitors Centre Places: 20+. Cost: €40/20 (VAI members & Fingal Artists). Cost: Clinics €10/5 (VAI members & Fingal Artists)
WRITING ABOUT YOUR WORK WITH SUE RAINSFORD Wed 16 Oct (10.30 – 16.30) @ Visual Artists Ireland Places: 10. Cost: €80/40 (VAI members)
SUSTAINING YOUR PRACTICE FOR MID TO LATE CAREER ARTISTS WITH MARIE HANLON; UNA SEALY; SUSAN SEX, JAMES ENGLISH AND SARAH O’NEILL (ARTS OFFICER FINGAL) In partnership with Fingal County Council HEALTH & SAFETY FOR VISUAL ARTISTS WITH Thur 16 Nov (10.30 – 16.30) @ Malahide Castle Visitors Centre VIN KIELY, HELEN CAREY AND MICK O’HARA Nov (14.00 – 16.30) date tbc @ Visual Artists Ire- Places: 20+. Cost: Talks €40/20. Clinics €10/5 (VAI members & Fingal artists) land Places: 20. Cost: €40/20 (VAI members) MARKETING & SOCIAL MEDIA FOR VISUAL ARTISTS WITH EMMA DWYER Nov date/time tbc @ Visual Artists Ireland Places: 10. Cost: €80/40 (VAI members) DEVELOPING CREATIVE PROPOSALS In partnership with RHA Wed 27 Sept (10.30 – 16.30) @ Royal Hibernian Academy Stand Alone Workshop (10.30 – 13.30) Places: 20 – 25 . Cost: €40/20 (VAI members) Afternoon Clinics (14.30 – 16.30) . Cost: €10/5 (VAI members)
Galway VAI INFORMATION SESSION & ONE-TO-ONE CLINICS In partnership with Galway City Council & Galway County Council Arts Offices. Details tbc
Sligo VAI INFORMATION SESSION ON ARTISTS’ SOCIAL WELFARE, SELF EMPLOYMENT, COPYRIGHT AND MORE In partnership with Sligo County Council Fri 3 Nov (12.00 – 15.00). Details tbc
WORKING WITH DIGITAL IMAGES WITH TIM PEER-TO-PEER CRITIQUE FOR PAINTERS WITH DURHAM: ROSCREA In partnership with Tipperary County Council JAMES MERRIGAN AND PHILLIP ALLEN Sat 9 Sept (09.30 – 16.30) VAI in partnership with the RHA School @ Damer House Gallery Wed 25 Oct (12.30 – 16.30) Places: 10 – 12. Cost: €40/20 (VAI members) @ RHA School, RHA, Ely Place, Dublin 2 Places: 8. Cost: €80/40 (VAI members)
Visual Artist Ireland works in partnership with local authorities, visual arts venues and others, combining resources to support the professional development of visual artists at regional level.
SUSTAINING YOUR PRACTICE: CLONMEL WITH MARTINA GALVIN AND MAEVE MULRENNAN In partnership with Tipperary County Council Date tbc @ South Tipperary Arts Centre Places: 15 – 20. Cost: €40/20 (VAI members)
VAI Show & Tell Events VAI will schedule a further two Show & Tell events during Autumn 2017 and invites interested artists groups, venues or partners to get in touch if interested in hosting a Show & Tell. Fees VAI members receive preferential discount of 50% on fees for all VAI, training and professional development events. Fees range from €5 – €40 for VAI members. Tell us about your training needs! If you are interested in training please do get in touch with us directly or forward an expression of interest in a topic/s through the Professional Development Training web page. We often repeat workshops when there is a strong demand for a topic.
BOOKINGS/INFORMATION Monica Flynn, Professional Development Officer, Visual Artists Ireland 01 672 9488, firstname.lastname@example.org visualartists.ie/events
NI Belfast PROMOTIONS TECHNIQUES FOR ARTISTS AND MAKERS 27 Sept @ Venue tbc. Sharon Adams shows how to use marketing to increase awareness of your work and plan for exhibitions or events. Learn how to make good use of free/low cost options to get maximum results. AMINI 17 VAI DISCUSSION PROGRAMME 19/30th September @ The MAC, Belfast. Northern Ireland’s first festival dedicated to artists’ moving image. two-day event featuring screenings, discussions and artists’ presentations. PAINTING NOW 4th Oct @ Venue tbc. Show & Tell will introduce artists to each other’s work. BELFAST OPEN STUDIOS MAIN PROGRAMME: OPEN STUDIOS CAFE 14 Oct @ The Black Box, Belfast. This is a chance to meet studio groups, artists and galleries and find out about the Belfast Open Studios programme. BELFAST OPEN STUDIOS 21 Oct – An invitation to the public to meet 150 artists working in the city. Gain insight into the creative processes that lead to work seen in galleries around the world.
CURATOR TALKS 3 Nov @ Venue tbc. Talks from four curators attending our speed curating event. Discover more about their curatorial practice. SPEED CURATING 4 Nov @ Belfast Exposed. 15 minutes to meet a curator and introduce your practice. COLLECTIONS & COLLECTING 5 Nov @ Venue tbc. Wolverhampton Art Gallery has the biggest collection of Northern Irish art outside of Ireland. Hear how curators approach collecting. Find out what motivates private collectors when selecting work to buy.
Bangor & Ards VISUAL ARTISTS’ CAFÉ: INTRODUCING ARDS 6 Dec, 6pm – 9pm @ Newtownards. Find out more about the visual arts exhibition spaces, studios, resources and collectives in Ards and the surrounding area. An excellent opportunity to meet other artists and arts organisations in an informal setting.
Causeway Coast & Glens CREATING OPPORTUNITIES, AND BUILDING PROFESSIONAL RELATIONSHIPS 20 Sept @ Flowerfield Arts Centre, Portstewart. Artists will talk about how they have overcome professional challenges and developed their careers. We will also will look at ways artists can build relationships with curators and galleries. VISUAL ARTISTS HELPDESK 11 Oct @ Roe Valley Arts Centre, Limavady. Six artists will be able to book into an individual oneto-one 30-minute appointment with an experienced industry professional. Artists submit material in advance for the tutors to discuss the artist’s’ individual challenges. CURATING EXHIBITIONS 15 Nov @ Flowerfield Arts Centre, Portstewart. Techniques for creating coherent group or solo exhibitions. This workshop looks at how selecting and presenting work can make a dramatic difference to the audience experience.
Fermanagh & Omagh INTRODUCING THE LAKELANDS 12th October @ Waterways Ireland, Enniskillen. The event brings together artists and organisations from across the Lakelands region. We welcome artists and arts professionals from Fermanagh & Omagh, Sligo, Leitrim, Cavan, and Monaghan to come along and netowrk with your peers. BOOKING INFORMATION Rob Hilken (Northern Ireland Manager) email@example.com, 028 9587 0361 visualartists.org.uk/booking