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A Sequel of Events: Vantage Point Series

25.02.2011 (8:22 am) – Filed under: Reviews ::

This is a response to Molly O’Dwyer’s performance/installation A Sequel of Events: Vantage Point Series that was part of the group show, To Come So Far For Beauty, curated by Deirdre Morrisey, at Block T, Smithfield, 12 – 17 November, 2010.

Molly O'Dwyer: Surrounded still from 'A Sequence of Events' Block T; image courtesy the artist.Molly O’Dwyer: A Sequence of Events: Vantage Point Series (2010),  video still, Block T; image courtesy of the artist.

It is difficult to pinpoint what makes a space significant to us, as communicating its import to another may seem to be a futile effort. For example, a corner can be more than a corner. It can represent the most basic geometry for seclusion, a private universe for the daydreamer where restrictive physical dimensions fall away – a pocket full of shadows, or the “most sordid of havens.”[1] Similarly, an open vista can be just as closed or private. A turbulent cloudscape may reflect the contemplations or restlessness of the internal subject. It creates the space. As Gaston Bachelard wrote after Noel Arnaud: “I am the space where I am.”

Molly O’Dwyer’s performance installation transgresses over and back between the multi-perspectival cinematic space and the present, physical space of the exhibition. The installation is constructed as one large corner whose exterior juts into the main exhibition space, creating a semi-enclosed area. The two intersecting interior walls are used as the screens for the projections. O’Dwyer uses this simple geometric form as a visual metaphor that alludes to spaces for containment and space for reflection, both real and imagined. Inversely, the installation works as a means of claiming space from the exhibition space for the subject.

The employment of the cinematic medium – to redeploy space, scale and the position of the subject within a multiplicity of angles -  drives this work from a phenomenological engagement into an investigative one, beyond the three-dimensional.[2]

Molly O'Dwyer, installation shot, 2010, BLOCK T; image by Chris Finnegan.Molly O’Dwyer: A Sequel of Events: Vantage Point Series (2010), installation shot, 2010, Block T; image by Chris Finnegan.

The video documents the journey of the artist/protagonist from the domestic setting, into the suburban public space, and then into the wilderness of the Dublin Mountains. At all times O’Dwyer is accompanied by her threadbare antique chair. O’Dwyer tries tying the chair to her back like a homely shell, but the impracticalities of this arrangement soon become apparent. A forerunning shot reveals the garden beyond the interior space, indicating the internal workings of the subject’s inquisitive mind. The chair legs are tied to a stick that she then lobs onto the side extension’s flat roof, before climbing up the adjacent shed wall and towing up the chair. Choosing different seating arrangements, looking into the garden onto road, then facing the house wall, the subject finally gets off the chair and sits cross-legged facing into her unlikely quadruped companion.

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Showcase, Gallery of Photography, Dublin, 20-30 January, 2011.

16.02.2011 (11:05 pm) – Filed under: Reviews ::

A group exhibition showcasing a handpicked selection of emerging photographers is more often than not going to prove interesting and, in this regard, the 10th Gallery of Photography Artist’s Award exhibition Showcase does not disappoint. On view are works displaying a broad range of approaches from the process of photography to the artistic concerns and motives. While all the works are founded on relatively compelling concepts, there are a number which make a more immediate impression than others, including both the gallery and visitor selected winners.

Patrick Hogan: Prayers, giclee print, 2010; image courtesy the artist.Patrick Hogan: Prayers, giclee print, 2010; image courtesy The Gallery of Photography.

Last year’s winner, Stephen Ahern, produced a solo show which emerged from his interest in documenting his surroundings as he found them.  It is interesting that this year’s winner, Patrick Hogan, also partially explores this concept but, while some of these images are captured as they were found, others have been carefully composed before being shot. It is up to us to decide which is naturally captured and which is purposefully staged. Prayers, one of the most absorbing works in the show, embodies this perfectly, depicting a simple cabin in a clearing of trees, akin to the cabins undoubtedly found in rural Ireland at one time, and possibly even now on rare occasions. Religious icons within are framed by the open door, while a skull, often a symbol of life’s transient nature, sits on the ground. This isolated and humble abode stands alone, paused in time, surrounded by a lingering sense of unease.

According to the press release, Hogan’s current interest lies in accumulating a selection of images that form a “photographic short story.” Solitary, half mad is a collection of photographs captioned with a series of short phrases on Hogan’s website, however, in the exhibition space, the photographs alone tell the story. Similarly, Prayers is followed by a series of interior and exterior images, possibly but not necessarily linked to the cabin. The sequence culminates with the haunting Behind the Garden Wall, where an unsettling contrast of deep shadows and strong light turns an image of trees into a mysterious and slightly unnerving landscape, leaving the story open-ended.

Kirsty O'Keeffe: 7 Priory Lawn, lambda print on dibond, 2010; image courtesy the artist.Kirsty O’Keeffe: 7 Priory Lawn, lambda print on dibond, 2010; image courtesy the artist.

Kirsty O’Keeffe takes a different approach for her collection. The omnipresent soft box set up and lighting from the side, gives a sense of weight and 3-dimensionality to the work. Her subjects, found in a variety of theatrical and expressive situations often appear futile and absurd. Some appear unwittingly observed, while others look directly at the viewer. One wall is dedicated to a large panel of postcard-sized images; a collection of events portrayed by image sequences. O’Keefe’s work feels charged with energy and wry humour. Shifting indoor scenes to the street plays with the viewer’s perception and alludes to the notion of the ‘outside looking in,’ as well as the suburban curiosity of knowing what goes on behind your neighbour’s walls.

If O’Keeffe’s observations are communicated in an orchestrated fashion, Ivor Prickett’s are relayed in a much more subtle manner. A documentary-style assortment of images portray the lives of a community, once agriculturally abundant, now isolated in a neglected region shouldering a disputed borderline. Scenes from everyday life capture a sense of stillness, of waiting, and of the necessary continuation of daily routines despite the uncertainty of their situation: children at school, farmers tending to their fields, women at work and the young looking after the sick. In one beautiful shot, a young girl, symbolically saddled with the large handbag of an adult woman, stretches to light a candle. while a man to the side holds his head in quiet weariness. The scene, with religious imagery in the backdrop, implies an innocence – a sense of hope and faith that all will eventually be as it was. Prickett’s portraits are imbued with calm, offering a subtle invitation to contemplate the situation of these people.

Sabina McMahon’s contribution – a welcome break from the norm of contemporary photography – explores the grey area between fact and fiction. In reinventing vintage photographs, she raises the issue of the photographer’s ability to manipulate imagery, altering the image and thus giving it new meaning. In an industry where the pros and cons of digital enhancement can be a contentious issue, this light-hearted approach results in a visual treat.

Ivor Prickett - A Young Mingrelian Girl Lights a Candle, digital c  type print; image courtesy of the artist.Ivor Prickett: A Young Mingrelian Girl Lights a Candle, digital c type print; image courtesy of the artist.

Francis O’Riordan’s collection depicts the invasion of artificial light on nature and subsequently, our growing dependence on it. The dark scenes, taken in Kerry’s Black Valley, are disrupted by the glaring headlights of cars driving through the valley.

Michele Horrigan’s documentary-style contribution of prints and video pieces explores the impact of factories on the environment and the communities affected.

Patrick Fitzpatrick’s dark landscapes, highlighted with rays of light, capture the natural beauty and stillness of desolate landscapes. His photographs offer fleeting moments where the fall of light can turn something common into something breathtaking.

Sabina Mac Mahon: St-1. Oliver Plunkett in Receipt of a Tailboard  Camera at Loughcrew Cairn T c.1891Sabina Mac Mahon: St-1. Oliver Plunkett in Receipt of a Tailboard Camera at Loughcrew Cairn , 2010, unique; image courtesy the artist.

Liam Murphy’s natural portraits capture passersby on Dublin’s Baggot Street Bridge. He attempts to show “private emotions in a public setting.” Murphy offers minute details to scrutinise:  the pursing of the lips, a hand to the forehead. A simple, but compelling query into the complexities of human behaviour and emotion.

Showcase demonstrates photography’s range of possibilities as a tool and the vitality, creativity and curiosity found amongst Ireland’s emerging photographers. The documentary, the timeless romanticism of landscape, and the theatrical are all employed in Showcase. However, what resonates is the anticipation of what we can hope to see from these photographers in the future.

Roisin Russell lives and works in Dublin.

Gavin Murphy: Remember, The Golden Bough, Dublin City Gallery, The Hugh Lane, 4 November, 2010- 16 January, 2011.

06.02.2011 (5:09 pm) – Filed under: Reviews ::

Gavin Murphy- Remember, The Golden Bough; Courtesy of Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane Gavin Murphy: Remember, The Golden Bough, Dublin City Gallery; Courtesy of Dublin City Gallery, The Hugh Lane.

There’s something simultaneously intriguing and awful about that compact oval space used to present the Golden Bough exhibitions. I’ve made numerous visits to the Dublin City Gallery, The Hugh Lane over the last couple of years and see what’s in that room each and every time, but I still don’t feel totally comfortable with that space. Perhaps this contradictory reaction says something of my own conditioned expectations courtesy the art world. After all, most galleries and museums place art in nice, tidy white boxes. Some institutions – the New York Guggenheim and Washington, DC’s Hirschhorn Museum come to mind – contend with non-rectilinear spaces on a regular basis, though the curving walls tend to limit what can potentially be shown. Complicating the Hugh Lane space is its obtrusive symmetry. This quality hits you the minute the gallery is entered. The path of entry not only bisects that shallow space, but also causes peripheral vision to go momentarily wonky with its left and right wings competing for attention. Many turn one way or the other, surmise the room’s content at a glance and depart. I find that interesting and wonder what it is that they are seeking. If it’s immediate visual impact, then they will bound to be disappointed. The art in this room typically inspires contemplation. Its content and the meanings that can be ascribed to it, seep out slowly. Reaping what it has to offer requires an open mind, time to linger and a bit of mental mastication.

Gavin Murphy’s recent contribution to the Golden Bough operates in just the same way. Visually, it’s underwhelming. The modest set of objects which consist of a grouping of transparent sign-like acrylic panels, modest images of books, two minimalist folding screens, and a potted plant, connote an absence of information. Their distribution appears haphazard and they seem to be conceptually disjointed. Rounding out the installation is a two channel audio recording which contributes to the lifeless aura. The voice delivering a string of fact filled sound bites speaks in an unappealing, matter-of-fact tone that fails to ingratiate itself with listeners. People attuned to the responsiveness of the latest interactive gadgets streaming digital content may find it a purgatorial experience.

Gavin Murphy- Remember, The Golden Bough; Courtesy of Dublin City Gallery, The Hugh Lane.Gavin Murphy: Remember, The Golden Bough; Courtesy of Dublin City Gallery, The Hugh Lane.

Given a good look and listen though, Murphy’s output rewarded visitors with a complex mix of history and ideas that charts important shifts in the interpretation, value, and use of cultural material and the evolution of Charlemont House in particular. In speaking about memory, compilation, loss, and rebirth, the exhibition refers to art collections, libraries, encyclopaedias and architecture, and delineates relationships between paintings, sculptures, photographs and books. The installation neither wholly rejects nor totally conforms to the room’s configuration. Binary relationships, evident in aspects of the structure and content of the work, do resonate through the space. From the recording viewers hear about the illusion of depth in the work of early modern writers and painters, as well as Dublin City Gallery’s dual objective of mitigating the negative effects of light on art works and providing proper illumination while they are on display. Of the objects, the screens form the most obvious example. Though one is black and the other white, they mirror each other in terms of scale, configuration and placement.

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