NOT ENOUGH SPACE on WordPress.
This post will be on https://slavkasverakova. blogspot.com
Thank you, wordpress, for holding my 201 posts…
MY FUTURE POSTS WILL BE ON BLOGSPOT.COM
Not enough space on this blog.
NOT ENOUGH SPACE on WordPress.
This post will be on https://slavkasverakova. blogspot.com
Thank you, wordpress, for holding my 201 posts…
MY FUTURE POSTS WILL BE ON BLOGSPOT.COM
Not enough space on this blog.
This kind of playful courage to reminisce on gestural abstract expressionism belongs to this painter’s youth and memory of it. The broken world of strong hues without attachment to a story or an object is naturally suitable to express a state of mind that keeps disintegrating. Yet – the unruly slivers of colours gell into a intoxicated sensual high.
While some studies are born of scholarly curiosity, others are aimed at discovering medical and educational applications based on how art affects the body and the brain. I have read this yesterday by chance:
“The National Endowment for the Arts is helping fund research into the potential therapeutic benefits of art “in treating a disease or disorder, or in improving symptoms for a chronic disease, disorder or health condition.” One specific question: “How does a dosage — frequency, duration, or intensity — of creative arts therapy relate to individual or program-level outcomes?”
Brian Wallace has both experience and will to share his insights and answer.
“I served in an Anti-terrorist unit for a number of years in West Belfast, and was involved in numerous traumatic incidents.
Even when I went on to serve in quieter stations I was involved in other traumatic stuff, as were many of my colleagues. This went on right throughout my service, and in fact one of the last incidents I dealt with was the suicide of a young policeman that I had worked with in Derry.
Some of the paintings are about the stuff I was involved in. I feel able to talk about and visit these without having any problems now. I would put that down to having 4 years of intensive Art Psychotherapy during which I have been able to revisit traumas and through protocols which we developed finally make sense of it all. While completing my Masters I had opportunity to research and write about PTSD and my recovery process, while actually taking part in my own personal therapy. It took a long period of time to repair the damage to my brain, but I believe that is what has happened…”
Even the name he gave this exhibition alliterates the phrase “going to pieces” as trauma breaks a whole.
By coincidence, this exhibition also answers one particular question asked rhetorically in another context:
“What else does one build a life out of if not people and time?” (Keith Gessen, A terrible country, 2018 accessed on https://longreads.com/2018/07/10/my-brother-comes-to-moscow/
Three of the exhibits are result of Wallace collaborating with his friend, the painter Billy Campbell. He explains:
“Billy and myself have kept in touch over the years and frequently talk about our work and critique each other’s work. So a lot of trust has built up over the years.
We were talking one day about a painting which Billy did in conjunction with Mark Thomas and we both liked the idea of us trying something similar, but with different rules. So we set our rules and completed about 10 paintings over a six month period. We both really enjoyed the experience. Some of that work was on display eg No 9 and 19.”
Yet – looking at collaborative painting is independent of knowing who painted what. Experiencing the full effect of seeing it, makes everything about the artist disappear. Nevertheless what is known about the author, tends to influences the rest of the aesthetic judgement.
There was a series of drawings and paintings with prominent focus on eyes, a kind of parallel to Munch’s Scream but fully inwardly and soundless and knowing of the abyss.
Process of painting appears to have a cathartic effect on Wallace:
“ My process has developed over the years and I am learning to apply paint in a completely intuitive way and give what’s inside me as free reign as possible.
When I begin a group of canvasses I try not to have and end product in mind, but let my unconscious mind take the lead. To do this at the beginning I try and leave as much to chance and randomness as I can. The process is still developing and I am finding new ways of erasing paint. I did have a big problem with emotional numbness, so maybe my erasing of the grey colour has something to do with this. I have used this general model of process for most of the paintings on display and I don’t think it is particular to one group.”
What may be meant by his words ” this general model of process “? Like early Modernists, Wallace dwells on the darker parts of psyche – a result not only of death of a loved one, but also of the social and political conditions he worked for three decades as a policeman with a dormant Fine Art degree. Although many of the exhibited canvases carry obvious desire to hold his experiences, he is careful not to blur the boundary between art and life, as many contemporary visual artists currently do. A tendency with one root in Allan Kaprow’s observation that life is more interesting than art.
Wallace does not separate thinking and feeling, he even does not flirt with any clever-clever theory preferred by conceptual art. He integrates thinking and feeling, decision and chance, memory and invention intuitively. Sometimes he erased the paint so virulently that he made holes in the canvas. He covered it with brutal patches to make the process visible. Tortured person, tortured canvas.
As to the future of his art practice he is optimistic:
“After I joined the RUC in 1980 I did not have much time to paint. We had two young kids and I worked very long hours. Painting sort of emerged in later years, but I found it difficult to do because it brought up bad memories which I could not handle at the time. With PTSD I found that I had a number of very vivid horrific memories which were swirling around in my head in an uncontrollable manner. This is why an art based cure has been very effective for me. I now feel free to return to the horrible stuff if I wish, and doing so will not cause me any distress.”
The quotes in italic are from his email to me on 09/07/2018
Images courtesy the artist.
During a passive contemplation it all looked like polaroids: white framed, round frame, no frame, and assemblage. As if multitude of sameness were exercised to include differences.
As images of male persons, faces or torsos, they tell of identities. Until the eye gets entangled in the see- through the gossamer of deliberate double, treble exposures. Something more than likeness is transmitted, intangible but real: conversation of the sight with the lense.
To capture the likeness, identifying the image as a kind of a “portrait”, apparently matters to both the subject and the artist. It is not just view and click, stimulus and response, it is a continuous response. It is also a call not to succumb to the current pathology of cynicism that dismisses anything sincere as simplistic and to be rejected.
The exhibition is made up of four different formats:
Above are examples of two of them: Framed Polaroid 600 White Frame Photographs and Large Giclee Polaroid Prints on Hahnemuhle Paper.
The decidedly smaller scale of Lomography wall assemblage (below) somewhat flirts with the spontaneity of too much evidence, hoarding linear narrative into a vertical axes. In addition – the grid tolerates variables of viewer’s choice. Observation, viewing and looking converge, collide and jump over the thematic grouping. The lens registered both acuity of the vision and its opposites. It is like inscription on wax tablets in hot weather. A simile Plato applied to memory.
Black & White Polaroid Round Frame ( unframed)
These are the most acute, static, expected, straight images exhibited. They also support the perception that concerns about the form are indelibly concerns about meaning. The round black and white series deal with time differently from the previously mentioned sets of images, accentuating signs of the past, history, memory as stable. Frozen time.
Looking at each image includes expectations, questions, hunches or theories a viewer has in her/his mind. And all that structures and directs viewer’s attention and awareness, as if illustrating what E Gombrich called “beholder’ s share”.
As an image of identity it is not precise, yet, it successfully approximates identity. Deciding what is relevant and meaningful involves hiding what is not relevant. At times, what is vital is overlaid and hidden by what was irrelevant.
Fenning’s ingenuity lies in crafting questions about human nature and cognition, directed against the current obsessions of judging one gender as flawless and the other as eternally guilty.
Fenning’s friends are autonomous men, free spirits, confident to survive the hysteria which developed after numerous revelations of serious moral failures. They will survive and defend – not just themselves.
The layering of exposures enables the image to minimise the pathos of social constructs of masculinity. Instead, it succeeds in presenting men as alive and true individuals, not reducible to gender stereotype. Fenning – it appears to me- also hints at understated celebration of being.
Images courtesy Mark Francis Fenning.
Two of the eighteen exhibits blur the distinction between ” an object” and ” a process”, that defines the whole exhibition. Made of plaster and pigment the horizontal floor assembly (below) differs from the curvilinear “blobs” installed in the alcove by the way pigment makes the object. The appearance of white exact linear drawing on the blue green ground raises a question how deep the white strips go . Only in one case the white covers its adjacent edge, thus appearing as going through the whole thickness of the plaster rectangle. The other white “lines” appear as painted on top of the blue ground, a false appearance. They are placed in-between the smooth surfaces of the blue hue.
In the above photograph the white lies on top of some of the blue rectangles as well as inside them. The “what it looks like” and “how it is made” are battling which one will undermine the visual perception more. However, it is the visual thought that motivates each composition.
The objects (I call them “blobs” earlier) in the above image are playfully distributed on the wall. They are made differently: one shape one colour. One hue through and through. Reminiscent of textile or clay work, plaster is saturated by paint to make no image beyond its own shape and tonality. The optical illusion of identity between what it looks like and how it is made has been pushed to its breaking point. I could not decipher , by looking only, the materials of the flat (dominant) and linear (domineering) parts in each assemblage – as to how they were made. It would appear a combination of casting and assembling.
It is reminiscent of Tony Cragg saying
““Even if it’s nothing linear, things generate something. There is a kind of self-propagating, self-generating energy within the material itself.”
and Anish Kapoor:
“The idea that if I empty out all the content and just make something that is an empty form, I don’t empty out the content at all. The content is there in a way that is more surprising than if I tried to make a content.”
The above is applicable to other ways of making a painting – not just coloured plaster. The issues of identity between seeing and being is pushed ad absurdum.
In cognitive philosophy: Reductio ad absurdum is a mode of argumentation that seeks to establish a contention by deriving an absurdity from its denial, thus arguing that a thesis must be accepted because its rejection would be untenable. It is a style of reasoning that has been employed throughout the history of mathematics and philosophy from classical antiquity onwards. (https://www.iep.utm.edu/reductio/)
The only valid way to establish and accept that assemblages of coloured plaster are paintings is by looking at concrete examples as they are on the walls. They appear to be paintings. Abstract, carefully composed, manicured to perfect surface. A practical rule of procedure or modus operandi would be reduced to absurdity when it can be shown that its actual adoption and implementation would result in an anomaly. It is not the case. They all look like paintings.
There is more. Looking at the fluent saturation of both blue circles invites association with monotype and watercolour. Similarly in the two blue stripes as they frame the white low relief between them.
Using plaster, some white as it comes, and some dyed with pigment, is not shockingly new. Gesso has a proud history of achieving smooth surface velvety to touch, while settling on the ground made of wood or canvas, in several thin layers one after the other. It creates a barrier between the wood substrate, or other ground material, and the painting surface. Or – in the case of bas-relief it does not. Sarah Wren Wilson allows her art to resemble both, painting in the way the surface carries an image, and low relief in the way the pigment and the plaster deny the difference between ground and surface.
(The small numbers next to the exhibits, 17 and 16, refer to the handout accompanying the display in the Sunburst Gallery. The images were taken by the artist)
Appealing to both to optical and haptic senses, her art invites comparison with collage, assemblage and intarsia in addition to resembling painting. In both blue triangles above, and in both blue horizontal rectangles in the I Blue… the pigment appears visibly being mixed with white plaster liquid and dissipated into fluid marks as it was drying. As a technique it is similar to staining canvas (e.g. Helen Frankenthaler), or pouring paints on a rotating wheel (Damien Hirst), except it does not define the whole, it is inserted into the whole on the condition of equivalent role. So far, I found associations to medieval and renaissance art ( gesso), and to late modernism. However, the sophistication born from removal of the ground includes a link to early Modernism, its concern with the finish of the surface with removing the final layers. The rejection of smooth lacquered finish stopping at the stage of ebauche. Some translate this into English as “lay-in”. Ebauche was a protest against the academic canon. It placed sensual intensity above the intelectual profundity, paradoxically enhancing it too. Edward Manet and Paul Cezanne left scores of wonderful “unfinished” paintings, encouraging development of Modernism. Heroically, western painting calmed down the divided brushstroke born from the ebauche, to another hard edge geometrical abstraction and all over field.
The title above openly connects to ebauche, for which the open strokes of the brush were significant.
These links to older art are there to smooth up the possible shock of recognition that ground and surface are one, apparently unmoored form any sort of logic. Holding to the picture plane and visual narrative is presented as an illusion. The difference between perceiving these art objects as painting and knowing that they substantially differ from the process of painting, is nearly a difference between fleeting and long term viewing. Between the intensity and profundity.
Wilson does admit in confusion as a sibling of being defiantly anti-utilitarian.
In relation to the freedom art depends on, and also offers to viewers, the question of aesthetic judgement is still within the Kantian condition. I left the exhibition refreshed and little amused what power (promise?) of the “shock of the new” still holds. Conscious of the manual dexterity Wilson’s choice of mode of work depends on I cherished her colourist instinct for beauty as a poetic cover up.
Images courtesy Sarah Wren Wilson
This reproduction subtracts, distorts the dynamics of Hagan’s brush marks, they are like solid coat of paint, whereas the surface in real viewing is a gossamer of vapours. Even where it is divided by breaking line, the hue flirts with air and light to lose optical weight. Have I seen it before? Yes – Tintoretto at the Scuola di San Rocco, Goya -he when painting the murals at St Antonio della Florida with a sponge. The clouds and the sea swapped places as it may happen in some act of the Earth. Their force is to tell of the force of nature so neglected by the greed. The final version arrived late, here it is:
Hagan dissolves volumes and outlines to the point of disappearance of the definition of shape. His surface breathes almost audibly, spelling out chilling aftermath of an event we are not allowed to understand.
Iridescent and two tone pigments tell in some detail of the heat that swallows the outlines, saving just slabs of darkness in the composition that is both diagonal and classical. Claude Lorrain Pastoral Landscape may have inspired Hagan’s building blocks.
The silence of the interior still partners the large blocks of light and dark, tamed by right angles, straight lines, set of parallels as if echoing the chair in front. Also as a force responding to the fragmentation of the left and top part of the image. I would have expected unconsolable break in the composition. Yet, it is holding together both the description of the observed and the unfathomable apparitions. His painting’s power becomes more obvious, when Hagan tames his imagination to tell a story.
Still, the chilling ambiguity screams more than one meaning – intelligibly. The paradox of classical calm and baroque riot breaks the painting into two – taxing the light to unite them. Them? Two different feelings: one anchored in contemplative memory and the other in something barbaric, an actual scene. Which circle of hell is this?
Also: Poussin’s Et in Arcadia Ego ( the variant at Louvre) has something to say here.
Images accessed on www. karlhagan.com. The final version of Clampdown (see above) arrived directly from the painter after I published the essay.
Attila Szabo mines the rich vein of power of play, imagination and science: ” I enjoy combining art with electronics. Art that comes alive using the magic of technology and technology that brings people together instead of replacing them.” (http://szattla.wixsite.com/attilaszabo)
Please note: “aesthetic experience” is the benefit – not anything narrowly related to political or social or health issues.
Szabo :” This is an interactive art piece that reads two peoples’ pulse and moves the drumsticks according to their heart beat. The piece aims to set up an unusual situation to connect two people allowing them to have a non verbal communication… a “heart to heart” conversation”
In both installations the “nature” contributes to the aesthetic experience in a guise of free energy ( water falling, heartbeat made audible) with electricity to activate. Laudable interdependence between aesthetic experience and nature gently bridges over the assumed culturally determined division.
The interdisciplinary art is a phenomenon inherited from modernism ( e.g. Calder, Fluxus) and pop culture of the last century. As then, even now, that commitment is deeply personal.
Richard J Canning distills interior design into line drawings that subtract the observed real to its boundaries with the air.
Just like technical drawings – allowed to disobey the optics of perspective and proportion – the chairs around the table below I drawn as if from different distances, to make a chair look smaller than the one next to it. The wrong perspective animates the line drawing making it more poetic than descriptive.
In some -sorry not shown here- he reaches the boundary of similarity allowing the image to float into the dynamics of metamorphosis.
The intention is not shielded from influence of viewing. These artists do not wish to cancel the sense of connectivity between the initial values embodied in their intent. Charles Baudelaire’s Correspondences appear to receive another “working life”.
Nature is a temple whose living colonnades
Breathe forth a mystic speech in fitful sighs;
Man wanders among the symbols in those glades
Where all things watch him with familiar eyes.
(transl by Richard Wilbur)
I have managed to see painting and sculpture only. The tenor of the exhibited work was to make visual thoughts accessible in some familiar material that should move the viewer to relinquish the fear of the new. Sufficiently different from the rest but not outrageously so. Sufficiently different from each other the paintings and sculptures are embedded in each artist’s aesthetic norm and choice whether to create dangerously or not. The exhibits were visual conversation between the graduates and the current art world, inclusive of the university staff. It reminded me of Michael Oakeshott’s thoughts about the universities engagement and goal: the goal of this engagement is not found in checklist of things every educated person should know but in fostering of intellectual and emotional maturity. Education should be a many-sided conversation that requires a quiet self-confidence and genuine self-understanding on the part of both teacher and student. (see Timothy Fuller, ed, The voice of liberal education, Michael Oakeshott on education, Yale University press, 1990)
The following sample is in conversation with the history of art, one’s powers of observation, invention and decision making, and with the material and place at hand. These graduates are not on ego trips for the shock of the new. Reviving both mute poetry and enchanting fantasy they bond ideas and skills with absurd calm memorial to visual thinking.
James Speers chose two continuous roles of paper for two different set of discontinuous marks: every one stands on its own, be it a vividly coloured shape or black parallels. Reminiscent of the musicality of a Klee and a Kandinsky the compositions are fine tuned configurations of figures on empty white space. The connectivity between the two is subtle but insistent. To place so fragile drawings on a monumental scale in front of the view over the roofs of a city is a sign of confidence. And yes they both allow the reality to flow in between them and create their own presence. Equivalent presence.
e.g. Coalshed, 2018, oil on canvas, 200x 200 cm
Sunken Road, 2018, oil on canvas, 130×170 cm
For better detail please click on https://amywhittleartist.wixsite.com/mysite
Ingenuity, love for art and technology, feeds Szabo’s insatiable love of sound art – that comes across both ans drive to invention and respect for all the parts of of the process. Immaculate devotion, attention, sheer hard labour celebrate togetherness. The produced sound carries its own natural beauty, like water trickling in a small brook would do.
water circulates, fils the cups, turns them upside down, water reaches the sound plates …
Work in progress is a development of the second exhibit at the degree show, that recorded to persons’ heart beat in conversation: https://youtu.be/PZ_P95WSfJA
Below unfinished Conversation of hearts.
This piece I am currently working on is the most challenging one I have done so far. Although the work is still in progress, it will read two people’s heart rate and copy the rhythm to allow their hearts to “communicate”.
see more on http://szattla.wixsite.com/attilaszabo
Addendum after the above was published.Last evening I got a gift of those “missing” images. A follow up post is in a separate post.
I just read that Boo Saville sands back painted layers until the canvas gleams. (https://frieze.com/article/damien-hirst-spotlights-emerging-talent-his-newport-street-gallery-show)
Vanishing of brushstrokes and tones until the canvas shines vanishes also a painting canon like the albertian window, gesture paintings etc. Reminds me of Hans Magnus Enzensberger’s poem The Vanished. The first line:
It was not the earth that swallowed them. Was it the air?
Boo Saville’s all over fields of paint are a labour intensive sibling of industrial shiny surfaces like those on cars. Her shiny surfaces cannot be mass-produce, but do display similarities, in the way they look. Still, however similar, each is unique. Their subject is themselves as a result of reversed process of painting.
The world is airtight
yet held together by what it does not house
by the vanished
In the Golden Thread Gallery the curator brought together four artists exploring the “vanishing act” … He, Peter Richards, and the four artists: Deb Covell, Jo McGonical, Susan Connolly and Brian Fay, think of their art objects as paintings or drawings or sculpture, judgement derived from the link to the way material is employed. The displayed objects are thus “outsiders” held together “by the vanished”. The term “outsiders” is traditionally hooked on a hierarchy between talent and academia. Among the proposals to leave this term behind, another, “outlier”, has been recently introduced by Lynne Cooke thus ” a mobile individual who has gained recognition by means at variance with expected channels and protocols.” ( see Catalogue for travelling exhibition Outsiders and American Vanguard Art, 2018, National Gallery of Art/University of Chicago Press)
I sense that Cooke became aware not only of the creative force not dependent on academia, but also of the value of alienation from established, habitual norm by seemingly unfathomable creative process.
In the After an act exhibition painting/drawing/sculpture twists and folds chipping the established ways by allowing, for example, the paint to imitate behaviour of malleable clay or damp cloth, to forge tromp l ‘oeil of nothing that existed before, to out-turrell – Turrell, to discipline your eye to subdue the image and instead observe and focus on craquelage. That’s the prefer mode of Brian Fay who exhibits five traditionally framed sheets of paper.
The skillful blend of light and hues on the original paintings is overrun by an “otherwordly” observation of decay by time. It is a reserved and hard document of seeing Ingres’ intention consistently dismembered. Art erased by process of aging as if it were a living organism.
This profoundly modern realism entangles the sight in the selective self- control: to see what Brian Fay wants to see. It is sober, logical, coherent intention not to present an image as painted by Ingres, instead Fay selects pathways of chemical changes in the materials Ingres used to paint that portrait. The materials used by Ingres gave “birth” to the painting, they are now gradually erasing it. Not as shockingly as the dark ground on Titian’s Pieta (1570-6) at Gallerie dell Academia in Venice, rather as a gossamer of short marks. In all his the five exhibits Fay illustrated that ” disembodying” of older art is not just a passing whim. Vermeer’s narrative force gets even harsher treatment.
The Vermeer’s painting is erased completely, except for selected marks of recent additions/changes, marks left by the bite of being in the world. It narrowly adheres to the idea of completion (replacing lost surface), only to be drowned in the paradox of white empty area. The empty is the area of the original, the new marks indicate fake, if the aura of authorship is your focus this difference becomes significant: Ingres’s art is not visible. Fay’s chosen “iron cage of truth of what is observed” cannot cope with spontaneity or complexity. However, your response to the final image can do precisely that: by harvesting associations with abstraction, abstract art of 20th C or with Tantra art, while consciously following Fay’s lead to ignore make the original painting invisible. In particular, when the imperfections of modulated black draw attention away from the magisterial white emptiness. The intimacy of the white emptiness is rooted in memory of Vermeer evoked in the title, by words. And quickly disappears when the eye moves on to the darker restoration marks. Different rhythm takes over. It feels not as estrangement, its fons et origo is in visual perception. The sight alternates between the two constantly forging a tacit dialogue. ( see M D Vernon, Visual Perception, 1937)
Art offers an intrinsic value not just by what it does not do, but also by what it does. It is a self- perpetuating system in particular when the process and the system become one. I have in mind the current re-working of the high Modernist call for the preference over the story telling of “how” it is made… dripping, cutting, assembling etc … and in this exhibition a convincing lie of tromp l’oeil lifted out of memory of the baroque narrative and slimmed down to tacit (often one hue) magic.
I walked into the first room of After an Act playfully reminiscing on Kandinsky’s memory of walking into “a picture” and fell for Covell’s optical play.
But first – the installation is the monolatry of visual beauty, it presents a shy beauty, silent one and patiently waiting to be discovered. A kind of chamber music with solos in visual means.
Deb Covell’s black and white low reliefs, one tossed nonchalantly on the floor, alienate themselves from an established norm by seemingly unfathomable desire to look like a cloth or potter’s clay. Rolled out and folded over. (http://www.debcovell.co.uk)
Her savant intuition ships the established ways towards the chain of behaviour of amino acids, more adroit to twist and fold. In her 2014 interview for Studio International she describes the process as starting with a single brushstroke on polythene sheet, continuing with more layers until the paint becomes robust enough to hold together. Folding, creasing, cutting and collapsing lead then to the new stand alone form. In that interview she put emphasis on her need to diminish the noise ” of my painterly gesture”. (debcovell.co.uk)
Although the look sits comfortably with the tradition of low relief and modern assemblage, intriguingly it evokes sensibility of a potter and a dress maker. It has to hang elegantly and to hold its volume, however slim, comfortably and in (visual)silence.
Intriguingly, I hear the story when viewing these. Or imagine it rather? Although visually complete and confident her painterly sculptures are open ended, the end receding from any possibility of one conclusion, as long as I look. Presence of the present again and again. Akin to philosophy or meditation on time. In that interview Covell allows: ” My paintings are aimed at bringing a form into the world and keeping the viewer in the present…” I associate this kind of inspiration with Constantin Brancusi and hence embrace her work as fragments of rebirth of senses today so saturated by noisy pollutants of many kinds.
Her savvy decision to dispose of habitual support of painted surface rhymes well with our awareness of connectivity of all that exists. Her bold decision to make a painting as a paint capable standing alone supporting itself is not a marginal idea. It shifts my attention back to the Earth as a ground for all life, our judgement and priorities still ensnared by the old model of hierarchy of being.
In this exhibition each art object has confidence and power to be itself thus an amicable metaphor for human condition. An admirable merge of intrinsic and social function of art, superbly visual and tactile.
Susan Connolly exhibits acrylic paint either as a skin, or on canvas and armature. I enthusiastically respond to her “convincing lies” ( words I borrowed from Picasso). In her exhibits she offers intimate magic of puzzling my senses. Yes, I love the freedom of the visual thought – it has been, of course, recognised by Schiller as a conditio sine qua non of poetics as kingdom of freedom. At times she reverses the proposition – what you see is what it is. Painted cloth.
Sometimes it is not what you see. On the largest exhibit, installed on its own in a dark room, the fold on the right is not painted, it is not cloth, it is malleable paint in layers. Under blue purple neon light it operates as process and system at once. Palpably tactile, the light saturates the space in the manner described by James Turrell: “lights unites the spiritual world with the ephemeral world”. The whole interior becomes a work of art- one you can walk into, around, back and forth. Not just an elaborate screen patiently built from layers for one directional viewing. Demand we operate in nature.
This painting carries its beauty without becoming overtly triumphant. Beauty differs from the truth, good or justice, by being present in the world. It is a fact of ordinary perception, and people freely disagree what is and is not beautiful. Often, beauty connotes physical appearance, patterns, structures, eg. golden ratio, elegance of scientific proof. In all it is individual sensual response. Connolly’s extravagant manipulation of conventional materials is to invent reality, not to represent, describe, an object and or image, but be one.
Leaning to the aesthetics of pealed poster board, this white wounded sheet refuses to seduce by beauty. It is ugly with confidence resulting from unknown conflict. Getting old, getting used up? And yes, it manages to awake empathy (and a touch of drama in those torn up edges).
Displayed like a triptych, Everything+Nothing, plays up the illusion of hanging cloth. It is the paint alone anchored on an invisible wooden holder on the wall. Three parts, three objects.
Connolly placed layers of acrylic on directly on the wall, let it settle, and peeled it off. On some the white surface of the wall stayed attached too.
Some of the marks echo their twins in a mirror image, like the pink below.
In one case, the rectangle imprint on the wall of the layers before Connolly pulled the “skin” down is visible as a friendly accuser.
As if accustomed to the conflictive process of forming opinion the tromp l’oeil gives up its truth hesitantly. As if in acknowledgement that public sphere has disintegrated. What is, is the art object and a discerning eye of each viewer. Connolly places her trust into the mute poetry without consecutive narrative. The story is the story of being and viewing. Not enough? It is the view of good thinkers, like Italo Calvino that the power of thinking in terms of visual images is value to be saved and protected. He proposes to learn how to control our own inner vision without suffocating it or letting it fall ( Six Memos: 92). These art objects embody Kant’s questions: What can I know? What should I know? I allow that philosophy and that belief in visibility to embrace Connolly’s art as its true support.
Jo McGonigal dips into the minimalist aesthetics by assembling contrasting materials.
It has been done – a half a century ago, for ex by Isamu Noguchi. (I failed to locate the one where he used glass and stone … internet is full of his tables combining the two.)
McGonigal focuses both on the sensual story of ordinary experience with cloth and wood, and on the subversion of it by invention. It is reminiscent of Duchamp’s conversion, but substantially different, by rejecting the egoistic posturing. It is not a hard cold concept – her composition celebrates the difference, while avoiding conflict or crush, or power struggle. Her objects are peaceful within themselves and with us. They exude joi de vivre with a touch of mischievous knowing.
They do look pretty, confident, with no trace of competition with another, reminiscent of natural forms, stones, grass, flower…
Origami, plisse, are somewhere near this idea, when it was coming to be. A comparison to a less intimate beauty perhaps secures the appreciation of McGonigal’s mastery .
Below are two views of fabric tree stumps by Tamara Kostianowsky (accessed on http://www.tamarakostianowsky.com)
The tree stumps look too near to her series of carcasses to escape the charge of description. Whereas McGonigal charms with something ordinary becoming something else and beautiful. It is the state of that secret that makes the visual experience exciting.
More of her work and interviews are accessible on her website: jomcgonigal.co.uk
For me, the hanging on to older system of art as a ground for a denial, or a departure, may be an illusion. The more drastic case I know, is Marinetti and the Futurists. Instead of taking apart an anatomy of the past, I cherish connectivity of this new art with Earth and some indigenous crafts and children’s imagination. A piece of wood does become a sword or a princess. A skill to fold paper, layer paints, celebrate crinkled fabric – all have aesthetic power independent of art institution or theory. Perhaps visual art is flirting with magic here…
Duchampian arrogance turn play reveals our level of honesty and thus is an ethical issue: for our stewardship of the Earth we need to nurture imagination. “The imagination” writes Italo Calvino (Six Memos:91) ” is a kind of electronic machine that takes account of all possible combinations and chooses the ones that are appropriate to a particular purpose, or a simply the most interesting, pleasing and amusing.”
This exhibition is all three by sharing where the beauty comes from ….
Compared to Pat Harris’s recent paintings of flowers the marks above are not only heavily saturated but in the process of metamorphosis – a man’s body with arms stretched apart took orders from Ovidius Naso, marking the vase and the flowers as if between two blinks of the eye. Resulting uncertainty guides the morphing of one to another.
(Image accessed on http://www.taylorgalleries.ie/Pat-Harris-Thin-Places)
One aspect appears to me as more significant than the rest. The painter delays recognition, as if wishing to protect the natural form and expands the distance between observation and awakening of the senses.
In an earlier interview, Harris reminisces about role of marks, of brushstrokes:
Finally something happened in December… I succeeded in translating the flowers into new marks that were completely absorbed into the surface of the painting. Previously my paintings were arranged around a single motif, if sometimes with echoes to the side. But
now I’ve succeeded in spreading various elements across the surface of the canvas. (http://patharris.info/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/THE-WEIGHT-OF-SPACE-from-The-Loose-Box-publication-Purdy-HicksLondon-.pdf)
Note the deliberate space- an empty gap – between the stem and thorns. Whose viewing space it is? At first his personal space , and now mine … The current science suggests that personal space expands with anxiety. If stressed, apparently, our personal space grows.
The image above frees me from tyranny of political correctness and verism, instead offers an assurance that poetic truth is real. It does not assign any material value to this anxious portrait of nature, which seems both purposeful and mysterious. Mesmerising…
Seeing Harris’s exhibition at Fenderesky evoked my curiosity if anxiety could become a successful creative force. I found support in current research.
The study, published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences, ” suggests that, while many people associate imaginative genius with emotional problems, higher creativity is, in fact, linked to the sort of emotional self-awareness that allows artists and other innovators to ride the ups and downs of the creative process….. This suggests seemingly irrelevant stimuli can benefit the creative process—but only if you have the emotional intelligence to treat them as potentially helpful, and incorporate them into your thinking.
…only if you have the emotional intelligence to adhere – what Emerson called – wise silence?
I catch myself responding to the drama of these lines of sight before I understand why. I sense that I am as if in some thought space while viewing it. It is a landscape that refuses to have a name it was given. An anxious portrait of nature, of matter and light and water. Principle particles of life. The least understood part nearest to the picture plane and viewer is almost ready to burst over the frame.
Harris’s paintings thrive on the creative discrepancy between the brushstrokes wrestled to the primary position among attention seeking hues, tonality, motifs, light, observed and invented shapes, placement and sophisticate construct of compositions. His visual intelligence masters simultaneously both viewing spaces without conflating them into one: the composition of the low horizon attaches his paintings to the Dutch Landscape tradition of the Golden century, while the preferred high key stretches it towards the French Impressionists.
When he revisits a subject, Harris feels more confident to bring it near and impose other hues, while keeping the tonality similar to the earlier version. I feel that it is now less mysterious, more describing how the earlier anxiety was conquered, replaced by the raw power of saturated brushstrokes….
I find a similarity between these paintings and writing, as writing is understood by David Heyden in his essay:
When a person sits down to write, they have a body, they have memory, they have their entire somatic functioning and everything that is embedded there. Writing is a practice where a singular means is drawn out of all that stuff and shaped into something that can be shared with a few or many people, or with no one but the self who writes. People write out of their skin and their memory and their blood, out of history and culture, out of every hour they have lived, out of everything that they have read, everything that they have not read, everything they have heard and misheard: the reserves of their entire sensory experience. All that is felt and thought and all that resides deep inside them beyond thought. There are an almost infinite number of connections that a writer can make with this, and if they can make those in language, and are not lost costively within themselves, then they are writing.
Making meaning, finding corrections may feel impossible, yet, it happens. Harris’s landscapes/seascapes allow dramatic emptiness surround an arbitrary focus. The raw power of viewing perhaps evokes activity in the spectator – participatory eye does not allow passive distance hence the image is not just a spectacle.
Harris’s painting space, my viewing space are both a personal space. If a view stresses me, my personal space grows, it expands with anxiety. Harris defines his distance from the seen as if he were constantly anxious. He paints nature and is nature too. Subjectively, I see that instinctively and at once. Science offers some insights:
“In the 1990s, neuroscientists made a major breakthrough in understanding personal space with the discovery of a network of neurons in the brain that keeps track of nearby objects. Sometimes called peripersonal neurons, these individual brain cells fire off bursts of activity when objects loom near the body. In my own experiments, I came to call them bubble-wrap neurons. They monitor invisible bubbles of space, especially around the head and torso, and when they rev up, they trigger defensive and withdrawal reflexes.”
Harris makes us complicit witnesses of seeing nature as it was, is, and is not more. However, I am told, that if you station yourself in a place called “Carrowteige” and look at the Stacks of Broad Haven — you may see this island…
Harris placed the responsibility on the restricted range of hues with few harmonies articulated by light and its absence. While disregarding the loss of details due to the size and perspective, he moved the scale nearer to the viewer restricting haptic details. One colour has preferred status of a guard against revealing too much. To protect nature against human nature?
That would and should activate anxiety. And, or, a doubt.
I add below an earlier painting, which has not been installed at Fenderesky , perhaps, as evidence that Harris can do a conventional landscape with a touch of optimism. But I prefer those other ones. Their raw sincerity.
Images of paintings courtesy Pat Harris.
The eighteen photographs Pictures from the Real World are displayed in a rumbling visual essay of small formats that accentuates the feeling of gentle trespassing into private lives, this time with the enthusiastic agreement of the participating family.
If the display makes you to question the ethics of trespassing into someone private life, it would be both in line with Moore’s intention and the issues of representative visual art, in particular lens based.
(all 18 photographs on http://davidmoore.uk.com/projects/pictures-from-the-real-world?)
The two channel video Look at us in the upstairs gallery obeys so much of the nonchalant confidence that their aesthetic impact becomes minimal.
As visual thoughts the images are similar to the stills downstairs, while it is assumed that every visitor can follow the spoken part. I could not, I refrain from any conclusive thought here, except that the sound marred my experience. However, when shown at the festival it earned highly positive comments. e.g.
““..fascinating to see how you’ve progressed the collaborative practice thing to the point that most of the usual criticisms of documentary just don’t apply. I felt Lisa and john seemed to represent some part of the atmosphere of Allenton as a whole. Really good work, congratulations”
“Out of everything that I saw over the Format launch weekend it has stayed with me the most. It felt highly relevant within the context of the festival, but also an important endeavor within its own right” – Mike Brown / Arts Funding Derby City Council”
(accessed on http://davidmoore.uk.com/words/the-lisa-and-john-slideshow)
In addition BX displayed also small maquettes Lisa and John, Oh My Days
The BX handout text provides interesting teasers:
1.It is a new solo exhibition …. it is a multi-media exhibition … it is a document Moore made between 1987-88 in his home town Derby, England.
2. The 18 photographs were published in 2013 as Pictures from the Real World
3.It is a collaboration with Lisa and John between 2015 -2017 to create this exhibition described as “archive intervention” – apparently they were invited separately to make their personal edit.
On my visit – I did not judge it multi -media … although there were photographs, video and three- dimensional maquettes. Somehow they all jelled into one – like a river, flowing at times, hitting stones at times, accepting tributaries at times. There was no one centre or hierarchy. Also uneven aesthetic impact.
In the context of visual art Moore images connect to European 19thC narrative paintings, and in the way the lens dwells on objects they admit themsleves to the long line of still lives. Chardin and mid 19th C realism come to mind. Moore avoids both socialist realism’s cosmetic lies and fragmentation favoured by Modernism, not escaping the renewal of slow perception as in cinema verite and some late 20th C video, Sophie Calle, for example, or the Canadian story telling at Venice Biennales.
Moore avoids conflicts and does not always manage to hold to the possible emotional charge. It is as if the creation of “normal” being in the world were on its way out of the world of wars, shooting and conflicts, needed Moore’s documenting, protection by holding it in memory.
Are his images alluring? They are marginal – but not extreme.
Whereas, in its display of photographs by 60 artists the current EXTREME RAY touches on extremeness as alluring. (https://ray2018.de/)
” Crises, wars, extremism, and populism shake our values, norms, and organizational infrastructures. The extreme is booming. Especially in this age of digitally circulating information and images that demand an economy of attention, the extreme triggers the desire to be captured in an image. The more extraordinary and marginal the image, the more alluring it is. “(my emphasis)
Moore offers not exactly the mid 19th C “gemuetlichkeit ” of the Biedermayer, nor the blink of 17th C Dutch still lifes … and he escapes the “improvements of the real” favoured by the 20th C socialist realism. How? By attention to narrative observation of what is there… not what may be there. I found an oblique confirmation in Moore’s review (2013) Alec Soth’s Looking for Love. Moore writes:
Returning to and publishing old work can be an interesting and problematic proposal, particularly if the photographs haven’t been seen before. Various questions present themselves; does one re-edit, reproaching one’s younger self? Is it desirable to avoid the contemporary in your reselection? How important is the work in the ‘photographic canon’ and what are the reasons for publishing now?
A fetishisation of the everyday re-surfaced within documentary genres In the mid to late 1990’s and by the end of the decade was beginning to circumnavigate in a descending and self referential cycle downwards into the pay of the advertising.
Moore escaped the sleekness of adverts by earthiness of colours and by cropping the scenes to obtain the suggestive power of a convincing lie: to make me a witness.
Easy to “hear” the noise the children make… to feel the temperature … to register the smell of stale air …
Images accessed on http://davidmoore.uk.com.
Clare Gallagher does not name each image in the set of Verges, instead, she gives the viewer the choice to attend closely and directly to the subject her photography, weeds: ” They defy preoccupations with property and boundaries, growing wherever suits them … (on) tiny scraps of dirt to grow roots, weeds use ingenious ways to find spaces in hostile environments to thrive…They suggest a view of nature as autonomous, rather than one in which it exists only to serve us.”
Her dismantling of the hierarchy of anthropocentric view of the world is welcome. However strongly the aesthetic experience impresses a viewer, it is questionable that the transfer of new point of view could dismantle the habitual thinking. Nevertheless, I share her hope.
Making meaning, finding connections is an aspiration frustrated by insecurity whether what I see you see too.
Yet, it seems to happen. A Dartmouth-led study published in an advance article of Cerebral Cortex, demonstrate empirically for the first time how two regions of the brain experience increased connectivity during rest after encoding new social information.(https://medicalxpress.com/news/2018-05-brains-obsessed-social.html?mc_cid=42b5f75145&mc_eid=1bfb126ca9)
The study demonstrates that it appears that the brain consolidates social information as soon as it has the opportunity to rest.
“When our mind has a break, we might be prioritizing what we learn about our social environment,” added Meyer.
( Meghan L Meyer et al. Evidence That Default Network Connectivity During Rest Consolidates Social Information, Cerebral Cortex (2018).
It amuses me that D H Laurence realized that back in the early 20th C. I failed to locate his exact words. So from memory, something like this: I did my best work when doing nothing.
I also experience advantages when the visual art is not accompanied by words, sounds, noises. When, indeed, its aspiration stays within the Leonardo’s idiom of mute poetry. Photography can be that. And often happily is.
Clare Gallagher harbours an admirable aim:
These photographs aim to reclaim some of the freedom and creativity
that weeds exhibit.
A talented Ingrid Gault, harvests such images daily with her mobile camera and publishes them on her Facebook page: Pics by Ing
The comparison indicates that the technical means are very likely not the dominant tool or force or tenor, to reclaim (or mime) creative freedom. They matter for the optical quality though.
In some cases the technical means are the conditio sine qua non of the resulting image. ( see https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/29/arts/andreas-gursky-is-taking-photos-of-things-that-do-not-exist.html ) Andreas Gursky’s best photograph … Salerno I, 1990, which left him feeling ‘overwhelmed’. Photograph: Andreas Gursky/DACS, 2017, courtesy Sprüth Magers Gallery:
delivered a display that sings on the walls of the small gallery room. Different sizes dance in a view contently. They stand together, not competing.
The variety of sizes contributes to a resolute distance from any authoritarian message, perhaps, smuggled through Gallagher’s committment to celebrate the neglected. Habitually, farmers and gardeners have a firm view what is weed and hence should be removed, poisoned, killed. Over the decades, the weedkillers and pesticides continued to kill pollinators and other insect, and found the way into our food.
Gallagher’s exhibition offers a thought – inspiration – to reconsider the habitual thought, to revoke curiosity, the courage to change our view of nature. Verges cannot guarantee that all who visit this exhibition will follow its suggestion. Instrumental value of art is like that. We can hang it on an image, but it is not sufficient. Aesthetic experience has greater chance to move us.
That aesthetic function is promiscuous enough to appear as ethical, political, social etc has been established so long ago, that it would be reasonable to expect the instrumental value to be just subsumed in it wordlessly and completely. It has not. So, I refer once again to Jan Mukarovsky’s thesis on Aesthetic Function (1938, https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-1-349-25934-2_4)
Images accessed on http://www.claregallagher.co.uk/verges.html and as otherwise indicated above.
“Growing surrounded by the silent bogs, lakes and halted railway line in Co Donegal, I am interested in nature…”
would have been enough of an introduction to Scott’s peaty paintings. Nevertheless the young painter feels the pressure to propose an instrumental value to his art – to cure elements of today’s rash visual culture.”
Is it a call for the “spiritual in art” a la Kandinsky? Or….? After all, learning to see is not an innate gift; it is an iterative process, always in flux and constituted by the culture in which we find ourselves and the tools we have to hand. Whenever I ask another viewer whether they see in/on a given work of art what I see – there is some difference, sometimes a resolute and confident: No, I do not see that.
Scott does not paint pastoral qualities of unsullied heritage. His paintings have a schizophrenic attitude to the past and present, while fighting against nostalgia the love of nature shines through. Something old comes in when he reduces the palette – giving the tenor of the visual thought to the tonality. Like in the less dramatic branch of chiaroscuro (more Leonardo than Caravaggio) – the accent on light and dark tamely distributes saturation and translucency avoiding dramatic contrast. The compositions appear enveloped with a light modulated, yet not sharply different. Even appearance of another hue loses its alien character by miming the dominant tone of the whole. The blue in the geometric form below is softly mapped in a tiny register between high and low light, pushed into transparency in carefully chosen details, as if in dignified respect of the dominant hue. These paintings whisper about volumes and distances like a light in caves. There is a drawn entrance and no exit for nostalgic memories. The brush is promiscuous – it suggests the real world and then subverts it by liquidizing some of the definitions. The shape echoing Mount Errigal is shredded into pieces reminiscent of peat cut to dry.
Scott writes: ” Deep thickets of pine, endless continuum of water and turf coexist with architectural ruins and remnants of the tragic Donegal’s railway line.” He thinks of the paintings as ” reconstruction of spiritual landscape” , the insight that made me think of medieval illustrations…
These landscapes are neither illustration, nor romantic dreams – they connect to the memory, avoiding the illustrative sentiment. Even if the memory includes potato famine… and mass emigration.
Images courtesy Charlie Scott.
In a sight rooted practice the similarities and differences between these two images have defining power. They define even those images that are on their own. These landscapes are a modern equivalent of Plato’s answer to Timaeus asking how the Demiurg created the universe. Magill’s choices of mimetic subjects are heavy lifters for the armature of repertory of thoughts and associations with roots in both observation and imagination. Italo Calvino reflected on this with the reference to Starobinski’s two modes : imagination as knowing, and as identification with the world greater than us. (Six Memos, 90). Calvino adds a proposition , revoking Giordano Bruno, that imagination is a repertory of what is potential, what does not exists, until it might become a part of never saturable world of images. Magill zooms on this insecurity of decision and choice of potential, by reviving methods favoured by JS Bach and Claude Monet. With sprinkling of A Warhol mix of techniques.
In the Still images she repeats the composition by changes the hues and tonality, space (depth) and light. I found, a predecessor for the light to bear the burden of thought in her contribution to the exhibition A certain Kind of Light (2002)
It is spiritual twin to the whispered horizon in Grunewald’s Crucifixion, 1517, now in Colmar
It is likely that Magill would not claim divine inspiration a la Dante or the Danube School. A quote attributed to her opens the way that leads to her chosen title Headland of the set of these exhibits:” … unfolding openness I try to follow…. ”
In the catalog that accompanies Headland also in the installation at the Ulster museum I read a passage where she aims at painting to simulate what is going in our head when seeing landscape.
So – it is the seeing, that is her subject? I suspect it is more, the whole chain: what I see, what the lens captures, what the print transfers, what the brush transfers, and some more in between.
While the image is predetermined in the sincere admission that it is one possible choice, the making of the painted image takes command in another direction – to the attraction of many possible choices. Much of the decision is not grounded in what has been seen, in optical terms of memory, although that’s the armature for the composition. It is all the rest that defines the image: her silent reflection, play with spectrum, edge of consciousness, temptation to go on, to stop, to rest without any need, to be unaccounted…
Her art reminds me of John O’Donoghue :”To live in a valleys is to enjoy private sky (in Anam Cara… somewhere) . Magill extends that to water, trees …how trees smell after the rain. Compare her OF and Red Bay (Garron Point)
Tom Nys thinks of her gaze as spying, to see while not seen. That would apply to the viewer of the painting too. Cezanne used a criterion of temperature as a measure of success in painting. Red Bay heats up the whole picture plane as if obeying Cezanne.
There is a better painting of Errigal among the exhibits gently flirting with Hokusai, the above example illustrates Magill’s reflective monolog miming the intensity of heighten awareness. I imagine her telling me: nothing between me and the sky – just my thoughts. Paradox – unsolvable, just what drifts out of the arms and bodies of the trees (Dylan Thomas) . As if she agreed that to really knowing something means imagining it. Her paintings are simultaneously witnesses of what she sees and know and of what is only becoming a part of my being ( as a viewer).
Like Monet, Magill follows the image in different light. There is more: the intensity of secrecy, privacy, grows from red spectrum to the blue, which also reduces the visibility of the background and harnesses some tremors that shake certainty. What I see is what I see now. Looking again will be a different seeing. She paints not just with her eyes…
I find an affirmative answer in these paintings to Calvino’s question:
“Will the power of evoking images of things that are not there continue to develop in human race increasingly inundated by a flood of prefabricated images?”
It is as if Magill still resonated in the privacy of her studio, more, in the privacy of her thoughts, with Paul Thek’s teaching note : Remember, I’m going to mark you, it’s my great pleasure to reward real effort, it’s my great pleasure to punish stupidity, laziness and insincerity.
Images accessed online courtesy Elizabeth Magill and Kerlin gallery, Dublin
It is an exhibition and several events that include: Friday Lunchtime Recitals (horn, cello, orchestra, harp), poetry reading on a Saturday, screenings a films on Tuesdays, lectures on Thursday and nine workshops offered by artists Sharon Kelly, Ursula Burke and Tonya McMullan. There is a booklet with times and venues. Hugh O’Donnell leads a series of “closed” workshops focused on collage in response to exhibits in the Sunken Gallery.
Covers and Counterfeits by Neil Gall
Covers in the name of this exhibition mean covers of The Studio cut and assembled as a collage. Haphazard and systematic are harnessed together to make it hard to discern what was there before the intervention. The cuts are occasionally visible, even when they are not there, due to clever use optical illusion. Together, a full wall of them, become a kind of oratory to instability of meaning, of visual thought. A positive one.
Viewed from the entrance of the Sunken Gallery Gall’s rectangle exhibits look like hard, dry, decorative cut outs – on the lowest scale from Henri Matisse.
From the near – a shock to the consciousness: it is all meticulously, carefully, attentively, patiently, painted under the command of optical illusion. Absolutism of a kind, trompe l’oeil so loved during the baroque period in Europe, however, appearing on and off since the 5th C BC.
A story of a contest between Parrhasius and Zeuxis centres on the “tricking the eye”. Zeuxis claimed his still life painting so convincing that birds flew down to peck at the painted grapes. That inspired Parrhasius to ask Zeuxis to judge one of his paintings behind a pair of tattered curtains in his study. Zeuxis attempted to pull back the curtains, he could not, they were painted.
Gall achieves trompe l’oeil both in painting, collage
Gall’s drawings are veritable partners for architects like Andrea Pozzo, who placed an illusion of a cupola on a flat ceiling.
Only – Gall does not break the background but the picture plane, making the sphere to protrude towards me even at close up. Precision… not robbed of beauty.
Below, yellow, one of nine tiny sculptures, four acrylic on cast resin, five acrylic on bronze. No other material is involved. An inescapable illusion governs optical perception completely.
Like his artistic predecessors, Gall postpones the recognition, allowing the mistake to take hold first and for as long as it takes for the eye to be near to the art object . Only then the swap may happen.
Tromp- l’oeil presents sight with a cognitive conundrum. This sense is dedicated to a role of “knowing at a distance” whether something is a food or poison, enemy or friend. Here, from a distance it tells that these are paper cut outs and the resin or bronze objects are bandaged with a textile or a plastic tape. A convincing lie – words Pablo Picasso used for whole art… yet at least once he used an optical illusion – at the top of a still life – from the dark spot a nail sticks forward. ( 1912, Violin and Grapes, oil on canvas 61 c 50.8 cm, Museum of Modern Art, New York)
Like Parrhasius – Neill Gall tricks the eye effortlessly. But – it is not related to a fragmented mind as understood in the other two installations at MAC. The Sunken Gallery sinks its links with the rest of the Fragmented Mind display. It is convincingly art, made by artist, it is not governed by either of the two categories making appearance in the Tall and Upper galleries.
Gall’s command of his chosen way to make art offers precision, lighthearted play, pleasure, as well as a serious question about the power of our perception, an unease, without actual discomfort.
The Tall gallery has three offerings: a friendly participatory workshop for visitors,
listening to sounds that some may find disturbing( I did )
and a display of mostly two-dimensional visual objects in the larger parts of the gallery.
Anchored in the Musgrave Kinley Art Collection the display is supported by notes on each of the participants: Paul Duhem, Dwight Mackintosh, Richard Nie, Oswald Tschirtner, Shafique Uddin, James Price, Madeleine Lommel, Raphael Lonne, Farouq Molloy and Johann Garber (image below)
It all appears as “normal” drawings or paintings after Modernism removed the barrier between academic art and dreams, between clear order and all its opposites. The selection from the collection are defined not how the objects look but who made them, i.e. Sainte-Beuve’s conviction that the life of the maker is central to the outcome.
On the back wall of the Tall Gallery hangs a set of overflowing black Letter Paintings (2017) by Lindsay Seers who is also the author of the only exhibit in the largest space on fourth Floor.
Every Thought There Ever Was is a simultaneous tri-partite audio- visual projection of miscellanious mimetic and abstract images, including distorted faces. The sound was not clear enough for me to follow. The projection is split between three circular elements, each doing their own thing, the central is stationary, the other two move. Hardly elegant they introduce some – perhaps – deliberate clumsiness. A reflection on how we view mental health?
My generation grew up with the excellent art like Laterna Magica and increasingly splendid science programs on TV – making my aesthetic judgement of this installation hugely problematic. Naked facts interlaced with imagined world became passages in a disconnected chain of possible meaning, given the abrupt cut from one scene to another.
Every thought that ever was?
The Fragmented Mind project is capable of overcoming that conundrum as several exhibits in the Tall Gallery indicate. Whereas Seers’s moving picture is time based, has a beginning and an end, thus calls for a structure. I can return to a detail in a drawing or painting freely, not so to a detail of the video.
Rational hubris (as in its title) and haphazard accentuation of observed or generated facts fails to deliver more that a rough sketch. The large imposing clumsy “robots” add subversive feeling of inadequacy of power even when – as a contradiction, in few animated sequences – they lit up and appear humorous, like toys.
It sums up as a spectacle injuring any just about to be born empathy . It raises a question how to dismantle elitist visual discussion that is inherently divisive. How to transform the visual fragments into a critique and invitation at the same time. I felt that Seers is committed to the subject while trusting the selected means for their aura of being amenable to a peer reviewed system. The spectacle fails to overcome its entertaining element when dealing with a “grave public issue” – a phenomenon J Derrida renamed as “hostipitality”. Living in a fragile state is more enervating than any form of narrative, any normative thought ( e.g. art versus outsider art) born by it.
This art made me think (once more) of Levi-Strauss ( in La pensee sauvage, 1962) ” …the final goal of the human science is not to constitute man, but to dissolve him”. (I replaced “science”with ” art” in my silent musing.)
Spectacles have a bad habit of weaponizing instincts.
Images courtesy MAC Belfast, accessed online or otherwise credited.
Charles Augustin Sainte- Beuve (1804 – 1869) :
He wished, as he said, to understand fully those about whom he wrote, to live alongside them, and to allow them to explain themselves to present-day readers. To this end, he conceived the practice of providing in his essays extensive data on an author’s character, family background, physical appearance, education, religion, love affairs and friendships, and so on. Though now a standard method of historical criticism, this practice led to allegations that Sainte-Beuve was providing merely biographical explanations of literary phenomena. (https://www.britannica.com/biography/Charles-Augustin-Sainte-Beuve_
Fourteen images each in one of three sizes favoured by Blake for years now – are beautifully displayed in a gentle embrace of pristine white walls.
They are reminiscent of abstract paintings rewarded in 2006 by the Turner Price for “…vigorous and consistent approach to painting”. Tomma Abts (b 1967) uses consistently a format of 48 x 38 centimetres in acrylic and oil paint. This is a detail from her Heit, 2011, Arts Council Collection.
The following was written about Abts and seems to embrace Blake’s work seamlessly.
“Planes that appear to be located in the foreground also remain embedded within the structure of the painting itself; shapes are both overlapping and integrated. Abstract elements might hover on the edge of representation but are then undermined by an incongruous perspective or colour scheme.”
The incongruous perspective clashes with titles that associate with habitual meaning, like building or blanket and is completely free of any when title holds abstraction of verbal kind, like peace, time … There is a reason for both – to force or deny association by selecting particular words to name the image. But with abstraction such a link is a treacherous condition, a sort of penalty, as those words injure the visual marvel of incongruity falling into a whole tacitly.
Blake trusts her sense for contrast in tonality and repetitiveness in shapes, something well rehearsed in history of art and design, born in the laws of optical perception and illusion. Accent is on seeing.
Each is an image that stands for itself, sparingly referring to something outside the visible, like the tactile value in the Baby Blanket. They share luminosity and strict denial of a reason coming from outside the painting itself. This hard nosed autonomy does not fit the ubiquitous demand for art to achieve something outside itself, like health or elimination of violence. Nevertheless, each and all of these unassuming private messengers insists on moral standards as those are subsumed in the aesthetics. Nihil novum sub sole: the classical Greece understood that in their thinking as kalos agathos.
Liking one of Blake’s oil on linen, elevates you from your mundane habitus – into imagined harmony, your own. The painting is the trigger. Being abstract it houses numerous ways to succeed, given the chance. Play is these paintings intrinsic and instrumental value. Similar to music in that way.
Images courtesy Helen G Blake, uploaded from her Facebook page, these are only to remind you/me what each looked like.
Light. Invitation to unthink the familiarity of the tube lights, the inevitability of a particular use. Standing near it, watching, looking, walking around, near and away, reminded me of Keyezua’s recent comment on her photographies:
“After finishing at the Royal Academy of Arts, I decided that I do not have to care about my decisions as an artist,” explains Keyezua, who is based in Luanda, Angola. “It felt good to have the freedom to do something without having a certain idea why you were creating it.”
Both the light tube construction and the paper “reliefs on the back wall evoke that freedom.
Does their not- too- shy- energy transform the space?
In proportion to the space this open “volume” commands attention effortlessly. Perhaps the significance of the question “how many?” will shed any assumed irrelevance when the eye compares the “36” edition with a fewer light tubes.
This is an earlier variant in a smaller space, yet, the wordless eloquence feeds imagination as well as the version with many more tubes. It parallels the difference between an orchestra and a chamber music – and similarly, in both cases the aesthetic power is independent of the number of instruments. An aria and a chorus?
The vertical tube standing firmly upright, while the other two are in a free fall, not only anchors the moment of movement, it also enters into a dialogues with the other verticals in the visual field, i.e. walls. thus providing a spontaneous belonging, not so much to a hierarchy, as to revelation of what may occur next. Dance? Fall? Nothing?
The light tubes as they navigate space, share something with Vikings. Those sailors used calcite’s power to reveal the light patterns in the sky, that exist even in overcast weather. T The light tubes reveal spots, stains on floor, walls and ceiling, light patterns that change as I walk around. Visual art favours its appeal as a transformer of perception of space. Hamilton invites the sound to contribute. I found it superfluous for this installation. Reminds me of horror vacui, which is, after all, governing some of her earlier work, where she covers every surface with variety of marks and patterns,
Whereas in Semblance and Event she timed her drawing performance to shorter duration, wore a paper bag over her head, and recorded it on a video.
Hamilton’s tumultuous outpouring favours luxurious outburst and invites vacuous pauses as if to interact. Visible and imagined wait for the sound. The sound then dominates the large projection of gesture tracking, mark making on acetate sheets over the glass surface of overhead projector.
On the adjacent wall, a large number of acetate sheets with such drawings produced between 2014 -2018, a growing archive, are deliberately losing visibility. Like Eva Hesse, Hamilton hangs them in a row, making the drawing hardly accessible to an eye.
Her performances, on the other hand, zoom on the surface of the walls as a received ground, and make every details accessible. There are two photographic prints (2016) that also call for near viewing involving private thoughts.
Two ink drawings on paper (2014 and 2016) confirm, in this installation, her acceptance of more traditional way of making images.
However, the arrogance of sensory and hedonistic pleasure from tactile values inspires two of hers not so ordinary paper reliefs. They are just about visible in the image i repeat here (I used it above)
In an earlier installation, which is lit up to reveal a little more of the detailing. The paper is squashed in irregular interaction of push and pull, a very rare technique. Invented technique – in comparison with origami, this is wild. Paper’s integrity is respected by unusual dexterity of – I assume – hand and fingers.
I do not see her practice as crossing borders between “…object, digital interaction and action/performance…”(see gallery handout) simply because all are objects, more or less durational. The sound, light. movement, timing etc are added to objects found, received or resulting of action, space and time included. In addition there is the control by the viewer as moving object about angles of viewing, time of the perception, attention to detail. Light and shadows, stasis and movements appear to be the the grounding matrix, central to Hamilton’s courage to invent.
Even if accidental, the reflection on the floor gives aesthetic experience distantly belonging the the exhibit. A chance for the beauty to join the mundane.
The gallery notes offer a startling summary for Semblance and Event: ” …(it) seeks to draw together old and new works that will bring into dialogue stark and austere examination of materials and matter with processes of making that resemble ascetic practices of repetition.”
That is an insider’s view that does not matter to the incidental aesthetic experience of looking, walking around, listening and looking again. The installations offered some poetic passages and some hard nosed rejection of such a fanciful expectation. The sound was so feeble in the main gallery, that it called for a search. In the second gallery, the added noise to the expected sound of the tip pen on acetate at times overwhelmed the visual tacit components. As if to soothe that hanging in parallel in a right angle to the wall , that prevents seeing the whole drawing, the flicker of light on the hangers is pure poetry. I believe it was deliberate to set the spot lights so, that they transformed dark clasps into two patterns of light paths that meet in the middle of the projected curve while disappearing there. Beautiful.
Images courtesy Helena Hamilton’s website and Facebook page.
Iris Garrelfs contribution to the current Sonorities Festival in Belfast consists of 30 A4 sheets with printed words displayed in groups on the walls of the first room of the QSS gallery. (irisgarrelfs.com/listening – wall)
The second room houses a video, hand drawn city plans and schematic notation of some sounds heard on the walk guided by an Austrian artist katrinem (www.katrinem.de) She defines it as a “path of awareness” both of space walked though and the sounds produced by walking and surrounding architecture. Focused on the “walkability” of urban setting, observation of a site and experience of what is heard, each group starts from the QSS gallery on similar and different pathways and indeed path of awareness. It is narrower and parallel to the walks around Belfast organised by Dr Aisling O’Beirn, over several years in a recent decade. I have not participated. Often – we walk with a arrival point in mind when the perception and expectation meet. These walks differ: beginning is known, the arriving point is not, blending the insecurity with mystery of recognition hungry to belong to our consciousness.
<Silent Sonorities> slipped easily from conceptual art to a play between run of the mill cognitive test and sound related instruction scores. Two artists based in Belfast, Gascia Ouzounian and Sarah Lapin are included in a large number of exhibitors. The visitor is invited and encouraged to take all the “score sheets” home – a generosity valuable for later leafing through them – as if they were documents/memory of looking at the Listening Wall. Woven from imagination and synesthesia the ensuing aesthetic experience is indomitable. Unless you disable it by habitual expectations. The installation unfolds consciousness evoked by the “scores” and nourished or disabled by viewer’s response. Some would be “Walking on the Pastures of Wonder” ( courtesy the title of John O’Donohue book published posthumously on 2015), others may echo Manon de Boer’s fascination with “open time” as condition for innovation. Tacitly. Others will – with surgical precision examine how we experience sound through mute, written, language. Conscious that words are slippery. That the power of subliminal matters. Or – leaving insouciant.
Under the carapace of driest possible score there is a telluric plane where even the porous vessels of languages do not destroy luxuriant burst of fantasy or dream. Not valid apart for the person not afraid of arrogance of charm while you read the words. Charm that may leave the conscious mind in a split of the second.
It is precisely that – ephemeral.
The oldest score is by John Cage. On August 29 1952 at Woodstock NY the three parts of Tacet were performed for 4’33” by David Tudor at the piano. Opening and closing the lid marked the start and end of the composition. Here, the viewer has just three identical words “Tacet”. The accompanying text mentions that the “ work may be performed by an instrumentalist or combination of instrumentalists and last any length of time”. This makes one’s response, the body, into an instrument. Imagine dancing it like a waltz… one tacet, two tacets, three tacets …
Other scores are less open issuing instructions to the visitor to follow – a strategy identical to Hans Ulrich Obrist in his Do It. By transferring the method to the viewer – any creative force becomes subordinated to awareness of something given, defined, to be followed. Only the gap between the following and experiencing harbours fragments of freedom.
Some instructions lead to instant shifts in perception , others, being lengthy and elaborate, end with an ennui. E.g.
Viv Corringham: Stand very close to a wall … Turn sideways and close one ear by pressing it onto the wall. Listen to the sounds of your own existence. Can you hear your breath, your heartbeat ? Slowly release your ear and listen as the sounds change. Can you hear the wall? Listen through the wall.
Majority of participants, in adroit and unsentimental way, conceive scores as a dynamic collaborator in making a meaning.
Cathy Lane, Barry Cullen, Jo Thomas, Dan Scott (cups), @radio_mind, http://www.soundwords.tumblr.com, Sharon Gal, Lisa Busby,Jude Cowan Montague, Iris Gareelfs, Bianca Regina issue prompts like: sit quietly, consider practice, prepare, start, recline, repeat, go somewhere quite noisy, find, make, find,tilt your head, take 4 deep breath, drum with feet on car floor, stick one ear into a small encounter, stop in a yawn, etc. I suppose the offer of the score sheets to take home fits these Do It exercises. The one from @radio_mind trespasses from imagined to made, by asking : Copy the sounds the device makes. Send me a photo or short film.
Typing each on a text score card Marina Papadomanolaki asks Can you hear your footsteps? Can you hear your co-walkers? Similarly Iris Garrelfs posits one question at the time: How does one blade of grass sound? What does yellow sound like?Does the tree to your right sound the same as the tree to your left? These do not depend on others, on place or time.
Garrelfs also combines instruction with a question: Listen to the voices around you. What does their sound tell you? In three text scores she sticks to the cold instruction: Listen to the transition between spaces. Listen to the voice inside. This leaves me with a cognitive puzzle that would interfere seriously with any listening: where and what is a transition between spaces? Which inside is meant? Ambiguity of instruction is brought to the daylight also by John D’Arcy who offered crosswords crazy maze to find words like bang, eel, gallop, gasp, grind, hum, hump…. strongly leaning to cognitive and visual patterns. Deluge of words makes Catherine Clover’s overwhelming. Demands repeated reading, and lot of time.
Leaning on the verbal touches on poetry in Barry Cullen’s “Redburn”. His note made me smile: *extra sensitivity here if this route is used for the return journey”.
I suppose perception of very art is a journey from nothing to something.
Ian Stonehouse starts with musing about sound, memory, our senses offering a conclusion that “our bodies are self-aware portable recording devices that gather, carry and discuss sensory information about the world we inhabit.” It is followed by a DoIt instruction worth quoting in full for echoing Dada and play.
“Approach someone and request they say their name aloud. As they are doing so gently draw a circle on the palm of your hand with a finger and commit your recording of their voice into your hand. Pause for a moment and replay the recording by redrawing the circle on your hand. ”
He adds a note: A moment is defined as lasting up to ninety seconds.
That brings me back to John Cage and a score for listening #84 displayed at QSS. It is made up of an image ( a blue crumpled plastic bag and a flowering branch) and a statement: sounds appear randomly placed intentionally. (My apology to the author – name not printed on the score….)
Sherry Ostapovitch and Anita Castelino move from “Listening is an active process. Hearing is not listening” to instructions and questions, ending on the instrumental role of art: Who do you listen to? And who listens to you?
Majority of the scores are tailored to urban civilisation. Only one starts with : Find a place in the woods… Tansy Spinks offered a triptych of instructions, she says, inspired by 1950 source: the Braziers Park School of Integrative Research and Braziers Adult College Brochure. (www.braziers.org.uk) The idea that the subjective and objective understanding may be not in conflict is still with us, unresolved. Spinks adds an asterisk : *… (so) get busy with the creative work that a sick world needs so urgently.
I hope that by creative she means also how we know what we know, science, technical inventions, and participatory democracy for equals. Ideas woven from the gossamer of insights and still unbreakable, help us unthink the inevitability of the power relations that calcified over the centuries..
This installation at QSS certainly offered a fair chance.
Stephan Dillemuth (*1954 Büdingen, Germany) considers his potential as a visual artist in front of the backdrop of a changing concept of what the word “public” implies. Contemplating his own involvement and the possible ways he could act as an artist, he asks to what extent self-organization and personal and collective integrity can be created within the framework of a society bent on control.
On his kind invitation we met in front of the Flax Art. The lift was made dysfunctional by someone not heading the printed advice to close both gates when leaving.
MacLennan’s studio has almost Corbusier inspired ribbon windows on two walls – flooding the large room with light making shadows nowhere to hide.
The view of the mountains has been replaced by the recent Belfast Best Architects supported by Ulster University establishment with building more repulsive than ornament ever was to Adolf Loos. I ask: why is it that an architect desecrates the mountains and sky …does he/she luck the culture? Why do Papuans have culture and Belfast architects not? Until now that has been no period of non culture in the red brick Belfast streets with charm of 19th C reed brick and and Art Deco facades.
We both feel diminished by the bad design. Looking down from the window, the lower roof offers an invitation to recover – tiny grass and mosses colonized the roofs in an almost regular pattern above the walls marked with stains of rain water. Water and air. Thinking of Leonardo’s advice how to train your imagination.
On the table next to the door – huge piles of the same size paper, some untouched, some painted on. Too many to guess. On top -there is one with a whisper of light blue – novelty in Alastair’s black -and- white and more- black- art world. Stays with me for the next three hours. Then I take it home.
On the floor on separate crumbled and then straightened black plastic bags, nests either drawing or painting. Black. Either painted in oil or drawn in ink. The pen makes marks like engravers tool, the brush drip drops like a faulty tap. I do not think there is one yet, that combines ink and oil … brush and pen… to replace the either or…
I hear MacLennan’s words describing the process – the paper is soaked in water first, then the marks are made, then it is left to dry overnight or longer… until it is as if ironed flat again. The waves created by the water are lifted to the walls and ceiling.
Alastair signs both drawings and paintings thus:
air, water, Alastair MacLennan.
Deliberate deflation of anthropocentrism… although the process starts with I Ching limiting the number of marks allowed to 29. Do I remember the correct number? I am not sure. It matters less to me than the glorious contamination of artist’s intention by natural forces.
This artist works daily – producing large numbers of the same size results. Some include a chance meeting of the marks and resemblance – on occasion the recognition is humorous – I zoomed on one that looked like deep ocean fish which I saw in David Attenborough’s revelatory Ocean The Blue Planet. When I turn the sheet that resemblance disappears completely. The memory lingers, the eye is searching for more. Bad habit? Perhaps.
It is freedom. This art is freedom that younger MacLennan did not dare to contemplate. It is also freedom for me as a viewer – like music it does not describe appearances, ideology, politics, it is a free as art Kandinsky dreamed of in that letter to Schoenberg.
Schoenberg created atonal music with free chromaticism, nonharmonic
tones and unresolved tones of dissonance. In his music, Schoenberg used what he called “developing variations,” which were chromatic structures; the theme of the piece constantly changed. An apt parallel to MacLennan’s current series AIR A LAIR.
Kandinsky thought that painting could not provide such freedom for the viewer, but aimed at it.
MacLennan is offering that freedom in heaps. His compositions do not diminish your prejudice or habits only invite you to let them play with other chances, other possibilities.
Kandinsky once said,
“The very word composition called forth in me an inner vibration. Subsequently, I made it my own aim in life to paint a composition. He also aimed at harvesting “cosmos”.
MacLennan directs the composition more down to earth. He embraces air and water ( the necessary conditions for life) to collaborate as co- authors. A strategy – I suspect- still connected to his life long dislike of art market values.
The drying drawings and paintings on the floor gently managed to heal the insulting pain sent over from the buildings visible at my eye level. Freedom against the dictatorship. Only until I looked out again.
White Cottage,14/04/2018, 17.14
The transformatory power of McKeever’s exhibition is apparent when the space is seen without her installation, Antenna, during an earlier exhibition.
McKeever’s installation effortlessly seduces the useful rational construction to abandon its mathematical precision and to join in a play. It is a play determined to involve the whole scale of real and imagined, haptic and reflected. Its willing collaborator – light – joins in with a verve of youthful energy.
I am afraid, I cannot report what it felt like – I have not seen this exhibition. This essay thus is reminiscent of studying art history from photographs, mostly black and white then, when visiting art collections abroad was forbidden by the regime afraid of tiniest scraps of freedom. Our sight was trained to read the archaeology of art objects. All these decades later – I revive those skills to “read” this installation without seeing it in situ.
Coincidentally, the absence of seeing the installation is mirrored by Brian McAvera’s Components of the Scene written when “the installation …has not yet been constructed” ( the full text is on http://www.millenniumcourt.org)
It is of interest than he thinks first of McKever’s control of viewers moving around the installation, then he describes the plan – and I can vouch that indeed the charcoal drawings were installed in a smaller gallery.
And that there was a globe “mounted on an easel, but if you touch it you will get powder on your fingers. (p2 of McAvera’s handout). The globe is mounted onto a portable artist’s tripod easel and associates/ connects with an eyeball lens of surveillance and lens of a camera, and connectivity across space, like in Marconi’s invention.
The charcoal drawings echo the appearance of celestial view saturated with several types of transmission: there is a visible “corona”, a spiky bulb shape, and straight lined transmitters – tied to the main theme of the exhibition. In addition – those subdued whispered scribbles made by hand held point are marks of the artist’s presence, hesitation and exuberance alike. They do not present a shape or form – they are imprints of wondering mind.
At times McKeever gives up her obsession to match a received form to a trace on the paper. Free thought governs her hand wondering over the aluminium surface. It works as a diagonal composition whichever way you turn it.
The desire to understand -as Aristotle recognized in the first sentence of Metaphysics – is ubiquitous, while it is obvious that not everything in the world matches that desire. The elegant curve of the dibond strip denies clarity of meaning while cherishing the optical clarity in defining light, shadow and matter. The fakir left, the snake still dances.
The sinuous dibond curve receives its double made of light and shadows. Switch the light off – and the aluminium composite loses more than its ephemeral companion. Yet both are real. The differences define the stability of the form – and point to a hierarchy, the dibond spiral is stable in the dark and light as if in a continuous treaty with time for the duration of the installation. Its twin is not, moreover, it depends on energy from another source. The determination of what is seen by presence or absence of light is a necessary a condition for optical input. It is insufficient to the extent to which visual thought escapes the confines of the optics. Where does it escape to? Your memory, your imagination.
The poetic charge increases with application of coloured light in the large Antenna installation
Construction, reflection, and shadow are reminiscent of confident repeats and variation as in a JS Bach’s fugue. The sameness and difference have not abandonned the Apollonian clarity of constructions while joining the intoxicating Dionysian instinct for jouissance, joi-de-vivre.
I imagine that the uplifting pull of that corner in the gallery was never weakened, before the light switch ended it.
Different from James Turrell’s secret vows of more behind what is visible
or from Anish Kapoor’s perceptual uncertainty: Laura Cumming described her experience thus
Go closer and the glow turns out to be nothing but a huge yellow wall. Closer still and the wall becomes literally nothing: a hollow, a colossal dimple in which your eyes drown in the search for some definitive form. From visual richness to nil visibility, the transition is as smooth as the colour. (Anish Kapoor at Royal Academy, The Guardian Art Review, 27 September 2009)
McKeever’s art is holding its own. It allows the clarity of construct – like David Smith’s metal drawings in the air- yet dissolves in light and reflection by multiplying and connecting.
Even the floor joined in.
Images courtesy Simon Mills via the artist.
Armscliff; Great Western Oil on Canvas, Dan Shipsides,1994
To meet the word on its own terms, to meet the world on its own terms is an art immensely rewarding yet immensely difficult. The title of this painting has a letter R whereas the name of the site known for climbing has an “L”. When both harbour their confidence to be its names, I have to admit both. And accept that I shall not know the reason for that difference. I looked up what the climbers publish about this rock:
18m. Perhaps Almscliff’s most famous classic. The steep corner leads to the roof and a large spike, traverse left into an exposed position and pull into a short crack with difficulty (hidden holds?). From a rest on the uncomfortable pedestal, finish up a short crack or, MUCH better, head right up the jamming crack on Western Front – the icing on the cake. Be aware of rope drag problems. © Rockfax
UKC Logbook Description
Climb the corner below the overhang till it is possible to take the horizontal break on the left. Follow this till it is possible to climb up into the niche at the end (cramped rest). Then decide either to climb up the original awkward crack above and slightly left or much better climb ‘The Five Star Finish’, which takes the steep crack up and out right in a magnificent position (https://www.ukclimbing.com/logbook/c.php?i=73)
In Shipsides painting the colours and shapes are expressive of the mass rather than a portrait of a site, somewhat in agreement with Charles Olson who wrote:“Art does not seek to describe but to enact.” (1951, Human universe). Indeed, this image is saturated with, and seeps out, energy needed to perform. Performing may appear as being. In a close up.
Whereas, a socio- political protest is deliberately public, not a private experience.
Sorry.Photographic print, acrylic mount,Dan Shipsides, 2004
A large scale text a 40m x 14m made from plastic sheeting pegged out on the hillside above Belfast was a response to city councillors being outraged by a copy of Vacuum and demanding apology.(http://www.danshipsides.com/DshipsidesWeb/sorry.html)
The relationship between the people on opposite side of the dispute is what defined this image. As Olson wrote: relationship is what defines that forest is a forest, especially in an era when we have ceased to meet one another as whole persons and instead collide as fragments. (op.cit)
The exhibits in the current display at Fenderesky were made in a number of materials and techniques : weaving, word piece, watercolours, drawings, photography, paintings, collage, etching, recycling and assemblage. Their sizes vary from a badge like to a large construction. In 2000 Shipsides memorably was commissioned to make exquisite bamboo facade in Dublin when he won the Nissan Art Award IMMA (Bamboo Support) Dublin. A visitor waiting for a taxi to the airport on the opposite pavement next to me remarked: ” … beautiful – the reason to come to Dublin. ” I shared that before… and now with a private regret that it is no more.
This exhibition as a whole is not a whole … the space struggles to accommodate the angles of viewing, while not able to command similar power over a whole it privileges individual exhibits one by one. Harvesting their seductive power to share with me in luminous solitude, they are approximations of some older memes and experiences, as if the obeys Sol Le Witt’s dictum
art makes order from chaos /clarity from obscurity/ something from nothing
(sometimes nothing from something)
Detail through hole in the Téléphérique Stations of the Somme Summit Cross, Mixed media Dan Shipsides / Shipsides and Beggs Projects, 2016-2018
Thinking of Sol Le Witt – his Five pointed Stars(2008, 15x30ft) have here few tiny siblings.
Six Pointed Distraction Machine, Acrylic paint on oak, Dan Shipsides,2012 (photo credit: Peter Richards)
I hasten to point out differences: Shipsides executes the object himself, elegantly careful, measured, every aspect considered. It may appear as a meme – but sincerely distant. The significance of the similarity I raised above lies deep in Plato’s Timaeus, patiently making a list of similarities and differences as the way Demiurg created the universe. In this context the “measure of things” is the defining quality. It is not a thoughtless decision to position measure/ “moira” at the centre of being. Shipsides’s aesthetics differs from Sol Le Witt for its closeness to experience of making, of knowing, of being with the process all the way. It is intensely personal, like Egon Schiele’s. Different subject, similar dedication to art as living thing, not a box of treasures.
Shipsides shares authorship with Neal Beggs in Shipsides & Beggs Projects. The one below bears the title Telepherique Stations of the Somme Summit Cross , 2016 -2018.
Téléphérique Stations of the Somme Summit Cross, Mixed media, Dan Shipsides / Shipsides and Beggs Projects, 2016-2018
Found objects, used climbing materials, toys, ladder, torches, cooperate with screen prints and with scientific precision of the right angle, stopping, once the construction stays upright and stable.
Reminds me of Panamarenko ( real name Henri van Hervegen, b 1940, Antverp) who has made hovering constructions, flying rucksacks, helicopters with pedals, airships, may beetles, submarines and walking chickens. Assemblages.
Obsessed with flying Panamarenko observed insect and birds… Shipsides metamorphoses climbing into visual art mostly via performance or impossible objects, but also through a kind of souvenirs – memories of climbing experience evoked by the lens, sound, moving image or any other combination of techniques.
Téléphérique Stations of the Somme Summit Cross, Mixed media, Dan Shipsides / Shipsides and Beggs Projects, 2016-2018 . Seven details, first four given to me by Peter Richards.
Several of the items were used in climbing before they appeared in this assemblage, becoming visualised memes. This one above reminds me of medieval gargoyles spouting rain water.
Incongruous, bizarre, playful, the spatial object ticks some points on the Wikipedia definition of Grotesque:
Since at least the 18th century (in French and German as well as English), grotesque (or grottoesque) has come to be used as a general adjective for the strange, mysterious, magnificent, fantastic, hideous, ugly, incongruous, unpleasant, or disgusting, and thus is often used to describe weird shapes and distorted forms such as Halloween masks. In art, performance, and literature, however, grotesque may also refer to something that simultaneously invokes in an audience a feeling of uncomfortable bizarreness as
Shipsides assemblage is incongruous in the way children’s phantasy is, strange in the way it combines ordinary (the ladder) with weird (signing the right angled frame as UVF ambulance). Bizarre in the way it presents precision ( circular opening) next to a soft toy. As a whole – it avoids the other possibilities ( pitty, disgust, hideousness) in favour of a comfortable materialisation of dionysian impulse.
Making thoughts visual is central to Shipsides practice, although on occasions he adds sound, sensitively, organically connected to the matter that produce it. In that sense he adds an element of life to that Sol Le Witt’s limerick.
Star Star Syzygy, Found Newbridge Silver on Belgium Tile, Dan Shipsides,2015
Even his “stars” have an organic feels – the surface carries its own history made visible, a strategy similar to a climbing route marked on the photograph of a mountain’s face as in
Capella Head Point (no. 5 ) Ink on photographic print on dibond.Dan Shipsides,2008
“ha” Hiatus: Right, Bespoke righthand VW van door panel. Dibond. Dan Shipsides 2015+ detail
Meticulous attention to clarity of secrets governs Shipsides attention to meaningful details. It is not a narrative detail like in the art of the late 19th C. It is akin poetry, poetic trope that gives the syllable a particular rhythm – in visual terms the gaps between marks. Visible clearly on both panels.
Both the number of apertures and shapes are given differences both how many in the line, where, and in what relationship to the whole.
“ha” Hiatus: Left Bespoke lefthand VW van door panel. Dibond. Dan Shipsides 2015
Smaller exhibits cherish soft material as opposite to hard metal, while successfuly ignoring competitive associations.
Accolade Tree, Woven badge, Shipsides and Beggs Projects, 2017
Two hands in knitted gloves applauding ? Frozen in the open state enabling to become a crown of a tree. And more.
Similar verism governs the drawings or enamel paint on etched aluminium as it fills the frame from edge to edge. The pattern is obtained via dada strategy, from asking hues to marshall an order out of play with letters reluctant to offer of meaning.
Shipsides art is sensitively taylored to truth of lived experience. It engages aesthetic categories to define sincerity: his beauty is striving for perfect labour with a touch of a play; his comic avoids satire, sarcasm and parody and stays open to phantasy. His sublime is measured, born out of climber’s respect for nature. His tragic is hidden deep under the inevitable.
Images courtesy of Peter Richards and Dan Shipsides.
Multitude of caps of tea. Disposable plastic. Ocean full of plastic and dying whales may not have been in this artist’s intended context
– but they are, as the erosion of the anthropocentric model of life progresses through our consciousness.
This exhibition is about death of people, members of family, community – in isolation from the rest of life on the Earth. The overwhelming traumatic power of unbridgeable loss of one of our species exercised invention of traditions that include lament, keening, wailing, as well as wake, processions and memorials: ” Keening is to lament over the deceased, usually taking place at a wake, but sometimes at a funeral” (Artist’s handout)
The artist wrote a poem/ lament and filmed an actress and story teller Frances Quinn performing it in Irish. English version is provided on the printed handout, for later reference. Thus the simultaneity of the visual and verbal is dedicated to Irish speakers only.
Shot on one faulty and one working DCR-TRV33E it includes a short found sequence of the artist in graveyard as a small boy, shot on Canon XHA1.
The analog camcorder was set to night light which determined the dominant “mythical” hue. The vertical scratches visible across frames are necessary results of the deteriorating equipment, left deliberately behind.
Both the sound and image are, in different ways, disabled in the range of communication, but not in expressiveness. The language makes it private to the initiated – which raises a question why people speak different languages and why sorrow increases that need for protection.
Exhibiting sorrow publicly therefore contradicts any hope promised by a fortress mentality.
In the furthest gallery room an installation of cups of tea evokes sharing as a response to trouble. Sharing tea.
That could be a specific tradition, slavonic communities prefer hard alcohol and lot of male singing. Whereas, in Ireland, and Arabic countries it is the noise of female lament announcing the bereavement.
The installation is silent, dominated by an order of the related shapes. Relentless.
Day after a day the invisible bacteria make visible signs of decay. Inescapable betrayal of the intended use. Or – a testimony that intentions do not lead to expected result?
The duration of the installation thus determines the “tenor” of the aesthetic communication, order and decay become concomitant qualities of being.
The teabags on a table with a tablecloth – colour and texture reminiscent of the earth excavated for the burial and returned after the interment. Child like size.
Displayed on its own in the large gallery the installed object exudes anxiety both about the direct associations and its own substance.
An anxious object as described eloquently by Denis Donohue (b 1928) who advocated the range and multiplicity of viewpoints as well as the value of the silent place in people’s heart. I stay with him a little longer. The tea bags in both installations are visual metaphor, more precisely synecdoche. Denis Donoghue turned his attention to the practice of metaphor , simile, metonym, and synecdoche in language. It is applicable to visual metaphors. Metaphor replaces something habitual, ordinary by something unexpected (see Metaphor, 2014, Harvard University Press).
The magic of a synecdoche depends on another “ordinary” to become the “unexpected” as in a believable lie.
The point of a metaphor is to enrich the experience by bringing different associations to mind. The essential character of metaphor, Donoghue says, is prophetic. Metaphors intend to change the world by changing our sense of it. Metaphor celebrates imagination.
Synecdoche then uses a part of the whole , e.g.tea bag standing for making tea at the time of a distress, to permit greater freedom to construct feeling and meaning.
The installations, the tea cups and tea bags each occupy a gallery on one side of the video installed in the middle gallery.
Thus forging three stages of the keening: gathering of the people ( sharing a cup of tea), listening to the lament, and leaving after interment. Hence the three rooms forge one exhibit. Like a triptych.
The Lament is intensely personal as the video includes shots of living world standing for humanity and nature.
The anxious objects are abandonned, left to decay. What will and will not be after death is left to free thought, to different association of each of us.
This artist retreats from preaching.
Images courtesy the artist.
Apology for not having the “fada” for this artist’s first name and the exhibition title. One should be above E and the other on the penultimate letter of the title.
By a chance this appeared in my inbox:
“Being: New Photography 2018,” the latest exhibition in the Museum of Modern Art’s ongoing for up-and-coming photographers. “Being” is a gripping survey of how photographers today are dealing head-on with the knotty things that make us, us—the ways communities, politics, and systems influence various people’s identities, for better and worse.
This is a different direction from the last “New Photography” show, 2015’s “Ocean of Images,” a mind-numbingly academic exploration of how pictures circulate, both on- and offline. A lot has changed since then. ”
Indeed. Even in Belfast.
AUSRINE SURATKEVICIUTE describes connection to history of people who do not exist in a place that still is where it used to be. The process also enabled significant difference in the resulting image. The figures in “Ink Monkey” print (on the right above) are alive, dancing. Like the souls in Hieronymous Bosch.
Being is defined by gestures and moves, albeit virtual. Association with painting breathes softly over the fluffiness of grass next the determined definition of hard, shiny, static multi- coloured surface. This optical poetry somewhat disappears in direct viewing of photoprints displayed in a gallery, on the wall.
I hail this young artist’s lyricism – so rare especially when connected to anthropological and anthropocentric subject. Yes, you can have social concern and be poetic about it… many 1920s European artists were good at that. I do not know whether the link is known to her, for it is in her work as her invention.
The left image (Kodak print) is so cruelly removed from the whole of the actual, particular, place that it resumed existence as utterly independent from it. These details may be anywhere, anywhere where boats were repaired or built … the people now free to do relax around the remnants as if on holidays, or on a lunch break. Labour is burried under the remnants of the berth – people are lounging as if freedom has been at last theirs. Some, at the distant view became cutouts, as imprints in a prehistoric cave… slightly funerary … or perhaps that may be a purgatory? The grainy wet surrounding is on this Earth, but are they?
The lines of the bench imprison the seated adult and a child as time does all our yesterdays. They cannot ever leave – not that they wish to… look how relaxed both are. The walking pair froze as if wary of making that fateful step into the imagined world. And then – the artist takes away all of this imagined “truth” by dry exact faithfull appearance of the real place. So hard is its clarity! No escape.
That contrast between the real and dreamed up seems to be the ground of the visual thought. Like Italo’s Impossible City turn upside down… the city is real … the travellers are not.
These three images in spite of their apparent clarity and simplicity are opened to free thought, if you are inclined to think about humanity, like Bosch did,inter alia.
Images courtesy the artist.
H Bosch accessed online.
I sense that Shields’s process dominates the image by piercing intention with invention and chance. Reminiscent of John Cage. By “herding “creation, principle and belief together.
Shields named this exhibition The Inaccessible Land … quoting Georg Buechner’s ” beyond the endless searching” (on the recto page – opposite illustration frontispiece on the left page of the cover of the catalogue. )
Indira Raman revisits that search “…wondering whether the transience of our satisfaction may not in fact be inescapable and instead may reveal an inevitable aspect of the way the brain works, the understanding of which might provide a clue to how to contend with it”(accessed on http://nautil.us/issue/58/self/unhappiness-is-a-palate_cleanser?mc_cid=4139722249&mc_eid=220fe9547f)
Riann Coulter opens her excellent catalogue essay precisely with a contrast of two experiences citing Camus’s analysis of the myth of Sisyphus: struggle and happiness.
As a curator, she achieved a calm and measured display for most of the artist’s output of the last four years, seducing the space and light to mellow the strictness of black frames of most of the series. She spoke of more art left behind in the studio. Reminiscent of the Gustave Moreau house in Paris overflowing with multitudes, and which Shields visited as a student.
Indeed the connectivity is a necessary part of Shields exploratory strategies.
Riann Coulter cites Shields making connections e.g. to his garden, to Ernst Shackleton’s crossing of Antarctica as support for his painterly process (p6). Thus framing Shields’s art between observation of his being in the world, and multiple sources of other people’s beliefs and knowledge, and the will to embody a visual thought in prints and painting.
In this exhibition there are also five arte povera/brutalist low reliefs “Plaques” made of found wood, white plaster, nails, rust and board. The one below assuming the appearance of a funerary relief, and all related to one person each, meant as markers of their deaths.
John Hutchinson has contributed an essay On Dust, Dance and Transcendence to the catalogue – a marvel of different associations and sources, pointing to sameness they harbour with Shields’s art practice: Heisenberg, Schroedinger, Tantraloka, Strindberg, Rilke, Kleist …
As one way to achieve the state of grace/transcendence he points out that”…for Rilke (as for his predecessors, the German Romantics), death presents us with a direct means of transcendence as it allows us to lose the self-consciousness and physical limits that separate us from unified existence.” (p11)
And then he corrects any possible power of transcendence by citing the end of Rilke’s Elegies where the poet thinks of more pressing task: to transform the sorrow and pain of human existence into an aesthetic experience. (p12)
I sense a parallel here to Shields’s resolve to make the existential fear mute and invisible. His painted surface stays eloquent in a strange disobedience. He may have freed consciousness from the visibility, but not from a visual thought that zooms on hues, tonality, brushstrokes. It is physical, and it is wiggling out of physical means to be measured. Similar to Rothko’s paintings making people cry. I hasten to add: it is not the story, it is a thought. Hence, I find Hutchinson’s reference to H von Kleist’ On the Marionette Theatre to work as a valid parallel to Shields funerary subjects. Moreover, taking his penultimate paragraph leads to the rest of the exhibition:
“Grace appears most purely in that human form which either has no consciousness or an infinite consciousness.” (p14)
I have in mind In Principio.
Shields adds The Poem of Job, its first line governs the set.
Where is the path to the source of light?
That question embodies one of the pathways through the seven days of creation, as Shields moves images from saturation by charcoal to its vapourised state – as if.
…path to the source of light” not ..of the source of light.
On day one of Creation, in the first of 49 images(above) the light is somewhere behind the horizons. Blocked. Has it not been created, yet ? …”how could I ever find the answer?”
Then, the seventh image of the seventh day introduces grace of – what looks like a dry tree, winter leafless branch, blade of grass, a dancer’s silhouette ( that Kleist’s Marionette?) – ballet of resolution.
And the light – its white hue relentlessly dominates also the largest two paintings in the installation The Tables of Law I and II.
Naturally the progression includes the Tao – The Way, twelve small woodcut prints.
Actually – this particular image which I downloaded from the web page is not exhibited. A very similar one is: what is on the left shifted to the right and vice versa. A sign that Shields still feels free to cherish a chance in preference to discipline. My favourite from this set, is the tri colour one for its anthropological association and sheer prettiness.
The frenzy of “divine love” gave birth to red set of energy boxed in right angles: twenty small abstract fields are given an archaic title “ Revelations of Divine Love”. And no. There is no logical sequence or narrative order – each just confidently burst in a given rectangle as if on its own, privileged to share a secret.
The Inaccessible Land is also a summary name for 30 slightly bigger paintings, that cherish colours – multicolours, any colour. Even saccharine pink so loved by rococo painters appears above a mere guess of a landscape.
Hidden words, or just letters – how have they descended on that paper? How have they managed to stay on, and stay legible behind that milky mist? It looks more like a watercolour than an oil – however, these light washes were nurtured by painters since Middle Ages needed them for Nativities . ( And the white aperture in the sky looks to me like a baby in nappies… …am I forgiven?)
There is so much more in this exhibition that feels like celebration of visual thinking. The ideologies cheerfully gave way.
Images courtesy Mark Shields, accessed on http://www.markshieldsartist.com/exhibitions/the_inaccessible_land.html
Art objects by Anya Waterworth, Sarah Falloon, Joanne Jamison and Leanne McClean benefited from the daylight in the smaller rooms of the gallery. The windows were never far away from the surface of the small formats luxuriating in an imagined togetherness in a high key.
The variety of techniques ebulliently celebrated not so much each different powers, rather calm confidence to keep the technical data in the magic box of secrets. While the being of the exhibits depended fully on how they were made, they all submitted to the conspiracy to keep the rest between the object and its maker. Instead, not unlike natural forms, the sculptures and paintings/drawings/ collages offered to the viewer freedom, limited by the personal taste and preferences. Their titles harbour each artist’s preference how much to determine the visual thought by words.
Sarah Faloon trust the affirmative description of the look of her sculptures e.g. Strider, Orange Bill, Bird, Bone Men and Class of an Eider Duck as their ID. Brief and to the point.
Seeing the Bone Men and Eider Duck in relative proximity successfully induced a feeling of a play, of animation, of story telling, as in a puppet theatre.
The “birds” aspire to appear as puppets too on a remove from the anthropocentric meanings.
I cannot tell what was the intention and what was her response to the intention issued by the found objects. The assemblage, however, has been guided by simile between the found and something familiar, like a bird previously seen. Reminiscent of children’s propensity of seeing other meanings in found objects this artist favours abrasiveness that escapes the spontaneity of a child’s imagination.
While the construct looks effortlessly put together, Faloon carefully adjusts and manages the seams of incompatible parts to share resemblance to a until then non existing bird.
Faloon exercises her phantasy with an enviable ease and sincerity , with determination to achieve resemblances to natural forms, while preferring discarded fragments of nature . Her assemblages flirt with being sculptures, or ornaments or play, dipping into the grotesque, bizarre, incongruous , even jarring appearances, with one ambition: to carry the correspondence to a natural form. Birds, bodies. She achieves an immediate recognition grounded in sensory similarity to a priori experience. Her art invites playful recognition -not the kind rooted in rational judgement. She makes visible what does not exist but looks like something that does.
Leanne McClean seeks something indicated by one of her titles: In Between 2
Litmus is a dye obtained from certain lichens that is red under acid conditions and blue under alkaline conditions. It is used to determine whether a substance is acid or alkaline – a memory from grammar school chemistry classes. This image wiggles out from its scientific roots and wrestles into the realm of abstract art. Where Faloon’s subject reached back to the concept of air, McClean’s subjects connect to matter to Earth. The above painting is both a record of chemical reaction and an abstraction of standing forms with slowly disintegrating certainty. Their from dissipates into uneven outlines, as if the substance in between seeped into the surroundings, hesitantly but driven by some law. The organic and no- organic are placed into a proximity that erases the living force, as in mumification. The organic mater appears comfortably unorganic, as a replacement of the real. Approximation is the chosen pathway.
I had to look up that word. Definition of sulcus – a groove or furrow, especially one on the surface of the brain. (https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition.sulcus). While looking at the image, I would spontaneously think of breaks, fissures, grooves, but not of grooves in brain. Rather, it appears to me like a fossil, some unknown organisms locked in hard rock milions of years ago. The marks look like imprints or debris. Not like the neurons and synapses seen in scientific illustrations. Maybe that’s the point – to make a generic similarity between scientific knowledge and visualisation that does not rule out future improved research. Ignoring the title – opens a varieties of meaning – connected to abstraction, archeology, broken tiles, old and new art systems. Open ended.
Anya Waterworth exhibited four small abstractions. In one, collage appears under the large white gesture marks blinding any possible depth so laboriously constructed by the black blobs. Or ? Starting reading from the blue lower part this flattening power of white is replaced by an illusion that it, in particular, is far away from the picture plane. As intelligent as playful, the familiarity with optical power of hues and tones is delivered with dionysian freedom. By intoxicated brush or pastel.
Continuing with my simile of the art’s character to one of the four classic elements of existence, this is neither Air or Earth, it is Fire. Even the absence of heat remembers fire as ashes. Renewing life.
Fittingly her last image goes underground like in layers of life in deserts, or across geological changes.
Joanne Jamison exhibited images born out of the place she calls home.
Nothing near my own experience of driving up north in the fog. When I disregard the words of the title, the recognition of something frustrating clarity not just of a vision, but of knowing where it is, where am I in relation to it.Yet. it is not uncomfortable – only masking something, preventing me to know, to be sure. In that sense it is an image for “human condition”. This association increases when moving to her two images with the same title: Brave New World – Lagan.
Right angles, incised lines, horizontal and vertical co-exist in the same plane as they habitually would do on an architectural plan – but there is a sun or moon as if visible through thin clouds! All together – it does not celebrate some “brave new word” – rather it issues doubts about the principles of those professing it. Who are they? There may be an answer in the two images below, figure in snow and with sun.
Impossible to identify them. A simile to how we are governed?
Reminiscent of some French abstraction of the 1950s -60s these two broadcast confidence into the power of absence of direct identification of perceivable forms. Invented forms effortlessly hold energy the way the universe does.. or conserve an imprint of a collusion of nothing and something while refuting the narrative in favour of the lyrical. She is quoted that her ambition is to portray a place and its soul.
She is a founder of Engine Room Gallery, technician, cleaner, curator et al… I have known her for decades, as strongly dedicated to contemporary artists. Her own art practice had to squeeze between that and family – I recall how her tiny twins cried while she brushed the gallery floor minutes before an opening. In between running the gallery with others and family life, she steadily developed two parameters that define her practice: abstraction and sensuality.
Apology for not having data about all four artists and captions for their exhibits. I let those to fade into the February past… and failed to recover them.
Images courtesy the Engine Room Gallery.
Curated by Sarah McAvera, in a thoughtful display, the small gallery room elegantly housed four large images ( The Illusion of Purpose II., IV, V, X. all 110 x 110cm, 2017 All in edition of 5) by Victoria J Dean and nine by Sharon Murphy, dated 2014, two smallest measuring 210 x 297 mm, five twice as big at 419 x 609 mm and further three still slightly larger at 419 x 419 mm.
Ever since Chuck Close bridged over an assumption that a photographic portrait may cross over the privacy boundaries, until then habitually preferring the range from medailon to hand size scale, photography appeared driven to dethrone murals and billboards from their hegemony. In this exhibition the variations in size are closely related to what the lens is aimed at.
Dean’s single “monuments” tower over the horizon, slightly destabilising themselves from the vertical plane, giving the lens the role of a window, reminiscent of Alberti’s concept of painting. The two Untitled, XVII and VIII, above have not been displayed in this exhibition. My including them has a simple purpose to make visible the sameness that governs the series by the feeling parallel to a current UK project carrying similar words as the title of this exhibition:
A small variation: the “but” is replaced by “and”.
Hence the independence of emotional impact of an actual selected motif. In this context photography is wedded to circulation, to gifting what the lens (as a window) cuts out the whole turning it into another, partly independent, object. A photograph is never just one thing. It grants the visual thought a degree of freedom. However, Dean, exploits one visual habit: we are too eager to attribute extravagant agency to one picture, turning ourselves into participating witness.
Dean thinks of her art as of exploration how and that the physical is registered and made visual by her preferred process. She emailed me her Statement:
The Illusion of Purpose
Not surprisingly her preference for capturing an image of obsolescence activates traditional methods, archival pigment print on Photo Rag, Dibond mounted. As if in agreement Sharon Murphy makes images using ” archival pigment print on Hahnemuhle mounted on Dibond”.
Their methods seem related to a printing process invented by Dunstan Perera (Creart) and/or to Heliochrome. He used “non-toxic and non- carcinogenic chemicals”. Once printed onto watercolour paper the images, he says, are archival. From looking at the surfaces – I cannot tell.
The curator Sarah McAvera thinks that “Victoria Dean’s photographs are notable for their lack of people, yet they are not simple landscapes or seascapes, the structure are the key.” Yet, that absence is only on the physical level. This red cone is a witness of people’ s concerns that memory is fleeting, insecure, imprecise. This object is an anchor of that impermanence, made visual through focus on marks of neglect, pathway leading to the unknown, invisible behind the horizon, and a nonchalant interaction of the cone with the huddled bushes.
People are there and not there… somewhat similar to Karl Marx’s observation that the worker in a factory becomes a part of the machine and is alienated from the whole. Dean’s capacity to select and store a fragment of being as a “whole thing” enables a discourse not of what was there before this image, but what is the image “saying” about people scattering objects like these. What is it saying not about itself, but those who made it, placed it, and those who never even noticed it. This is an extravagant aim – with a huge hole filled with uncertainty and free imagination. It stays worldless and mute.
Sarah McAvera summarised that thus: while absence is the quality that connects both artists ” There is something sinister in the works of these two photographers, a feeling that danger is present even though there is no evidence that it will occur. What is there and what is not is not so easy to decipher, allowing for multiple interpretations and stories to be seen.” (gallery handout)
However – the process of enabling that mute discourse would be not the only concern. Perera questioned the aesthetic value of “straight” photography advocating instead use of the camera as defining the image. I like his question:“My memory is far more beautiful than anything I can take, so what is the point of producing ordinary photographs?” (http://www.2000net.com/fujifilm/perera/)
So – what makes Dean’s images a memory? I suspect different viewers will offer different answers. At this stage I sense manifestation of morality as human nature within nature, with contradiction. The photographed objects and nature are insouciant to the choice made by the viewer.
Childhood disappears after contracting memory to play hide and seek with consciousness.
The psychological effect of constructing Self from that interplay of real and imagined is as valuable as disorienting but energises the diptych.
Murphy trusts the aesthetic function of constructed sight to give some permanence to fleeting certainty with emphasis on nature ” of her childhood”.
It envelopes the “disinterested figure” who cannot be her – an admission embodied in different subjects, and colours of their attire.
Mutually exclusive they got hold of pleasure from knowing that perception is a fiction.
At times they lead to persuasion through composition that the child is safe. The child trusts whoever takes the photograph. Yet – I sense a strong invincible invitation to be palpably concerned about each child.
Murphy manages to point my attention to all that is outside the frame.
The oscillation is unnerving. Victor Hugo thought that sublime combines the grotesque and beautiful, Murphy combines the safety with fear. Her images are not mechanically objective, even if they are technically obtained under that pretense.
Edmund Burke sought of the danger as conversant source of the sublime. Empathic tuning with the object of observation requires abdication of reason to enable the encounter to stay impressive. Murphy leads me to think through the details… yet not being free of the impact of the whole, both of each photograph and the series. That I see parallel to theatre.
Both Dean and Murphy work with a duality of constructed sight dominating the unseen.
In that sense these photographs obtained a relationship with painting.
Images courtesy the artists.
An unexpected move to use Latin as a title of an exhibition these days… the words are written in neon tubes above the painting titled Three little words, (2010, neon, acrylic on canvas, 80 x 115 cm, sorry my mobile camera erased those words))
Alice Maher just has done it too, calling her exhibition at South Gallery Thurles,Tipperary (opens March 28, 2018) Vox Matter. Is it a new take on art shedding its chains to particular time, period, style? Similar ahistorical move exhibits the current web page by Woodland Trust displaying this ” fictional forest”. On the surface level – they all introduce an idea of continuous existence, of simultaneous existence.
Those parallel marks, contrast light, and repetitive modelling, all appear in the current Godbold’s exhibition. For example: Just don’t give up (2010, ink and pencil on paper, 54 x 75 cm) is drawn with red ink and pencil – as a simulacrum of red chalk favoured by the European painters of Gothic and Renaissance, including Raphael and Leonardo.
The appearance sets a doubt about authenticity – a viewer may be forgiven to think that it is an old work of art or a Godbold’s copy of one. The confident parallel marks betray that neither is correct. The marks are fluent, vivacious and energetic – not hesitant copies. Moreover, the same composition appears in an acrylic painting in a larger size, displayed on a diagonally opposite wall.
Viewers would need to walk the whole length of the gallery to become aware/certain of the similarity. Godbold deliberate use of a display as a tool to construct a meaning, allows similarity becoming surprising, and issues a call to the viewer to go back and look again. Doing so forges a story, or several stories. One story offers a “death of the new”, the new formulated by Modernism as partaking in the inner life of the artist – not observable. Godbold dual use of the same model sincerely admits that he collects images, like a 19th C botanist would flowers and seeds. The aesthetic categories tied to the New are tied to the old, through a remake. Remakes are appropriate in films and theatres – rarely in paintings, notwithstanding the fascinating Picasso’s work with Las Meninas by Velasquez. Godbold limits appearance of one model to two – in this exhibition. As if he wanted to say look and look again once. Significantly – this is what his art is rooted in. I recall William Blake’s thought: “…the windows of our perception are cleansed when we are drawn in or out by stories”.
One such story is charmingly chaste in these two related paintings.
Its title gives a clue to a common existence, known experience: Every evening I plan to enjoy the sunrise, and each morning I fail to get up (2009. acrylic on canvas, 175 x 250 cm)
Its daylight sibling lives under an absurd title 100,000.000 Angels singing, (2008) Both accessed on http://www.kerlingallery.com.
Observant comparison rewards the viewer with tiny changes in what is visible, e.g. the smoke from the chimney is clearer in the daylight variation, which lost a little of tree trunk on the left. Those are substories to the story of sameness and difference dependent on light. Plato chose a Demiurg to deal with those two (in Timaeus). Godbold makes the score for each of us to play with, to invent our story. He significantly departs from the distrust that forged Kandinsky’s On the spiritual in Art, 1911. And he shares the confidence that his art also provides the kind of experience valuable in its own right and not obtainable from any other activity.
His round-about selection of models, as something already visible as art, forges with his responses a kind of a silent fugue. Admirably – he respects each model with humility, which was not his chosen mode early in his practice. He used to scar, eliminate, visually assault parts of the appropriated images with large gestural marks, that abandonned hope of avoiding vulgarity. In this current exhibition is one drawing where numbers prevail over two humans ( Adam and Eve) standing in the middle of that “universe” – diminished and doubtful.
An appropriation of compositions and accentuation of the narrative detail, both are in combatant mood vis a vis early and heroic Modernism.
Selected motives/ forms/compositions he may have seen in galleries, museums, churches, books and on internet, forge a depart from 20th C obsession with originality ( the myth analysed by Rosalind Krauss) and from “not breaking the flat plane” ( Clement Greenberg). Can I assume that he selects what moves him? Clive Bell is often cited as defender of “art’s quality that provokes our aesthetic emotions…….when I speak of significant form, I mean a combination of lines and colours (counting white and black as colours) that moves me aesthetically” (The Aesthetic Hypothesis”).
Godbold chose those lines and contours that were already proved to deliver that impact on him. Does that make him a copyist at times? To some degree? Not in the slightest.
I wonder if comparing a source to his image will provide a solution. Below is Baptism of Christ, a 5th C mosaic in the Arian Baptistery in Ravenna (image courtesy Mary Ann Sullivan, 2006)
Godbold’s ink and laser print Semi-Submerged Saviour, 1998 (25.5 x 18.5cm) keeps the proportions and detail seen in Ravenna(or online) including the impersonation of river Jordan on the left.
A copyist would include all – whereas Godbold’s leaves out the liturgical, most significant, St John the Baptist, and more than a half of the mythological bystander – river Jordan. The absences transform the meaning.
Yet, he keeps as much of the original style as the chosen technique guarantees. Consequently – style is something he is analysing, disputing, debating, re-thinking – but still applying.
Those two points hold a promise of an answer: Personality of the artist and the overall outlook of a group…. His personality reminds me Albert Camus musing about The Myth of Sisyphus – on the will to live with dignity and authenticity. Those two qualities are grounded, in his case, in seeing, in observing, in what he makes visible. Obviously he cannot belong to a group working in the 5th C in Ravenna . Instead – he can share an overall outlook of a group of artists living during his life time. Art Povera and Conceptual Art contribute material and idea.
In 1969, Sol LeWitt publish “Sentences for Conceptual Art” in the little magazine O-9 (New York), edited by Vito Acconci and Bernadette Mayer.
Here are the first five sentences:
1. Conceptual artists are mystics rather than rationalists. They leap to conclusions that logic cannot reach.
2. Rational judgements repeat rational judgements.
3. Irrational judgements lead to new experience.
4. Formal art is essentially rational.
5. Irrational thoughts should be followed absolutely and logically.
Will any of Judd’s conditions appear in the red drawing?
Just don’t give up (2010)
and in the acrylic painting on canvas titled My past burried in a shallow grave (2010) ?
Instantly, on reading the titles – the realization that the same idea and visual composition of it appear as addressing future (in the drawing) and past (in the painting) provide that leap that logic cannot reach. There is no rational, logical reason for leaving out John the Baptist from Baptism of Christ. The print looks like an image of shivering teenager as if under the command of an older man, half out of the frame on the left. And the drawn landscape insists on hiding Godbold’s initials which appear visible in the painting in two tine circles. The “shallow grave” is under the tree on the left lower darkest passage, and is marked with tiny initials: DG. The ground there is indecisive: a grave or a flowing water? Both works of art adhere to Bell’s Modernist rule on “significant form”. Both, the drawing and painting admit fidelity to another concept: to an idea, of reaching “beyond ” appropriation or resurrection of verbal hierarchy over execution. In that sense Godbold protects visual thought as sufficient to make a drawing or painting. Leonardo’s trust in what he named “a mute poetry” and Italo Calvino call that visual thoughts must be protected, both stand at the birth of a-historical freedom to reject original contexts. Significantly – his trust in story telling is a critique of Modernism. In support I recall a neglected thought of Clement Greenberg: “Modernism criticizes from the inside, through the procedures themselves of that which is being criticised”
Godbold works in an “0bsolete form” – using current means, he goes beyond abstraction and inner model. Does he share anything with conceptual art? Does he share Donald Judd’s dim view of painting?
The main thing wrong with painting is that it is a rectangular plane placed flat against the wall. A rectangle is a shape itself; it is obviously the whole shape; it determines and limits the arrangement of whatever is on or inside of it.
In defiance, Godbold does this: numerous rectangles, framed and placed in a way recalling the Salon or commercial galleries in Paris… I sense that the Judd’s view of conceptual art both attracts and challenges Godbold – to provide something that protects freedom to be irrational. Not only that – it must satisfy something in his imaginations.
The seventeen metre wall was painted in red, in situ, by Colin Darke, following projection of Godbold’s drawings of a landscape. On it are 114 framed drawings or paintings whose stylistic pedigree includes medieval and renaissance citations.
This art is not a case, or variant of copying, so disliked by early Modernists(Futurists). I have seen paintings done by copyists trained at Viennese academy before WW2 – and having access to a regular planimetric samples of old art to copy in oil on canvas. The commercial rule was: change the size. Current research claims that copying improves creativity. (https://www.artsy.net/article/artsy-editorial-copying-peoples-art-boost-creativity?)
Some people will disagree. I visited an Academy in Leningrad in 1962, and in a private discussion, the students tearfully complained about being forced to copy museum pieces, day after a day, year after year… no freedom their western counterparts enjoyed. The same year Nikita Khrushchev published an article in Pravda newspaper, calling the sculpture by Ernst Neizvestny, exhibited in the Menagerie in Moscow, degenerate. It was a stump of ancient tree carved partly as a face and hand of a violinist … a fragment of a body as if growing out of the tree trunk. The sculptor also experienced – as a student in Riga- endless copying…..it did not diminish his creativity for ever. Neizvestny became a target because he moved away from prescribed socialist realism, which was rooted in obedience to the aesthetic canon dictated by the censor of Russian writers such as Anna Akhmatova and Mikhail Zoshchenko. Zhdanov formulated what became known as the Zhdanov Doctrine :”The only conflict that is possible in Soviet culture is the conflict between good and best“. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andrei_Zhdanov). Irony is, that Zhdanov is not conversant with the folk tradition of carved sculptures in stone and wood in situ, a practice widely spread in forests where the Slavs live. Perhaps best documented is the sculptor Matthias Braun (18thC) who carved biblical stories from rocks in situ at Kuks. Khruschev would label it “degenerate”.
A measure is something Godbold both masters and ignores in turn, works on the thin line of difference between found art and new. This strategy has active enemies: the fear of “not being original” as defined by Modernism … and the representation as interpretation of intensified recovery. Like a good researcher – he does commit to one common value: hand made drawings and paintings, dependendent on a tight co-ordination of eye, hand and memory.
His construct of meaning becomes more obvious when comparison is made with another “translation” of older art into modern idiom. Voynich Botanical Studies, by Miljohn Ruperto and Ulrich Heltoft, ongoing since 2013, are a good example.
The gallery statements gives the background information, which my readers may not have, hence I copy and paste it here.
The “Voynich manuscript” has been called a Holy Grail in cryptography. Discovered in 1912 by the American book dealer Wilfrid Voynich in the basement of a Jesuit library near Rome, the 230 page manuscript, completed in the 15th century, portrays a diverse array of astonishing fauna and flora, celestial objects, mysterious figures, as well as a huge quantity of script as of yet undeciphered. Based on the wildly imaginative illustrations of plants and vegetation in the Voynich manuscript, Miljohn Ruperto – a Californian artist of Philippine origin – together with the Danish artist Ulrik Heltoft, have made textural photographic works by creating 3D models then making negatives from these and finally printing them in traditional gelatin silver format. Entitled the Voynich Botanical Studies, the series has been ongoing since 2013. Both in the “Voynich Manuscript” and Voynich Botanical Studies there is an absurd attitude of humans creating nature. If the former provided the concept, then the latter has “rewritten” natural history by means of highly mimetic visual archives with the aid of modern technology. The mysterious plants in strange forms in the black background seem almost tangible with their crazy and beautiful leaves, branches and flower buds. Our love and curiosity for Nature are always accompanied by the desire to control it; such is the fundamental reason why natural history will “be led astray”.
(Image shared from https://goo.gl/images/HzPWza)
Love, curiosity, desire to control it, the inner connection with earlier culture – all appear in Godbold’s practice. The use of Latin for contemporary art feels pretentious, showing off classical education. The words appear in a modern medium – neon. A wry smile – confronting the ubiquitous neons in blockbusters of international art exhibitions. Sorry – my mobile camera got just a white cloud, which is a visual lie. Moreover – the neon is placed above an acrylic painting Three Little words (2010, 80 x 115cm)
Is the title of the exhibition, carefully chosen by Godbold, directing attention to that thin line of difference?
The artist named this display Nightfall …
Nightfall – limits visibility, thus making the ” de terrarum tractum” unmeasurable, irrational, conceptual, imagined, uncertain, not observable,possibly not existing.
Godbold places drawing and painting into that remove from the ample tracks of the Earth. Tracks which his “sources” (previous artists) might have observed. And then, mutating the size he takes ownership of what others observed, of their wisdom or follies – and translates it, into the same medium! The blue hues dominate the nightfall – the tonality is reminiscent of Dutch 18th C , but the high horizon signifies Italian landscape from Baldovinetti onwards. It shares motives, not light, that Claude Lorraine mixed in his: romantic ruins, large single trees.
amplissium terrarum tractum …start with an ablative of the substantivum – I read it as designating a place anywhere.
Amplissium pictoris opus non colossus sed historia appears written in 16th C about Raphael: Vast part of painter’s work is but a story. This connects well to my earlier awareness that and how Godbold tells stories – stories of his being with other art.
If so, it matters what the story is of. Godbold suggests landscape – terrarum tractum – parts of landscape. A kind o subjective visual translation. And he is diligent doing that. Madly so. But allows figural drawing.
The folded and bended flying drapery of St Christopher is reminiscent of Albrecht Duerer around 1500.
The exhibition embraces multitude of motifs, sources, places, time… in harmony with that claim. Like an incomplete visual dictionary – Amplissimum as the genitive of the superlative of “amplus” means widest, most spacious, largest , according to external circumference and capaciousness within. Hence it is never complete, finished, closed. The openness, of course is a necessary condition of art.
The kernel of the word amplissium directs the mind from the heights of the universe down … to the second word in the title, the Earth: terra – and its genitive terrarum. Not to all of it just to a one tract at time – a quest rather than achievement. Moving from “land” in the first gallery, to time in the second space. There the same composition gets painted once as a night and once in a daylight chromatics.
This is already too long …. Godbold placed a conundrum without making a radical distinction between his art and that he uses as a model. Yes, he changes the scale, the colours, the meaning, the context, material appearance – something appears, though, as samaness. I need Buber’s philosophy to assist here:
“The basic formulation of Buber’s philosophy (the philosophy of dialogue) is contained in I and Thou (Ich und Du in German) where he makes a radical distinction between two basic attitudes of which men are capable, described as I-Thou and I-It.
Godbold must have some reciprocity with the maker of Ravenna mosaics, to start with and then controlled which part to select.
“The I in the two situation also differs : in the I-Thou it appears only within the context of the relationship and cannot be viewed independently, whereas in the I-it situation the I is an observer and only partly involved. The I-Thou situation cannot be sustained indefinitely and every Thou will at times become an It….. In a healthy man there is a dialectical interaction between the two situations : every I-it contains the potential of becoming I-Thou, the situation in which man’s true personality emerges within the context of his world.”
I sense that the interaction of the two kinds of I forges the ground for Godbold’s aesthetics, that embraces the essential ambiguity of human condition: the ebb and flow, irrational exchange between free will and determination. It has been perceived as granting an artist a special status:
This leads Albert Camus to conclude that creative activity, like all free activities, is in the end only another attempt at dealing with the absurdity of human life ( The Stranger, 1942, 130). Art is the best instrument we have to cope with it.
Godbold shares with a group of contemporaries fondness for citation, quotation, appropriation, his subject is the selection, combination, and matching of fragments from other art. Significance of his achievement is that it looks both old and new. Not Janus like, rather like a well understood irony.
David Haughey accompanied the installation with a breathtakingly beautiful essay extracting deep understanding of human condition from materials and hues while mapping the roots in ancient philosophy. Applied to current EU strategies with migrating people it dips this art near James Turrell’s claim “[My art] is about your seeing, like wordless thought that comes from looking into fire”. Not a whimsical link – Calvin’s use of light and space shares the mind expanding force noted in Turrell’s installations.
To think of a mythic form as a catalyst toward “clarity” and even action is not that new as to be doubted. Mark Rothko explored so called “mythomorphic abstraction” in paintings, so comparison with installation may feel out of order, until the nonverbal thought admits not source but impact. In both Rotho’s and Calvin’s art the impact is unequivocal.
Muriel Spark “Art is an art of daring” comes to my mind while seeing Calvin’s installation, while connecting uncrossable space of the oval of wax that appears black from the entrance and golden from the back wall.
The sculpture favours Brancusi’s preference for absent plinth
The scars on the “gold” are not immediately visible, and as if holding their breath, they appear from some viewing angles. On the far wall is a framed print holding its secrets even tighter, but issuing impact from afar.
Can I be sure that “my meaning” is “its meaning”? No. But I appreciate both its confidence that the blue will not drown in the dark, and my freedom to trespass with my imagination. Calvin made a space for it. With a blithe indiference to my feeling this exhibit is both finished and unfinished. Like any poem. Its tomorrow is negotiable, it is adaptable to change of light and to the viewing by another. Its consolatory dark smooth plane hides a proleptic invocation of a disabled object. And silence.
I hasten to add, that I do not intend to crucify the installation’s emerging power as I move in the space, to any one particular view. The blue top of the wax crucible indulges in being both flat and of immense depth, a hermeneutic snare to avoid certainty. Is something else going to happen? Yes – reflections play poker with angles and light.
Calvin never disappoints, if all you expect is the force of mute poetry without an end.
(The images are not capable to approximate the aesthetic experience of being there)
They were artists in residence with the Rauschenberg Foundation in Captiva, Florida, in January 2016. Published the album in 2017.
Playing every day at 2pm in a shed on Jungle Road they created this work.
The sound work is organised into five parts separate by seconds of silence:
Fire Ants (20.36), Jungle Road 16.06), Waldo Cottage (16.41), Laika Lane (14.22) and Snow Birds(11.24), copyright Danny McCarthy and Mick O’Shea.
the pieces of grit however are not yet small enough to have descended into their final states: the etheric dust
Explosive opening made by rusting world of materials abandonned in the wind provides a noisy decomposition of electro-sonic ensemble that occupies the lip of recurring questions – what is the sound? What does it demand of me? Even the human voices just about audible over muffled distances relentlessly refuse to tell whether they are apocalyptic or just imprisoned. The sound issues relentless dictatorship of uncertainty. Apparent is the refusal to commit the sounds to a flow, instead they pile up like rocks after a earthquake. The sounds are hermetic, without a message, a story, and powerful means to abdicate any duty or privilege. I cannot persuade myself that the two parts, Fire Ants and Jungle Road are beautiful nor that there is no beauty in them.
My whimsical memory evokes parallels with Fleurs du Mal – and how it could sound without words. Too many lacunas allow for discontinuity as confident as is the universe. Alas -the Waldo Cottage appears to include sounds of nature, which must be my illusion, because the artists claim that all was done indoors, every day, starting at 2pm. There is a high pitched line like sound in relentless duration, so long, that I wished it stopped at least three times. Technosound. It issues a kind of oblique disappointment – so oblique that I cannot tell what it is, what it is about, yet, I cannot pretend that it is not, and it has not a powerful identity, aesthetic power.
These sounds are not humble. They are overwhelmingly confident in subverting the expectations. Even in repeats and monotony, the sound invents, behaving like a meandering river both knowing and not knowing what comes next. It descends from the universe down – to the human breath labouring to achieve something that is not accessible to senses.
Glass high pitch breaks in and stays high above the drip- drops that are sounding too technical. Yet, a welcome respite.
Silence is forbidden, unless it announces an end. A pause between parts. A length of a slow breath. Snow Birds infatuated by the two- the continuous high pitch and man’s breath syncopize a bodily effort- slightly playfully rush to the end.
Jane Hirtchfield poem, published with the disc, A Well Runs Out of Thirst, ends with a stanza that gently aligns to the sound compositions:
There are questions that never run out of questions, answers that don’t exhaust answer.
Take this question the person stands asking:
a gate rusting open.
Yes stands on its left, no on its right
two big planets of unpainted silence.
I have a memory (drowned in the decades of forgetting) of an summer evening open air piano concert at the Maeght Foundation near Saint-Paul de Vence: the pianist played the same score marks vertically, horizontally, clockwise, anti-clockwise, on a diagonal…. It was not my first experience with that kind of music making, but for a reason that remains nameless, most memorable art vivant.
Danny McCarthy made an indoor piece.
The notes on the envelope holding the disc with The Rauschenberg Scores include:
McCarthy then used Rauschenberg’s piano in the main studio to interpret these scores. Working late into the night sounds appeared in the studio for no apparent reason. These sounds were incorporated into the recordings.The scores/prints moved on the walls, again for no apparent reason, except they read/looked better that way.
Whether “Bob” as Matt calls him intervened is open to interpretation, but as Matt Hall said ” It would not be the first time strange things happened and things moved by themselves in these studios.
To cut open such a work only to extract an argument is to kill its heart. My only salvation from the foolish decision to write about it is trusting what Baudelaire called “correspondances”. I can’t quite articulate what it is that I’m reacting to. My grasp on what I’m hearing doesn’t seem cognitive, a free mix of visuals and sounds. Both, which I know and which are startlingly new. Even alien.
First more words,now, on the necessary ( and insufficient) conditions for The Rauschenberg Scores.
During January and February 2016 the artist Danny McCarthy was invited to work as “Artist in Residence” with The Rauschenberg Foundation in Captiva Florida along with fellow “The Quiet Club” member Mick O’Shea.
The residency was housed in Robert Rauschenberg Studio’s and estate. While there, the artists had full access to all the studio’s facilities including Rauschenberg’s own piano which Cage, Tudor etc had performed on. In the studio were the work tables used by Rauschenberg, when he lived and worked there. These tables were marked, scored and coloured by Rauschenberg himself as he made his own work. (The tables were fabricated and built by Matt Hall, Rauschenberg’s assistant and still head technician in the studios). McCarthy took these marks, scores and colours, photographed them, and used them to create a series of prints on antique handmade paper that Rauschenberg left behind in the studio.
These became “The Rauschenberg Scores”, a sample is accessible here: https://soundcloud.com/farpointrecordings/danny-mccarthy-the-rauschenberg-scores-excerpt (Sorry,some children voices follow autoatically)
During listening of McCarthy’s music, I hear sounds our ancestors would never hear – akin to engines of unknown kind and sounds astronomy links with the sounds of the universe. In a way, these sounds uproot me from my prosaic presence, they emerge to my consciousness as coming from the prehistoric era. Are they Earth bound? Not all of them. Those that sound like a piano key, are – and others deny that instrument and that space. In complicity with his tools ( instruments, space, electronics) McCarthy achieved an enigmatic exchange that exclude the habitual listening to music and its relationship to time. The middle could be the beginning or the end. He translated that condition into an image of a circle and lines on the sleeve for the disc, possibly, it is one of the marks found on the tables – a silent message.
…lambent, obvious, forbidding, uggly, beautiful, even terrifying. Pelagic silence broken by oppositional, yet constituent roar. Too loud, too pianissimo. I could not decide where to set the volume of the sound – Adorno’s concept of beauty as ” a necessary moment ” circled the intensity I experienced. What if the intensity of performance is all that separates art and other being? What if all is required is that I stay loose from the mad search for objective values? Some passages are apocalyptic – some akin resignation to a disaster of something becoming nothing.
There is more: on subsequent listening – some earlier perception accelerated to variations – for example a sound’s ending changed more fluently into silence and visa versa.
Hence my conclusion –
The visual and sound variations are Danny McCarthy respectful memorial to the space, and objects as documents of existence of Rauschenberg and intense sorrowful strive to activate the loss back into presence (and future). With all the intensity of spirit McCarthy could evoke.
There is more…. and it is non verbal….
I have not seen this exhibition. I have seen some of his earlier paintings at Fenderesky Gallery.
This essay exists because Ronnie Hughes generously sent me the handsome catalogue published by The Model in 2017. It contains two essays, CV and bibliography and 40 pages of reproductions of paintings under summary titles Strange Attractors I and II.
What is in the name? On the practical level – identification. But – underneath that clarity dreams a chaos of possibilities, a phenomenon completely vindicated by recent research, like that by Thomas Metzinger, professor and director of the theoretical philosophy group and the research group on neuroethics/neurophilosophy at the department of philosophy at the Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz in Germany. From 2014-19, he is a Fellow at the Gutenberg Research College. He is the founder and director of the MIND group, and Adjunct Fellow at the Frankfurt Institute of Advanced Studies in Germany. His latest book is The Ego Tunnel (2009). After comparing our thinking to dolphin’s behaviour he muses that
One of the most exciting recent research fields in neuroscience and experimental psychology is mind-wandering – the study of spontaneous or task-unrelated thoughts. Its results have radical implications for politics, education and morality. If we consider the empirical findings, we arrive at a surprising result of profound philosophical significance: cognitive control is the exception, while its absence is the rule. Much of the time we like to describe some foundational ‘self’ as the initiator or cause of our actions, but this is a pervasive myth. In fact, we only resemble something like this for about a third of our conscious lifetime.
I welcome that as a tool against cognitive bias – which is so difficult to shift. It is also grounding for my utter delight while reading the essays A CODE OF THE HEART for the first time earlier. What happened to that delight now when I engage the discipline of “facts”? Its author, Martin Herbert does not yet list it among his catalogue essays.
He casually introduces a derivation from the uncertainty principle in his first paragraph:
The artist, via design or fortuity or both cues both positive confusion and the desire to master it and then indefinitely delays such mastery, continuing to tickle eye and mind along the way (my emphasis) (p 13)
It reads like a generic statement for all and any. Given my interest in recognising the power of “wandering mind”, I read the “tickling” as analogous. Herbert zoomed on the same painting as I, seeing the Space Between as between a diagram and cartoon …” both with cerebral appeal”(p13) and also – as I do- as a cosmos. His meandering around received view of abstraction and the impact the painting has on him, is graceful and honest.
Contrary to his trust in the titles given to each painting by Hughes – “as device for translating the signal” I concur only partly, to protect my intoxication with freedom for the wandering mind, a gift from the painted surface. The titles help me to write which image I am thinking of – identifying device.
Herbert is excellent in working out the link between the titles and what the painting wants him to see it as. His paragraph on Transponder (2016) moves in a straight line from reading it as a signal knitted from hues, tone and angles to a question: What is the translation?(p15)
There is a group of Hughes’ paintings sharing the visual means (accessible on http://www.ronniehughes.net/paintings) – that differ considerably in their “tenor” – or mood. Transponder is confident to show off cohabitation of right, obtuse and acute angles, as if illustrating Nietzsche’s discussion of the apollonian and dionysian principles in art.
insists on the light and temperature to be even from edge to edge – a governing principle made first, explicitly, by Paul Cezanne about painting. Less intense, it lets mind wander into a calm, sleepy, dreamy moments of time when doing nothing feeds creativity. (D.H.Lawrence)
Herbert’s essay goes on for four pages bristling with ideas and offering riches of unborn ideas – I highly recommend to read it. It fits the ethos of Hughes paintings.
The second essay employs a different wandering of mind.
“It is an unnerving process to stand on the surface, and to think about what exists beyond it” so Joanne Laws opens her NOTES FROM THE SURFACE:CHAOS SUSPENDED (P 41). Her trust is placed into the possibility of simultaneous realms, including art and so called “lesser art” so famously defended by William Morris. She confesses “ On more than one occasion, I think about the silk wall hangings and ‘pictorial weavings’ of Annie Albers and her meticulous preparatory sketches on gridded paper.” This connectivity is not only admissible, but also a welcome invitation to mind wandering across traditional boundaries. She perceives that proportions of a Persian carpet appear in Hughes’ Weaver above ( http://iranpazirik.com/htmls/size.htm does not list support). Under the subtitle Ordering Systems (p 43) she brings a wealth of parallels to what she terms as Ronnie Hughes’s “grappling system …. encrypted”: theories of chaos, quantum physics, generic coding… cosmology, colour theory, symbolism of a wheel, “even language itself”. She takes the reader on a journey across cultures and histories.
Her point about language reminds me: the title Transponder collapses two words: transmitter and responder. She takes the reader on a journey across cultures and histories.
Almost as if offering me a closing paragraph – she turns to that red painting, introduced above and by Martin Herbert in his essay: The Space Between (2015): “...we get a sense of things teetering on the brink. A continuous line spirals inwards, like a vortex or a black hole.” While not disputing her reading, I confess of failing to have that sense before I read her sentence. Maybe – as a result of reading it from centre out, I saw it flat. As if supporting Herbert’s uncertainty principle she introduces “…ambivalence in which dualities …could freely co-exist” in her closing page headed with ” On Carnival” citing Circus I-VI (2017) and Carnivale (2017) as drawing in and on those dualities. (p45)
Enjoyable catalogue, beautifully considered, including the whimsical triangles descending wherever on the pages. The Model, Sligo – a big thank you.
Images accessed on http://www.ronniehughes.net/paintings.
“This book came about because we felt compelled to share Bob Raymond‘s work with a wider audience after he died unexpectedly in 2012″ – so Jed Speare starts his Preface to the volume of 192 pages printed on square 25 x 25 cm. Attempting to name a value, Speare zooms on three : mindful public service, intermedia, and idealism of 1960- 70s. He names the Raymond’s collaboration as artist with Mobius Artists Group as recently as August 2011, in the multimedia performance of John Cage’s Variations VIII at its original site, the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Maine. Continue reading
Published on the occasion of the exhibition Air A Lair,organised by Summerhall, Edinburgh ( 2nd August -24 September 2017) the catalogue contains brief tributes by Richard Demarco, Dominic Thorpe, Paula Blair, Roddy Hunter and Brian Patterson. and a substantial, insightful, erudite essay Drawing Breath by the co-curator Dr Sandra Johnston. It connects numerous invitations to perform abroad with Belfast where he keeps a permanent studio. His performance art developed early when he briefly lived in United States and Canada, before he came to Belfast in 1975 and stayed, frequently flying out to international gatherings, mostly in the Northern Hemisphere. One memorable exception was a collaborative performance with Adrian Hall and Andre Stitt in New Zealand, who have lived in Belfast decades ago.
The catalogue contains twelve drawings and stills from sixteen different performances. Roddy Hunter muses about the difference between the two, Drawing remains, drawings remain, while connecting the ephemeral with stability of marks on paper with what action and drawing have in common: “… eyes closed but the mind still sees” and “drawing without seeing, without knowing”(p 41). Facing Hunter’s text is an image of two I- Ching’s hexagrams: 51(The Arousing) and 64(Before Completion), a reference pertinent to MacLennan’s drawings made in 2016. They all share one condition that derived from I Ching: 29 strokes, a condition MacLennan adhered to in all drawings made in 2016.
Both the drawings and MacLennan persistent devotion to “a precise rule” are given sustained attention in Sandra Johnston’s nine columns that forge a kind of panorama of his art practice: She cites MacLennan’s view that precise rules offer a means of working inwards, beyond the aesthetic consequences that emerge on the page” (p4) The formulation presupposes very narrow concept of aesthetics and a guaranteed easy split up of aesthetic experience into “what emerges on the page” and its consequences, both somehow privileged if the artist uses a precise rule. This view presupposes that only a precise rule can make art open- ended. It puts unreasonable trust into a stability of the “aesthetic consequences that emerge on the page” during the creative process. That page, an object, is not only forbidden to embrace a chance, but it keeps being governed by that precise rule to condition our experience. Whereas, there is a tacit agreement that all art suffer an open end, a poetic force which no “precise rule” can guarantee.
However, it may be a matter of Brechtian rejection of catharsis and of commitment to feelings that do not culminate in any kind of cleansing or irritation or anger. In other words aesthetic categories linked to feelings that are good in diagnosing definite need but not definite means to satisfy that need.
Aesthetic categories are growing with and out of art practices constantly, continuously. This has been recognised: J. L. Austin noted in “A Plea for Excuses” that the classic problems are not always the best site for fieldwork in aesthetics: “If only we could forget for a while about the beautiful and get down instead to the dainty and the dumpy.”
In 2011, Sianne Ngai, a professor in the English department at Stanford University wrote
“ The book I’m currently completing is on the contemporary significance of three aesthetic categories in particular: the cute, the interesting, and the zany.”
Johnston’s assertion that MacLennan’s “precise rules” the “working inwards” lead to “side-stepping one’s own preconceived formulae and aesthetic preferences, an inner battle with complacency”(ibidem) appears to align with Ngai’s explanation of zany as pertinent to performing:
While the cute is thus about commodities and consumption, the zany is about performing. Intensely affective and highly physical, it’s an aesthetic of nonstop action that bridges popular and avant-garde practice across a wide range of media: from the Dada cabaret of Hugo Ball to the sitcom of Lucille Ball. You could say that zaniness is essentially the experience of an agent confronted by—even endangered by—too many things coming at her quickly and at once.(http://www.cabinetmagazine.org/issues/43/jasper_ngai.php)
Johnston quotes MacLennan’s thinking about Hexagram 29 in the I Ching: it is called The Abysmal (Water). It sets an example of action in “dangerous” situations …not avoiding any dangers… retaining its own “essential” nature… being thorough … and moving on. She enlivens the discussion with her memories of tutorials, in which MacLennan instilled in her the ability to perceive how and that “unattended things can hold the veracity of the process”(p9). Meticulously, and carefully,Johnston links drawings to performances and concludes: “…the act of drawing is also present in the continuity of his movements as lines in motion over time…”(p10). Based on some duo performances, she invents a category of “ feral imagination” as re-occuring characteristics, illustrated by Drift 3(2014): “MacLennan stood on a crossroads between one of these thin, white erratic seams intersecting the grey beds, one leg either side of the line. Positioned on his head was the weathered corpse of the seagull….” She acutely pointed to the absurd simultaneity of ordinary(dress) and “derelict and pagan” item offering the reader a beautiful thought: “Humility is key to how the work informs in the present tense, responding to the immediate moment through attrition and ‘poverty’ of means, replaced instead by a valuing of small gestures.”(p14) That is one way his art works as in this image from Bbeyond Monthly.
In the other way, he encumbers his body by “various burdens” as if ” …to create a space of protection around this ‘innocent’ object.” (p15) This appears in sharp contrast to his erasing (blacking out) the “lived” days from his diary – as in ‘what you cannot remember becomes irrelevant’.
May be the protecting is an offering to the forces of forgetting, like a prayer or like lighting a candle.
“Contemporary zaniness is not just an aesthetic about play but about work, and also about precarity, which is why the threat of injury is always hovering about it.” (Sianne Ngai)
The drive to adorn the head he shares with the purist instinct well documented in nature.
Those additions are not just to camouflage, adorn, play with … they are essential synecdoche for ancestry and future generations. In human edition they often appear as a part of power game. Getting some advantage. Getting others to give something, share something.
In Finland’s Nuuttipukki tradition men dress like this and go around demanding food.
The deer demands predictable future for its genes.
Both are directing their sign to the future of the species.
MacLennan finds his objects both by chance and planning – for similar end: the future couched in unremarkable natural objects whose main role is to signify equivalence between art and nature, between work and creativity.
He often appears handicapped – to minimise the possibility of hierarchy assumed between a seer and the rest. Instead the visual experience is constructed by the paradox: a man in ordinary daily dress carries useless object and paints one lens of his glasses black an inhibition for seeing clearly. Instead of glaring visual acuity he offers the seeing less. The whole issues a warning that the substance consists of the summary of praxis and play, ordinary and mad, useful and imagined, all in not known proportions. The idea is reminiscent of Plato’s Demiurge in Timaeus – cutting, weighing, mixing similarities and differences. Even if it fails, it still makes an impact by rejecting the expected.
Note: If and when I find the missing acknowledgement for the photographs I accessed on the internet, I shall amend it here. Sorry.