Precursor, Catalyst Arts, Belfast, 1 – 9 August 2013


Information about Catalyst Arts on

Veni, vidi

81 artworks from 81 artists, one, John Ryan, invited, the rest all paying members of Catalyst Arts. It was founded twenty years ago, as Peter Richards puts it in an accompanying brochure, ‘homeless’, appropriating temporary spaces and site specific projects until in 1994 it opened its first gallery at 5 Exchange Place . Two other sites later, it now installs exhibitions in a large downstairs space, addressed as 5 College Court, facing a car park.

“It has exhibited artists from all quarters of the globe, hosted exhibitions, events, festivals, talks, seminars; and has been transformed by artists into a cinema, a recording studio, a sauna, a club, various clubs and so much more” (Peter Richards, Né en 1993, Sans Abri)

While willingly changing its colour, like a chameleon, Catalyst Arts held to its character: open to opportunities, offering support, guarding the quality. The current exhibition shares those fully. It was not my considered plan to focus on a small number, yet focus I did on  those remembering a past. Memory.


Margaret Woods, Mnemosyne, n.d. mixed media, photo Jordan Hutchings

A large charcoal and mixed media drawing Mnemosyne by Margaret Woods injects classical myth as a root of all else, that being what we remember, why and how. In the Greek mythology Mnemosyne is a confident mother of the Nine Muses  – here, on her own, deep in thoughts, perhaps catching an insecure tear with a hesitant gesture, she appears to be slowly, gently disappearing. Her left hand  has not been fully drawn, and now it looks like having evaporated  from the surface, it looks flawed like a memory.  Her right hand seems to appear twice, once fully formulated and, once a little lower to the right,  as if touching the left shoulder.  Together they forge a -V- shape of two clock hands anchored in Mnemosyne’s lap, near the deformed limb, measuring a small interval of time.

Time Was  by Alice Clark  is a veritable delight of nimble fingers collecting seed heads of dandelions and placing them in a glass bowl, like jewels measuring time.


Alice Clark, Time Was, 2013, Glass and dandelion heads, photo Jordan Hutchings

An elegant reminder of the law of nature, the little sculptural installation evoked both domestic comforts and inescapable laws of nature.  Calliope, the Muse of epic poetry would have been protective of it. Whereas the next image would come under the care of Clio, the Muse for history.


Davide Dunne, Prelude Berlin 1933, n.d., Paper collage. Photo Jordan Hutchings

David Dunne evoked the dry dating of documents in a sophisticated collage of old prints titled Prelude Berlin, 1933,  fragments of monstrous behaviour  and monstrous tragedy fit of attention of the Muse Melpomene. Dunne framed the central headless figure in a pose of deep thinking  by myth and history. It is not true and yet it is. The layers of incongruous events do not obey  historical continuity, a device favoured also by the next two exhibits. Time received a grid treatment in Christopher Gillen’s Dislocation , a facade imprisoned behind a right angled net.


Christoff Gillen, Dislocation, C-type on aluminium, n.d., Photo Jordan Hutchings

The grid looks like functional scaffolding, until the attention is directed to the other images layered over the facade of the Orange Hall – a horizontally placed head on the left, and the statue as if on the balcony indicate additions during the process of printing.  Like a memory layers, some are almost not legible, others lose their link with the truth by wiggling out of scale and/ or   believable direction, a surreal touch.

The sequence of what is where defines the vertically stretched installation by Anne Marie Taggart.


Installation view, in front, between the two columns is the mixed media installation Untitled by Anne Marie Taggart, 2013, photo Jordan Hutchings

Visitors  imprinted their shoes on the soft surface of the white rectangle on the floor, removing some of the white pigment from it, making then new prints elsewhere.


Anne Marie Taggart, Untitled, detail, photo Jordan Hutchings

Chance transfer of the pigment is a pre-ordered principle of participation.  While the vertical set of floor image, voluminous tube and a feathered wing works a visualisation of addition, the dissipation of the right angled form by “dancing” shoes is a  reminder of the lightness preferred in  a play. To the delight of the Muse of dance, Terpsichore.

The idea of addition and/or subtraction appeared most triumphantly in two objects, displayed next to each other.

Janet Morris made a tiny assemblage, Mention, whose muted colours suppress the relief into something near an  abstract painting. Arte povera comes to mind quite easily as an older sibling.


Janet Morris, Mention, mixed media, n.d.;photo Jordan Hutchings

Her assemblage  provided a friendly whisper of togetherness to Zoe Murdoch’s box M153. 


Zoe Murdoch, M 153, mixed media/found objects; photo Jordan Hutchings

This has been exhibited at Fenderesky Gallery few years ago, but

Unfortunately this year the piece got broken (unusually it was not broken by myself!) so I fixed it up and added a few little improvements and thought it deserved another outing so I put it into the member’s show at Catalyst…

As if deliberately made for reminiscing about time the M153  used to be a drawer  in an old workshop chest  offered for sale at a car boot sale in the middle of nowhere, somewhere in Pennsylvania

The work was inspired after a trip to Pennsylvania in 2011 to visit my friend – a fellow artist called Susan Moloney …We went to visit a town called New Hope, nearby was a beautiful old abandoned railway line and this is where I found the piece of rusty metal right by the old rail tracks… (quotes from Murdoch’s email to me)

The use  of old, almost discarded, values during the time framed by friendship with another artist is iconic one in relation to the ethos of Catalyst Arts over the two decades.

I recall the deeply felt pathos of the Italian Mutus Liber or of the two Mexican performance artists working in the freezing gallery as being symptomatic of the freely given time and energy by all Catalyst Arts members.

However, to lighten the mood, there is a joker in the pack: the trinity of prints is a nod to the Muse of comedy Thalia.  Nathan Crothers’s Notice  is the spanner between the dual meaning of Brendan O’Neil’s With God on our side  and  Ben Crothers’s Sarah, Home &Away.  


On the left the photograph by Ben Crothers; in the middle the scalpel etched poster by Brendan O’Neill, on the right Nathan Crothers’s C- print on dibond aluminium. Photo Jordan Hutchings.

 I have felt the blessing of this relaxed exhibition for its capacity to embrace effortlessly the many differences in contents, media, modes and paradigms. The exhibition that was not bound to one concept, instead it was youthfully multitasking.


Transcript of                                          Visitor Notice

The Artist has asked

this  notice to be hung

beside artworks deemed

mediocre by the gallery.

The positioning of this notice

is at the discretion of the curator.

The artists would like to apologise  for the opinions of the curator.



About Slavka Sverakova

writer on art
This entry was posted in essay, review and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Precursor

  1. Rob Hilken says:

    Lovely words Slavka :) A small correction though, there were no invited artists. John Ryan’s artwork was that he be featured on the poster as an invited artist. We loved the cheek of it!


  2. maaip says:

    Reblogged this on MFA Fine Art Belfast.


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