24 at the Golden Thread Gallery, Belfast, December 2014


The Project Space is a small space on the left of the entrance inside the Golden Thread Gallery.


It is irreverently free of “having-to-do” anything , and equally it is free to do anything.  I think the paradox  is a deliberate kind of flexibility that cannot be easily defined for the main gallery spaces.

Sarah McAvera’s curating  strength includes her playful, yet rigorous, focus  how she handles that open-endedness. This time she selected 24 exhibitors –  to forge a temporary assembly of  diverse concepts and looks, while holding on to some tacit agreement   that they will not fight, compete or struggle.  The objects were displayed  in a spirit of communal seasonal peace, as it were.  All carry competent signature of their origin – leaving the sudden ruptures in personal style elsewhere – for some other occasion, if at all.


The oldest, here on the right, Framed Burning Bush(1994) by Colin McGookin  luxuriates in a frenzy of tactile sensation  in a very dark world, from which nothing escapes,  as if governed by Cerberus.

Lisa Malone  shows her blue-purple  Skylark  from edition of 9 (2008) –  a toy character mounted on a metal box with a handle to turn,  a semi- automaton.  The automata have a cherished history:  the classical Greek culture  gave them a range of purposes: tools, toys, religious idols, or prototypes for demonstrating basic scientific principles.  According to a legend, king  Solomon used his wisdom to design a throne with mechanical animals which hailed him as king when he ascended it. One notable examples of automata include Archytas‘s dove, mentioned by Aulus Gellius –  a nearest  ancient analogy to Malone’s Skylark, on the right of the image below.




The association with automata is  one case of remembrance of older cultures, older art. There is more.

Reminiscent of 20th C mobiles, suspended  near the windows, the cascade of yellow  shapes – almost Euclid’s forms- hangs in the air with enough gaps to let the street view reflections to join them. I cherish this kind of site specific aesthetic experience.


Charlotte Bosanquet’s Balanced Construction 1, 2014 (Wood, rope, papier-mâché. Paint, varnish, 1 x 1 metre)


When I asked  the gallery for images to accompany my text I did not expect some of the beautiful gifts that the interfering lens gave me.

In the above image with reflections of the opposite building and the opposite inside wall it looks like  large scale  installation hanging in the air. The yellow shapes reject perfection preferring the robust aesthetics of chance impacting on order.

When the lens transfers  attention to its shadow on the wall, it  mutates into  a smaller pattern favouring aesthetics not so distant from  mobiles by  Alexander Calder .

Alexander Calder, Cone d’ebene, 1933, wood,wire,rod,paint, courtesy of Calder Foundation, NY



(In the  foreground  Whisperer Series, 2014, glazed and saggar fired stoneware by Deirdre Hawthorne)

On comparison,  its shadow and the hanging installation do not “tell” the same thing. One is poetic…


…the other  tells how is it made.

That deliberate sincerity has been Bosanquet’s characteristic for a while now –  e.g. the road marking on her living room carpet, which she later hang at the Catalyst as if it were a historical tapestry. In a sense it was a successful,  if opposing  the original code, analogy.

In front of  the Balanced Construction  hangs – on a  cantilevered wooden pole, a copy of a print of a torso of a bodybuilder by Brian J. Morrison: Breaking Point  2014, UV Inkjet print on pin rod and pine block.  In  reality it is small, I guess between A2 and A3 perhaps. The lens assumes a powerful optical illusion  – and it is another enjoyable visual lie. Although the installation is contemporaneous to the exhibition, it includes image similar ( possibly identical) to earlier Morrison’s work. That particular possibility allows a question when an appropriation is more virtuoso than what is appropriated.  It is the association of the floppy UV print with the skin of Marsyas, that assumes some superiority.. If Morrison’s print is Marsyas, what or who is  Athena in all her vanity?  The art world, perhaps?


Brian J Morrison, Breaking Point, 2014, UV Inkjet print on rod and pine block


For a century or so, the skill of making art object was removed from the centre of the  aesthetic experience of  visual art. Replaced by a concept as a holder of value.The  art object became unsure of itself, even anxious. Mimetic skills were admitted as of  no value.

In Sarah McAvera’s temporary assembly, skills are cherished, craft is valued, idea’s are fused with sensuality on  silver objects,  perfect digital prints,  lovingly made stoneware,  superb drawing,  trompe’l’oeil watercolour,  sensitive paper collage,  magic etchings, oil painting, acrylic painting, and  precision of an  archival inkjet.



From left: Geoff Molyneux framed digital prints with stone, 2014; LisaMalone Skylark; Duncan Ross Chou-Fleur, 2014


The cauliflower is painted directly on the wall,  Ross offers to paint it in the size of your choice  on your own wall.




This is  a significant departure from the concept of the artist as inherited from Modernism. It re-boots an older idea of artist as a journeyman together with the authenticity of the hand made art.

A different hand made art manifests its power in Leo Devlin’s  Fortyfying No 6. It shows, as equally important, all the individual  parts and  the  resulting torrent of shiny surfaces.



It is a re-assembled installation from a performance containing silver and other silvery home bound objects. The lens fails to transmit the richness of the relationships,  e.g. the insecurity of a large bowl in a forced encounter with an arrogant fork.   Numerous small sub-stories, invite  your memories, associations,  to join effortlessly. This installation is a giver.

In the middle on the back wall: Hazel Neill, Breath, 2014, Light jet print, 60 x 80 cm

So are small magic black ink drawings by Stuart Calvin, etchings by Mick Cullen and light jet print  by Hazel Neill  – all confident in different degree to embody abstraction.



On the shelf in a cardboard box a tablet plays  a tango, while the lens reads shadows   thrown by  static toy sculptures of animals. An illusion that they dance to the rhythm is a content forming, planned, reward.

WordPress does not let me to attach as a file,  the 2 minutes 34 seconds video of a small installation on four levels that vaguely associates with a Nativity narrative.  At the top under a pitched roof, three lambs look directly into the lens, on the lower level a bull and a goose “dance”. The other two are filled with animal figures, domestic and wild alike.

This link is from Ciara Finnegan’s web site:

Reminiscent of a dollhouse by Alexander Calder,Finnegan’s  Grubber is more impact, harmonious, mysterious.

Alexander Calder, Dollhouse, c 1945, courtesy Calder Foundation, NY


Ciara Finnegan’s assembly is infused with children’s sense for miracles. I shall include her statement below, to supplement the only image I have.

Ciara Finnegan, Grubber: El Tercer Piso, 2014, video, 2minutes 34 seconds


Finnegan emailed me the following:

El Tercer Piso is the second part of a series of work that takes place in an old Dutch Kanaalhuis-style dollhouse that I call “Grubber”. (After the name of a tall, narrow sweet-shop in a Roald Dahl tale).

The relationship between the animals and the functions of the living space are deliberately obscure – Grubber hints at zoo, detention centre, house of ill-repute, but no single label seems to quite fit. The residents’ tales are insinuated rather than explicitly told. No one speaks (or snorts or squawks, for that matter!), rather music accents some of the tones and moods.

For the sequence, El Tercer Piso, (The Third Floor) I was particularly interested in attempting to animate the shadow rather than moving the figures themselves – to play with a very deliberate contrast between the static animals and the their dynamic “inner lives”. I love the power of tango: there is such a latent sense of violence in the dance – a terrible desire, a physical threat, something massive contained within a compact unit (in this case, the dance) that takes huge effort to contain and restrain – and, such is life in Grubber, I think…

The tango music I used in ETP is called Por Una Cabeza, written by Carlos Gardel and Alfredo Le Pera. It has a considerable record of use in film, featuring prominently in Scent of a Woman (1992) and Schindler’s List (1993) among others. (The sequence of still-shots that fade in and out of one another (at 01:27min) is a very deliberate reference to the passage of still images underscored by Por Una Cabeza in Schindler’s List).

I liked the idea of presenting the video on a tablet in a neutral cardboard box because I felt it both respected the both the spirit of the show and the nature of the subject (a plain shoe-box sized cardboard box re-creates a sense of one floor in the Grubber and I liked the idea of it having been opened, like a door in an advent calendar).


The  TWENTY FOUR will be easily remembered as a visual  gift from an advent time.

Images courtesy the Golden Thread Gallery and Ciara Finnegan.









About Slavka Sverakova

writer on art
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