Liam Crichton: SLEEPER

Liam Crichton: SLEEPER

12 Aug 2016 – 9 Sep 2016

The curators,  Hugh Mulholland and Eoin Dara, issued an accompanying text:


We are pleased to be presenting the first institutional solo exhibition in the UK and Ireland from Belfast-based artist Liam Crichton.

This newly commissioned work responds specifically to the architectural space of our Sunken Gallery, transforming it into an immersive installation that takes its name from the psychoactive sedative Benzodiazepine.


This work layers together concerns relating to classical Greco-Roman frieze sculpture, contemporary urban voids in the built environment, and ideas of philosophical consciousness through a rigorously considered process of abstraction and minimalist aestheticism. Crichton will distil these varied and somewhat disparate touchstones and references into a single sculptural entity to envelope viewers within the space. Exploiting the sculptural qualities of industrial materials commonly associated with labour and construction this project will enact a kind of psychological emptying-out of the gallery, exploring ideas of social entropy, the void, and the sublime.

Sleeper bottom

Liam Crichton is a Scottish artist currently based in Belfast. He graduated from the Edinburgh College of Art in 2010 and is known for creating large-scale sculptures and installations that investigate physical space. Containing references to and elements of a post-minimal realisation, his aesthetically driven and predominately site-specific work is often characterised by a sense of dichotomy that challenges traditional perceptions and cultural surroundings. In a systematic and reductive process, he breaks down the impression of the familiar to its bare essence. He operates through a non-linear, conceptual and formal vernacular sculptural praxis. Crichton has recently exhibited in Edinburgh, London, Philadelphia, Dublin, and Belfast.

SLEEPER is one of a trio of exhibitions at the MAC exploring the possibilities of sculpture, installation, and object making in 2016. As well as Crichton’s project, don’t miss Keith Wilson’sCalendar  in our Upper Gallery from 12 August – 16 October, and Barbara Knezevic’s The Last Thing on Earth in our Sunken Gallery from 16 September – 16 October.


Does it matter if you see visual art in an established gallery?  –  Crichton has made an installation using stone  in an empty office suit in Belfast that was as well thought through, perfectly delivered and  sensitive to the space and materials. Has it been valued less? Not by me.  I suppose the difference would be in the number of people  viewing it.  The purpose built art centre  – like a  cafe- attracts  habitual use. In that sense – it is meant to benefit the artist and the viewer, the art’s instrumental values – not necessarily the art’s intrinsic values ( well: unless you  consider Dickie’s Institutional theory of art …)

However – the task to make a given, already defined and found,  existing  space into a receptacle of art that does not yet exist except as an idea, as an intention, as a belief, presupposes a kind of a match between the space and the installed art.  That produces a  circular symmetry between the artist’s response to an empty gallery and my response to   his art in it.  I entered  the Sunken Gallery on my own, luckily. The impact of the three sides of a  continuous bas relief in warm  not-quite-white  with softly pink whispered tones  saturated my senses. Yet – it shares something with the solemnity of  Ara Paci .

ARA PACIS 02ee32b2b7ed98ab21dc2679b45d29040baf434f

Processional scene (south side), Ara Pacis Augustae (Altar of Augustan Peace) 9 B.C.E. (Ara Pacis Museum, Rome) (photo: Steven Zucker, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

The procession indicates sacred action of beneficial peace, of living in peace.   It is responsive to a state of a place  in the absence of war, not the place itself. Can be anywhere. For the consistent response to a place – perhaps the best case is Sansovino’s ability to hold the genius loci, its brilliant light sharing the gaiety and splendour of warm colour  of Venice.Sansovino img_0870Jacopo Sansovino (1486 -1570), Library, San Marco, Venice, 1536. Image courtesy

This facade is a skillful weaving of a few simple elements, interlocking rhythm of volumes and light and shade.. letting the stone obtain  painterly softness.  Crichton starts with a pliable cloth and wet dripping plaster, and ends up with an illusion of stone…  a poetry of drapery – as when visual art dreams of itself.

sleeper corner

Have I perpetrated a corrosion of meaning of SLEEPER? Indeed, I have focused on the vast existential distance between poetry and sleep, between sensual passion and an unruly subversion by a brain asleep.  The voluntary interdependence of intimacy of the folds and surface  emanate peace and play with the light (thus embodying salient values of the older art cited above)  so that the intimate forges close companionship with the public. Days apart,   three times it delivered the same impact  – effortlessly, with a breathtaking discipline of economy of means. The way this art enhances well being has nothing to do with quantity or service – and all with autonomy, like music.  It even circumvents both  Plato’s belief that only philosophy can lead us out of the prison of a cave, and  Immanuel Kant’s fortification of that prison by claiming that we  cannot perceive reality (Das Ding an Sich).

Sleeper part1471019671_20160811-MAC-028

SLEEPER  proposes that space and time  are the essential ground of things, that ” la duree” of Henri Bergson.  Appropriately – the slow drying of the plaster on cloth  turns flexible into hard and  changeable into fixed.

sleeper middle The shadowy  lines appear almost chiselled – or at least pencil drawn.

I find it remarkable that Crichton hardly ever repeats a sequence of folds, and includes happily some echoes of drapery in 15th engravings and sculpture. Just one engraving to illustrate:  Martin Schongauer (1453 -91), St Agnes, n.d.


Crichton shares with Schongauer  a wish to convey the power of texture and surface  to communicate a feeling. Crichton does that while disposing with a master narrative – or any narrative. Except the one told by the folds of the material  in a simple display that echoes the room.  As the panels cover the surgically white wall – they hide the unknown – and then they appear like a shroud ( and also like an abstracted San Marco  when looking from the basilica towards the Museo Correr)

Images courtesy MAC Belfast and as stated.

About Slavka Sverakova

writer on art
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