Fenderesky Gallery,Belfast, on 13th January 2017

I went last week – Jamshid  realised another of his reliably good displays. On the ground floor, in the cafe space, piano, bookshelves, tables and chairs hinted at his parisian models.  Upstairs – it felt more  like a piano nobile minus luxuries, tapestries and furniture.

Fifty and five art objects were each allowed  generous space.  Wrapping of something in nothing  reminded me of Yves Klein’s  conducting invisible orchestra, Jamshid’s instruments being size, scale, material, colours, volume and space.

In his garden of earthly delights the hell is absent having taken  residency at Golden Thread Gallery  Project Space, where Jennifer Mehigan  installed a large scale, large number of exhibits  named Butcher.  Violent, grotesque, revolting, its specific demands make leaving the space a blessing, echoing  other older  art that wished to impact also as a heavy weapon. (Goya’s Disasters of War come to mind, or indeed any of Hieronymus Bosch’s hell.)

Mehigan meticulously  imposed a  didactic spirit  in all that is made visible, including the multicolour blobs on the floor.  Not a sign of the  hygienic anger of Lynda Benglis…


Mehigan’s exhibition  connects to morality tales, like those of Dante or the one that in 15th C  became a bestseller translated into many languages, the  Visio Tundale (possibly written in early 12th C by a monk in Cashel).  According to the curator Alissa Kleist  the Butcher is expected to answer Mehigan’s questions   including for whom  is the imagery is created. why and what happens when it is presented in a gallery space.  This also mirrors the aim of the texts like the Visio. 


The pragmatic strategies are rendered as authoritative and legitimate representation of the reality that born them out.  The visual force is performative, whether on the floor, on the canvas or a video, its fragility hidden. Some  defensive strategies are mentioned in the handout, presumably written by the curator, reminiscing on sources like a film or a poem. Alissa Kleist cites a line which could have been Mehigan’s leitmotiv: “what resembles a grave but isn’t”

There is a sense of strive for originality, to make something striking and controversial. It is so powerful that the exhibits huddle together like a crowd of people in a strikingly adverse conditions.  There is not natural end to that condition.

Leaving the lesson of the “hell” behind, Fenderesky offers a salon of small scale works of art, that can be either send to the wilderness of the  art world, or domesticated  in anybody’s home, anybody’s life.


In the so  called Christmas show ,Fenderesky makes  any aggressive role of art  firmly absent. Demands on tacit visual thinking  are to unlock your “inner” Self, that most private being that responds to poetry of the night sky or  snowed over mountains. This art carefully insists on the benefit of not knowing something, of not crossing every distance.

Jamshid chose what goes were with the eye of a lover, oldfashioned lover of very contemporary art, the oldest is Martin Wedge’s  Personage (1993)  followed by  Felim Egan’s  Blue North (2005). There is a price list which illustrates differences in the market values, you can have one painting  upstairs for the same money as several on the wall downstairs.   And no, it is not a reference to that TV series. The intrinsic value of each work of art is independent of the market value.  I was drawn to many, but chose to write about four only. They share nothing except nuances in variation.

Dan Shipsides (http://www.danshipsides.com/DshipsidesWeb/home.html) art practice is multifaceted. His subject of choice is “visibility”.

I quote from his web page:

‘Pata-perception: perceive-something, recognise-nothing, conceive-anything, cognise-everything.

I’m interested in a creative and critical relationship to place, spaces, encounters and events in all and any of its potential manifestations – political, personal, topological, psychological, phenomenological or nonsensical. My work manifests as video, image, sculpture, installation, performance, sound, music or text.

The processes of my work reflect and embody encounters – adventures and misadventures in ‘real life’ which often includes climbing and mountaineering alongside my day-to-day life and an open response to the politicized landscape of urban Belfast where I live.

The sculpture exhibited on the ground floor has  history of  three “lives”, as a part of Kaleidoscope, of a video  and sculpture.   More on  his link below:

Three Triangles 

In fact it became the motif and device around which this work was edited. I like the plastic dimension of the video and it’s link to the wooden shapes (which originate from the design of the Kaleidoscope I made which is used in the filming of the video).



Threetrianglerainbow. Acrylic paint on oak wood. 35 x 20 x 4cm 2013



The measured simplicity reminds me of Duke Ellington who also ventured into various directions, e.g melodic – slurs -syncopation, motives and phrases: “…you have got to find some way of saying it without saying it…

I find it easy to like – and no, I do not worked out “the meaning” –  I prefer a sort of wordless conversation with it, it gives me lively responses back if I stay mute enough, never exactly the same…I  imagine how it will look after a layer of household dust… it seems  able to cope with the  glimmers of said and unsaid, real and imagined.

Some of the reticent attitude to hegemony of content lies at the cradle of “sticks” as I name this mode of sculpture by Tony Hill.


Tony Hill, Blue and Two Yellows, 2015, cherry wood, white gesso, Ultramarine, Naples Yellow, and Chrome Yellow ,30 x 2 x 3 cm

Graceful, poised and seamless it is also private and even  intimate.  It  appears to stare back knowingly  – something about absurd emergence of painting. It protrudes into real space from a slit in the wall of exactly its size, that origin is never revealed, but the visual illusion admits its existence, incapable of ruling out its denial.

Gary Shaw – a painter of patterns, was once a painter of landscapes.   In my memory a red australian  mountain  still commands a large “macho” canvas.    While taming the size, a poetry of suggestion of almost seethrough shapes  joins effortlessly the pythagorian precision of hard edges, straight lines, acute angles.   The discipline  invites the gossamer of brushstrokes to sing from the same sheet.  Each identity is respected in classical trinity of calm, harmony and rationality, or from the point of view of architecture, trinity of restrain, simplicity and proportion.   The single dot in the middle  and free read brushstrokes  enliven the strict order – even bring it to animated humour of some unreal creature getting through the gossamer.


Gary Shaw, Untitled, 2016, oil on board, 30 x 30 cm



There is a strong history of  collage and assemblage during the 20th C. as a part of the autonomy of modernist  visual art.  Its prehistory in religious and folk art is often forgotten. Northern Ireland has a steady devotee in G Gingles  who exhibits here  CUBA, 2016. (Sorry no image)

Zoe Murdoch does both boxes and no boxes…   recycling of found, bought and received objects:  Pripiat I and II, 2015  position themselves as assemblage of incompatibles.


Look at everything as though you are seeing it for the first time, with eyes of a child, fresh with wonder. Shadow boxes become poetic theatre or settings wherein are metamorphosed the elements of a childhood pastime. (Joseph Cornell). Murdoch aims decidedly  on adult view of the world.  Playfully at times, and threateningly serious at other times.  The spanner in the works  is physically and metaphorically commenting on a place she knows something about.  Before the Chernobyl disaster  Pripyat was a thriving town. Now it is a ghost town near the borders between Ukraine and Belaruss.   Murdoch makes the two of the composition to look at each other as if being two pages in an open book.



Mutilated into flat layers each has no air to breathe.  Ashes and destruction still retain memory of being once  spaces for life.  The calm overwhelms the explosion that killed the living place, not dissimilar to the burial of  two towns by eruption  of the Vesuvius.  With a difference. Pripyat was 16 years old.

Named after the nearby Pripyat River, Pripyat was founded on 4 February 1970, as the ninth nuclear city (a type of closed city) in the Soviet Union, to serve the nearby Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant.[3]It was officially proclaimed a city in 1979, and had grown to a population of 49,360[4] by the time it was evacuated, on the afternoon of April 27, 1986, the day after the Chernobyl disaster. (accessed on Wikipedia) 

Murdoch chose a small size, even less than of a box for ashes of a cremated person, thus associating the death of a city with a death of a person.  Hence the prominent place for a hand held tool of construction.  As in hope.

The Fenderesky exhibition offers works of art  – all offering a rewarding visit, alas, Belfast public has no that kind of habit.


About Slavka Sverakova

writer on art
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