Sinead McKeever, Antenna, Millennium Court Art Centre, Portadown, Feb 2 -March28, 2018

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

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.

Geo Stare, 2018, Globe, easel, graphite, pigment, plexiglas circle

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.

Transfer, 2017, charcoal on paper, 152 x 122 cm

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.

Can’t hear my eyes, 2017, mixed media on aluminium

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.

Advanced Static, 2018, dibond, spray paint, pigment, charcoal

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.

Advance Static, 2018, dibond, spray paint, pigment, charcoal – detail

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

James Turrell in Naoshima, Japan (accessed online)

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.

Star Crossed, 2018, Dibond, LED lights

Even the floor joined in.


Images courtesy  Simon Mills via the artist.





About Slavka Sverakova

writer on art
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