Untitled -related to

The distinction between intentional object and natural object could appear as a reference to a specific act as constitutive of its mode of being, i.e. intentional object is man made.

altamira-painting-1credit Ramessos

Paleolithic painting, Altamira

However, artist’s intention is not like a decision,  it is akin  to a multitude of possibilities  operating at the same time, not in any order, rather chaotically.    As I write, I read  in a current email an interesting parallel to it. Continue reading

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paintfor.me and a cauliflower

My aim in What Do Pictures Want? is thus not to project personhood onto pictures, but to engage with what I call “the lives and loves” of images. (W.J.T Mitchell)

That both  “projection of personhood” and “engagement with the image””  may co-exist is illustrated by a paradigmatic shift  introduced below.

A  memory of medieval jobing painters and sculptors  travelling throughout Europe

Veit Stwosz, ( 1477 – 1533) born in Germany worked in Krakow, Poland

or the Dutch still life painters of 17th C,

Still Life with Fruit, Glassware, and a Wan–li Bowl, 1659 Willem Kalf (Dutch, 1619–1693) Oil on canvas; 23 x 20 in. (58.4 x 50.8 cm) Maria DeWitt Jesup Fund, 1953 (53.111)


would  appear irrelevant for contemporary painting. Except that it is not.   Continue reading

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Catherine Keenan, Seeing Stripes, Belfast Print Workshop, April 2 – May 2 2015


ck-exhibition-1 inst viewShe spent one month working on a series of screenprints as an artist in residence at BPW.

Continue reading

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HELEN G BLAKE at Fenderesky Gallery, Belfast, 16 April – 16 May 2015

At the time of writing, this exhibition  of fourteen small paintings has not  been  documented on her website (www.helengblake.com). Their sizes around  A 4 or a one fifth bigger forge a call for privacy, not unlike  covers  or title pages of closed books or files.  The visual hypnotically attracts silence and contemplative attitude  – not an overt discussion or  a sharp analytic critique. Continue reading

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RONNIE HUGHES, Supernumerary at Fenderesky, Belfast February 2015


Installation at Fenderesky Gallery No 31 North Street. From L-R: Tongued;Facet;Glitch;Test Pettern; Narcissus; Warp.



This is a new space for  art exhibitions in Belfast.  The highly regarded gallery owner, art dealer, curator, writer, publisher and philosopher,  Jamshid Mirfenderesky  found his fifth abode reminiscent  of the one he had at the Upper  Crescent decades ago. It   is less of the proverbial white box as it is an ordinary living space on  the first floor.  A sort of piano nobile. Continue reading

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A year has passed between the first an the last of Hutchings’s images.  Although they protect their individual identity they are peacefully similar, in that they trap light into a kind of trinity: light is the subject, medium and image.  Moreover, while Earth bound, they trap rays coming we do not know from where.  It is little like astronomy  without its scientific interpretation,  like philosophy proposing continuity between the thought and being.

The images are certain in that they exist, and uncertain in that they do not tell what they are images of. Could be it some  air  settling its imprint  in that split of the second when the lens is absent?  Trapping the cosmic rays, however, endows the outcome  with a pleasant, even playful, mystery.  Continue reading

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Seamus O’Rourke: Dark Inventory at Pallas Projects, Dublin, November 2014

A handout states:

S e a m u s O ’ R o u r k e
Dark Inventory
12/11/14 – 22/11/14

2014 marks the 75th anniversary of the burning
of ‘Entartete Kunst’ or painting and drawings
termed ‘Degenerate Art’ by the Nazis in 1939.
It is estimated that 1004 paintings and 3,825
works on paper were completely destroyed
during March 1939. O’Rourke examines the
empty spaces left behind after thousands of
these artworks were confiscated from public
galleries and museums throughout Germany
and which were subsequently burned in Berlin
by the Reich. In this ongoing ‘Dark Inventory’
series the artist engages with politicizing the
space between what is visible and what is
absent. He emphasises this critical moment in
the history of Modernism in Europe with a
corresponding reductive process on paper.
These drawings investigate ideas concerning
censorship and loss, examining art as a form of
commemoration with a dual critical strand.
O’Rourke tests how art is both recognised and
invalidated in society and acts as a form of
commentary or dissent in a controlling society
and how constant scrutiny is necessary to
protect freedom of speech. Continue reading

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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.








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BEN CRAIG, All or Nothing, Platform Arts, Belfast, 6 -26 November, 2014

There were three artists taking part in the exhibition curated by the Platform Arts: Ben Craig, Lucas Dillon and Paul Quast.  The following is not a review of the exhibition, rather a brief meditation on some of the ideas raised by Ben Craig’s  objects.

You live and learn, 2014, drop-leaf table, wood, cardboard, bubble wrap, cling film, emergency blankets and paint, 180 x 110 x 305 cm approx.


This installation view points to a multitude of materials and functions, mostly of objects with practical use, i.e. table, chairs, microwave oven… Craig let them huddle in groups with shared habit, it was not enough to counter the feeling of chaotic display. Until, that is, the objects useful for life receded when my attention focused on an useless object, the one lit up  in the centre of the view.  Even without seeing the lovingly made details, the assemblage insisted on punching a hole in the chaos, dominating it, challenging it by right – angled order. That in turn became crowned by voluminous weight reminiscent of an asteroid. It is landing on all the small rectangles which  hold the construction sturdy and upright.

You live and learn (plinth)

You live and learn(plinth) detail



Craig labeled this shot “a plinth”  suggesting that the mass  above it  is the dominant part of the exhibit, like sculpture on a plinth. Evoking early 20th C effort to liberate sculpture from plinths and pedestal, it directly disputes Brancusi’s conviction.  To some degree it undermines its own – the plinth is punctured with numerous absences of matter.

So – in brief, the right angled, carefully balanced order of flat parts, lovingly placed, supports the weight of  somewhat  amorphous mass.  Its volume balances as if on the  slim point of contact.  Its weight is an optical  illusion. Emergency blankets and paint do not weigh much.  This dual aesthetics of geometry and of its complete absence creates uncomfortable tension and incongruous humour. Letting the eye to caress the stains of paint, the exact distances between the nails, the joy of tactile surfaces – minimizes the discomfort and in turn, shifts the voluminous blob into the sphere of carnevals/ theatre.  Even the look of the plinth provides a comforting link to early  20th C  constructivism and De Stijl, thus familiarising the new by paying respect to the old.

Similarly, the seemingly heavy top  object appears as an overweight, oversized abstraction, a gestural spill that became three-dimensional nod to abstract expressionism.

The internal fascination  with learning from other art continues in  exquisitely melodic  Twirly.

Twirly (1)

Twirly, 2014, PVC piping, energy saving light bulb, iron spring and aluminium, 100 x 70 x 60 cm approx



Found objects are allowed their own previous identity, however, they share the new whole effortlessly and gracefully. Thinking of Orphism? Frantisek Kupka comes to mind.




Craig’s third object announces the source of learning in its title:

Arp (1)

Arp, 2014, aluminium, coloured card and foam board, 60 x 60 x 70 cm approx.



Arp (2)

However, the discipline of high modernism gives way to informal play, chance allowing the fragments to land where ever. A smile at the chaos, a part of Craig’s creative space, space for work.

Studio view

Studio view, 2014, mixed media, dimensions variable


Objects arrive and descend, some by chance, some by careful placement, stimulating thoughts about their independence from the contexts they left behind, holding on to the associated memory of their practical function. A sort of variant on the concept of Tracy Emin’s  My Bed, 1998 – they carry imprints of living whose particulars they hide.  The whole  cannot be reduced to enumeration of all its parts, nor to the associations with other similar installations. The interesting layer in this is both the respect to the visibility of each object and severe denial to give out content of each part. The meaning is  carried – as it were, in the air above them all – it is my space for work. And even that may not be true – the installation will cease exist when the exhibition ends.

Again, it is the internal fascination of possible being, possible truth, slipping into opposites or just hiding away silently.

Craig anchors his work both in the mundane and in the elite of grand masters of older art.  In this he revives the honesty of the medieval journeyman, like Albrecht Durer, who traveled to Italy  to learn about painting a naked body from Giovanni Bellini.

You Live and Learn….

Images from the exhibition courtesy Ben Craig.


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PETER RICHARDS: Intuitive Actions, Common Attributes and Isolated Incidents, 13 September – 25 October, 2014, Millennium Court Arts Centre, Portadown





Gallery TWO

is a common display of islands of meaning in a space, flat images on a shelve or directly on the wall, 3D on a pedestal or  trolley. Each is given approaching and leaving viewing space with strong emphasis on the condition of viewing. Continue reading

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NEIL CARROLL, The Year of Disillusionment, University Art Gallery, University of Ulster, Belfast, 19th September – 11th October, 2014




“The slicing of a large- scale painting into several stand-alone pieces, the dismembering and pulling apart, suggest an act of undoing. An attempt to invalidate or challenge its current form, to free it from formal constraints and any implied historical references.” This is one of the suggestions how to approach the exhibition in the hugely informative  essay by Marysia Wieckiewicz-Carroll, fairly informed by Deleuze,Rajchman and Eisenmann. Continue reading

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Angelo Garoglio: Come Elegia, Galleria Don Chisciotte, Torino, 2014

It is about Garoglio’s obsession with sculpture by Medardo Rosso ( 1858-1928), this time mostly with

The Jewish Boy, 1892, image courtesy Cleveland Museum of Art


Bambino al sole_Gesso Patinato_ 1891-1892

Bambino al Sole, 1891 -1892

Garoglio worked with variants of both the above from a private collection in Milan.


Please, browse,  the book: Come_Elegia for Garoglio’s photographs related to the two above.(https://slavkasverakova.files.wordpress.com/2014/10/come_elegia.pdf )



In his essay  Lumen and Lux  Pino Mantovani  points to Rosso’s collection of originals,  copies, copies of copies, and his ” original copies”, i.e. variations of his own sculpture as a sympathetic expansion of limited iconography, which zoomed on feeling and dramatic component in modelling, as justification of Garoglio’s devotion to Rosso’s sculptures since 2008.

And, moreover, it was right Medardo Rosso who had interpreted the understanding of art both as a compromise and as a compromising relaunch. His curious collections mixing originals and copies, copies of copies and “original copies” are proof of this; repetition through variations of his own works, which are never reproduced mechanically but always undergo critically active interpretation and bear an even aggressive personal mark; the use of photography for orienting, putting into relation, and stimulating sculpturally processed shapes…(page 8

Mantovani writes valiantly about differences between the subject and the lens base Garoglio’ prints. Where Rosso prefers white and black, Garoglio goes for hot earth hues, where the touch of fingers models fluently continuous whole, Garoglio zooms on  details.

” Angelo stresses the mysterious essence of the image “exaggerating” the impact of light on the uneven surfaces, focusing on the lumen, “the energy radiated on the bodies reflecting it ”(Gino Gorza), to achieve a “thingness” that is kind of absolute, noun-like in all respects, and therefore “unnatural””(page 11)


Mantovani offers similarities and differences as both binding  and dividing the art of Garoglio from that of Rosso, focusing on the intensity of repeat and light.

The second essay by Enzo Restagno, Medardo Rosso and serial art, includes a kind of definition of  concept of art, developed from  Rosso’s  statement concerning the force of a source:

“”I like drinking water while it is flowing from the source. When I see it in a bottle it has already lost all its fresh appeal”. It will be right the multiplicity of moments experienced by a single subject that will turn Medardo Rosso into what we could now call a “serial” artist. He repeatedly goes back to his models, slightly altering them, and uses unusual materials to add flxibility to the process. He then pours a coat of wax onto the plaster fiures, which makes them seem close, yet lost in a metaphysic distance. Thy are before us, wrapped in amber light that enhances some details while blurring others, like a patina built up by time to keep the image beyond our grasp.”(page 17)

At the end Restagno thinks of Rosso’s art as a ” call for creativity” offering a conclusion that

the implicit suggestions of Rosso’s lesson have been brilliantly identified by Garoglio, probably by relying on an elective affinity involving matter contemplation and manipulation. Each of his shots is the outcome of long time spent passionately observing the items , and every single one succeeds in finding the points from which a new vibrating wave will originate.


Both writers seek justification for Garoglio’s interpretation as art.  Not surprisingly, artists often visually interpreted other artist’s work, perhaps the most notorious example is Picasso’s intense  multitude of paintings of Velasquez’s Las Meninas.

Picasso meninas

Garoglio does not map Rosso’s sculpture into another sculpture, instead he invents numerous angles of viewing using a lens to record the results, as the diagram below illustrates.  Consequently, the art of seeing, looking,  and viewing  in time and space  is his call for creativity, to paraphrase Rosso.


Garoglio Rosso and drawing



Photographers do not shy away from the conflict between documenting what is seen and  the singular, internal and contemplative experience of looking at a work of art. The  subject is then the way aesthetic -and perhaps poetic- means operate on the uncertainty which of the interpretations is better than the others. Wittgenstein’s pessimism notwithstanding( i.e. “interpretations hang in the air) our fate is not to know how shared our knowledge/feeling may be. Poetic experience is an interaction with barely knowing of the delicate perception often burned away by the “torch” of conscious attention. Unless you can view things  like  Garoglio or the Finnish photographer  Puranen:

Garoglio -Puranen

Jorma Puranen(b. 1951)


Unexplored views conserve their dark energy and preserve the rich unknown when the light deliberately abandons the whole:

Garoglio brown

Garoglio interpreting Rosso.

The dark part remains under everyone threshold of attention until the lit up part primes the  viewer to accept what must be rationally expected.  Priming as a cognitive concept allows us to fill in that which we do not perceive. However, this high level of reasoning affects our engagement with the visible, as in Andrew Steele’s Red Moon here.

garoglio Andrew  Steele Red Moon....


Garoglio is involved in lens mediated interpretations. They happen in time and unfold a contest between every shot. Each subsequent view corrects and disqualifies the other contenders. Yet, we can hold several meanings in mind simultaneously when viewing a work of art. Garoglio plays the lens with its certainty what is lit up and visible, against our ambiguous and uncertain judgements.

garoglio DiBond

The  above contrast raises attention and emergent consciousness, the eye notices something odd. Looking at Garoglio’s photographs is not a smooth process. They offer a respite from the constraints of daily logic – that art can do that is a miraculous experience.

Subtle effects working below the threshold of perception are crucial to the experience of  art.  It is only possible when we are oblivious to the logical conflicts in tolerating irresolution, when we are not aware of our proficiency to accommodate the conflicting feelings. It brings me to a 16th C concept sprezattura  –  ability to make difficult things look effortless.








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Gary Shaw: Ocular, at Golden Thread Gallery, Belfast, September 4 – 25, 2014

Gary Shaw at gtg_small



Pristine, precise, poignant, poetic – they tell of human consciousness meticulously coding imaginative power of colour.Which one, where, how much, at what angle  – those are Continue reading

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still: Acclimatisation


A photograph  of the artist who as a qualified  swimmer  obeys the rules overseen by official bodies, The Channel Swims and Piloting Federation or Channel Swimming Association. That hierarchy  is somewhat undermined by her  determined stare  signalling her being in control. That  is a salient point of the whole enterprise.  On one hand she learns the rules and skills to achieve a prescribed goal in the process which has a clear beginning and end.  On the other, she swaps that for an installation in an art gallery, no clear end, nor guaranteed achievement. Continue reading

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Ian Wieczorek at Marginalia, QSS Gallery Belfast, 4th September – 3rd october 2014

Ian Wieczorek, Double, 50 x 60cm, oil on canvas,2011, Photo Jordan Hutchings

Like a hunter gatherer, Wieczorek searches for images on the internet. The screen with someone else’s image is his inspiration and a source for a choice.  More than that – the final painting above is an exact replica of the image on the screen.  Quite a few knots to Continue reading

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Colin Darke: Grotesque Mediocrity, Mac Belfast, 8 August – 19 October 2014

woodcut, illustration for Livre d’Art 1896

The spiral from the veritable belly of Monsieur  UBU flew over  118 years and over the distance from Paris to Belfast

Simon Mills Colin Darke toy wheelbarrow

courtesy of an artists’ artist Dr  Colin Darke. Continue reading

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Peter Liversidge: Doppelganger at MAC Belfast, 8 August -19 October, 2014


Peter Liversidge, Glove carved in Carrara marble, Photo Peter Foolen

First exhibited by Ingleby Gallery in Edinburgh  from  1st August till  21st September 2013  the  facsimiles  of  ten Max Klinger’s  etchings from 1881,  and Liversidge’ s large scale prints of them  were complemented by an imagined room, constructed in the belief, that Max Klinger could have worked in.  There is a clue in that addition – something  imagined could match something real.   After all, the second etching repeats that clue: a man, unnoticed by anybody but the viewer,  picks up a glove possibly dropped by the woman skating away. Continue reading

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Graham Gingles at MAC, Belfast, 2014

Graham Gingles  at MAC,  August, Belfast, 2014

Graham Gingles whole

As Fukuyama put it: in the post-historical period there will be neither art nor philosophy, just the perpetual caretaking of the museum of human history. A phase of contemporary art has also been characterized not so long ago as a reformatting of time into a perpetual present. The art that circles itself at the tail end of history looking back on defunct ideologies, archiving and polishing them for …what exactly? Continue reading

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This is not reviewing an exhibition.  I have been grounded for a while by life away from art,  and this essay is not a palimpsest, it has no force to change anything and to show evidence of that change.  It is a meditation on two images of each of two artworks.(In that sense, if the perception can be trusted to hold the memory of one while watching the other, those not- quite-identical twin views are palimpsest of compositions). Continue reading

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Molly O’Dwyer, Becoming Imperceptible, Platform Arts, Belfast, 3-23 July 2014

Molly O'Dwyer Repositioned, video still


This still from the video Repositioned, 2013, is becoming iconic, appearing on a poster, and  on the gallery Facebook page.   It summarises in its tacit visual mode the stable structure of unstable meaning,  when objects insist both on having an identity forged in the past and on becoming  in front of your eyes whatever their structure and your imagination allow.  “Animated by light and positioning, they exist here in a point of transformation” observed Dr Hilary Murray, the curator of this exhibition  in RuaRed Arts Centre, Dublin, 2013. Continue reading

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John Robinson, Installation, June 2014, University of Ulster, Belfast

Photo Paul Marshall


The following short statement  is John Robinson introduction to the two installations for the MFA final exhibition.

Transfigure originates from the subtle changes of light that occur at Dawn and Dusk, in which visual awareness is heightened and a there is a sense of transformation. This work explores the qualities of both natural and artificial light in an attempt to locate itself between contemporary Light Art and the genres of Plein Air and Abstract Painting.

Photo Paul Marshall


Recent work has moved from an exploration of landscape painting to the use of materials that mimic physical phenomenon; lights, smoke, water and found objects. The resulting room sized installations suggest a sense of place, atmosphere and memory that play upon historical-cultural associations with landscape. I am interested in the immersive potential of colour and light to create an experience that James Turrell described as, ‘’seeing yourself see’’

He wrote the above text to accompany two rooms, dark room with artificial light behind the plastic sheet and daylight  room with a large plastic sheet enveloping a simple wooden frame.

Consequently the light, natural or artificial,  forms the tenor of both installations, that subtly negotiate the visual force of painted surface, modeled plastic material and construction in space, while not privileging painting, sculpture or architecture. It is similar to a chamber music trio, each instrument earnestly holding its sound with effortless regard for the other two.

The red and blue tint result from oil paint rubbed onto the plastic, thinly, like a smoke. Placed with joyful freedom the painterly element both evokes and denies abstract paintings, it obeys no composition in a frame,  it prefers  to descend into the appearance of accidental stain (the blue on the right).

Photo Paul Marshall


Attention seeking folds hold a secret link to landscape as they evoke peaks and  valleys, and to the power of detail to narrate.

Photo Ryan Moffett


Photo Ryan Moffett


The transformatory “modelling” of the plastic plays with its transparency, opacity and translucency  to the point of negating each in turn, almost.

The furious inventiveness reminds me of medieval woodcarving, for example the magnificent Veit Stoss in the basilica of Virgin Mary in Cracow.

Veit Stoss Krakow



Here the illusion of soft cloth exquisitely replaces the truth of the material.  Stoss also favours exaggerating optical correctness. Unnatural angles plow the surface in a high relief with exuberance of high skill and confidence.  Every part of the surface is held in tension between what it is made off and what it appears as.

veit stoss

The artificial control of the visualised material into the visible material is akin an Italian opera score for coloratura soprano (say Rossini), meandering around the key detail.


Veit Stoss, Vigin and Child with Pomegranate, engraving,n.d.

Stoss works the cloth into a mass of a ground that both holds the figure upright  and seems to be moving away in both direction.

Photo Paul Marshall

Similar. Yet, Robinson did not consciously applied that link.

Why do I do that?  For two reasons: to distill the visual force of a detail as worked out by some notable artist (I could have used 16th C Gruenewald, or so called Beautiful Madonnas  that appeared  just before and after 1400)  and to advance the notion of transparency of the aesthetic function.  A  visual idea may contain various meanings,  and is capable of adapting to different styles. It facilitates visible relationship between art of different periods.

Photo Ryan Moffett

Identifying a link to medieval sculpture is a locus for Robinson installation becoming a sculpture with volume, mass, balance and surface. The realm of surface wiggles out of that locus harvesting the light’s  play with translucency and tonality, and shadows.  That in turn is the locus where the installation is a painting. Both sculpture and painting are akin whispers about desire to hold and contain the light – when the light is all dominant and free of obligation.

Photo by Ryan Moffett

Or is it something more imaginative?  The light holds the real in recognition of the real space, distances, scale…the rest pulsates between tactile and visual  with an authority guaranteed by the imagination alone.  It offers a hypnotic gentle pleasure of narrative being born in my mind. It is akin Turrell’s “seeing yourself see”, quoted by Robinson in his statement above.

The narrative visual detail became significant also in paintings of Pre-Raphaelites. A long sentence from the Tate Modern catalogue (2012)  is self-explanatory:

The emphasis on complex and unresolved narrative, on social commentary, on aspects of gender, sexuality and desire, and on race, empire and travel; the dialogue with photography and mechanical image-making; the questioning of conventional values, accepted concepts and canons of beauty; the relationship of current art-making to the art of the past; and issues of appropriation and synthesis: all these are preoccupations in the art and culture of our own turbulent times that were vividly explored by the Pre-Raphaelites, the Victorian avant-garde, at the moment of the inception of modern society.

Stoss, Turrell, Pre-Raphaelites, Robinson – all prompt durational viewing, rewarding pauses and probes of how a slow perception alters a meaning.  In that sense art is both observable object and environment for it. I think of it as of spiritual value  floating through the obstacles of sensuality and logic.

Master of Krumlovska Madonna, end of 14th C



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Jennifer Trouton, Ties that Bind, 2013

Jennifer ties that bind whatremains-11-295x360


This oil on linen  differs  by its size 158 x 188 cm, from the rest of Trouton’s oeuvre I have seen. Most are  small scale still lives, 14.5 x 14.5 cm, arranged in large grids. Its width is significant for another reason. The wallpaper looks simultaneously painted and pasted on. That it is painted, has been confirmed by my sight and by the painter. Another confirmation comes for comparing the width of the painting, 158cm, to the  width of 52 cm of each roll of Sanderson Stag Hunt traditional Toile de Jouy. It would need  three rolls to cover the ground of the painting, i.e. two visible joining lines – there are not there. Moreover, there are departures from  the pattern repeat.

Knowledge alters the value of the aesthetic experience which occurs in the framework of precision delivered by a lens or a print, and precision arrived at by hand. I have not in mind reduction of conditions defined by Pierre Bourdieu as habitus.  Instead, I perceive the significance of the painter’s skill  to achieve an illusion as a specific power of painting, when an idea, metaphor and reality condense in a single object.

The most wonderful example of this is the right wing of the Merode Altarpiece.  Meyer Schapiro found a theological meaning in a mousetrap on a window sill behind St Joseph in his carpenter’s role. Coined by St Augustine, mentioned three times in his writing, the Christ’s sacrifice is a mousetrap for the devil  Muscipula Diaboli  (The Art Bouletin, Vol.27,No3, Sept 1945:182-187)


Another object, in the central panel offers another case of such condensation of meaning. The extinguished candle is in the exact centre of the composition that represent the Annunciation.

Robert Campin (1380-1444), Merode Altarpice, Annunciation, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

The folds on Mary’s garment form rays of a star, the lily stand for purity, and significantly, the extinguished candle stands for the change of being, the divine light gives way to the human presence (God became man -there is a little baby carrying a cross above Gabriel’s wings).

The insertion of time – before and after – by a metaphor of extinguished candle tlight appears in Trouton’s painting  as a sign of the past. The candles are placed in candlesticks previously owned by her grand mother. Both exhibit long use, the layers of spent wax build up their volume. The person who worked in candle light with the luxuriously pretty fabrics and threads departed. The candles signal a loss. They also hold a promise of holding something precious in memory.

Trouton often revives old used materials and objects. Most of those domestic objects are painted in small scale and displayed in large grids.

jennifer grid at Hioghlanes gallery drogheda 201410336643_10201904406719437_1302173412767338319_n


The large painting  shares with the small ones the subject matter and the idea of verisimilitude as the appropriate mode to make domesticity visible.It raises a question how has Trouton  rescued the still life painting from the charge of  aesthetic and political conservatism.

Jennifer14.5 x 14.5.

Both the subject and the aesthetics of  painting ordinary objects have a history the range of which can both undermine  a possible “originality” and defend the strength of reviving Plinian view of painting.

The cosy consensus of relativists, modernists and political artists nails its colours to  “the new” as a move forward forever, regardless of  the losses.   The hegemony of lens base, performance, and  installation art appears to some as justified for the surprising innovations those practices inspire. Very rarely any of those practices achieve the “mute poetry”( Holding Time by Bbeyond and M. Arsem is one of the successes) and the handmade fascinating feasts of imagination  free from gravity, from availability of complex tools and power supply. Only painting can.  For a viewer painting is the most patient of arts – waiting for your next viewing, after you so hurriedly left.

Trouton revives the idea of still life as a view at/fragment of  ordinary domestic life that has been replaced by modern conditions. Not  for her the  exquisite possessions, silver and glass, and sumptuous feasts of food and fruit –  by the Dutch and Flemish Golden Age.  Nor is she focusing on sentiment that regrets the demise of some idyllic past. Her idea of the ordinary connects with sensual beauty of materials and with respect for work, sewing by hand.

White and red fabrics were arranged over a kitchen table, candles extinguished in the candlesticks inherited from her grandmother, balls of string, linen and woolen threads, make reference for traditional materials for weaving and knitting. The ideas of memory and respect   do not have just one look, colour scheme and shape.  Trouton verisimilitude matters.

Ernst Cassirer defended   a departure from the absolutism of modernist demands of “originality” when he freed idea from ownership and connected it to an active force:

What we want to know is not the particular idea as such, but the importance it possesses, and the strength with which it is dealing with the whole structure (see Some remarks on the question of the originality of the Renaissance in Journal of the History of Ideas, IV,1943:51)

importance – strength – structure… all slippery words expected to deliver knowledge. I am not comfortable with Barthes’s reduction of viewing a work of art  to a “wash” of cultural codes.  His is an intellectual formulation as practical instrument for arranging sensory flow in a convenient manner.  In its centre is causality,  whereas   the art of painting is not  intrinsically causal, permeated by deterministic laws. Paint is a non -redundant part of painting, but not sufficient for the whole of even one particular painting.

Verisimilitude is, and has been, a difference making criterion.   In Pliny the competing Zeuxis (grapes fool the birds) and Parrhasius (curtain fools Zeuxis) attach value to deceiving the senses. Denis Diderot writing on Salon  1763 shifts Plinian view towards cognition: Chardin  c’est toujours la nature et la verite.

jennifer chardin SP


Whereas Norman Bryson laments that  ” a perfect essential copy  of the world makes artistic style possible only if the painting deviates from observed nature or object.”  Do you know of a painting which does not deviate from observed world?

Diderot in his cry Oh, Chardin! The colours crushed on your palette are not white, red, black pigments; they are the very substance of the objects, grasped the ineffable but true in art. Diderot  singled out the  collusion of object observed with its painted version as an important idea with a strength to achieve truth.


The Skate ( 1725 -26, Musee du Louvre, Paris, image above) earned Chardin access to the Academie – after centuries of rejecting still life as the too  low a genre to qualify. So, what is it that influenced the taste, the value judgement of Chardin’s peers?




E. Gombrich saw an unobtrusive mastery of tonality in Chardin’s quiet glimpses of ordinary life. The objects are painted as objects of desire without deceiving the eye. They emerge from the space, picked out by light coming from the left.  The nuances  on metal, glass, fruit, table, are  captured with admirable accuracy and unforced harmony.  Perception is not simple processing of stimuli, it is influenced by a prior knowledge.  In a letter to a client Chardin argues that he needs to work very slowly : two paintings a year. Truth is thus a kind of un-truth that derives from natural qualities of the observed over a time when subtle changes do occur.  The correspondence is then by necessity incomplete, yet convincing.

The shift from  habitus  ( viz Pierre Bourdieu)  to cognitive values (truth) parallels   a revival of Aristotle’s view that all knowledge originates in senses. For example Pico della Mirandola, in Oration of Dignity of man (1486),  constructs a reason: ” The Infinite (God) can be known only if it descends from its secret heights and thus makes up the world of common human awareness”. (http:plato.stanford.edu/archives/sum2012/entries/pico-della-mirandola)

The idea of conformity between concept and precept,  between existence and its mental representation may morph into conformity between the believed and its mental representation. The medieval art offers plentiful variants.  The biblical stories were willing conspirators with painting, when it became  more  in demand  after tapestries priced themselves out of the market.

The significance of  Rogier van der Weyden’s Deposition lies in two changes both facilitated by painting.  The shallow space is framed with carved top corners as expected in sculpted altarpieces.

Weyden Deposition Prado

The imperfect, obscure and uncertain truth of the Deposition by Rogier van der Weyden (1435, copyright 2014, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid) is grounded in observation of real living people.  The figures do not imitate sculptures, the painter celebrates the freedom only the paint offers, for example in luxurious overlaps of Mary Magdalene garment, in patterns over the coat of Nicodemus and in the unsustainable riches of the blue cascade of Mary’s dress. The expressive function of drapery is reminiscent of Merode Altarpiece, Rogier is said to be Campin’s helper on that triptych.

Sensuous softness connects timelessness with  intense feeling of loss, an idea somewhat similar to the loss of culture cherished by the previous generation.   There is a philosophical support for Rogier’s  choices.  He comes from Tournai, where over a century earlier, a cannon of Tournai, later archbishop of Tournai, the rebellious Henry of Ghent  argued that veritas of the res (truth of the thing) is its ontological conformity to its eternal model.  The art is particularly suitable means through which people are brought in contact with interesting human affairs. (borrowed from Ortega y Gasset, The Dehumanization of Art, 1956:9) . Rogier’s  figures are not engaged in a joyful expectation of salvation, they experience the premature death of one of them. The feeling shared is made visible by mirroring poses of Mary Magdalene and St John, and by the parallel between the  bodies of Christ and falling Mary.

The delicate negotiation of truth with the painted object in a virtual shallow  space places sight as a dominant sense.  What turns these paintings into masterpieces and trans historical truth? Why does something happen rather than nothing?

The Ties that Bind develops the Chardin’s idea of domestic objects in asymmetrical composition blended with  Rogier’s down to earth mental presentation of believed narrative into asseveration of power of painting to tell the truth while defending  oneiric value.

Trouton’s  painting emanates charisma  without being dependent on a known story or association grounded in previous knowledge. The painting takes risks.  Its frame does not contain it, instead  it limits what is visible.  Not what is there in the real space.  Part pro toto is an entry for incompleteness as a trope of representation, a trope of metonymy. It has consequences: it increases intimacy of the delicate negotiation between a stable knowledge of what is seen and instability of what meaning is made visible. It changes the framework of the image. It is thus both a fragment of domestic life, and a memorial  celebrating the previous generation.  The painting’s  transformatory power is immersed in materiality, faithful to the collusion of the object and its image . It implies close engagement of the painter with the subject. Trouton often selects subjects connected to her family or objects found in other people homes with commitment to fidelity to the found object, to an  unforced harmony of composition, while capturing true nuances with admirable accuracy.The above admits family resemblance across Trouton art practice as autochtonic.

How does a work of art come to be considered great?

The intuitive answer is that some works of art are just great: of intrinsically superior quality. The paintings that win prime spots in galleries, get taught in classes and reproduced in books are the ones that have proved their artistic value over time. If you can’t see they’re superior, that’s your problem. It’s an intimidatingly neat explanation. But some social scientists have been asking awkward questions of it, raising the possibility that artistic canons are little more than fossilised historical accidents.  (Quote from  INTELLIGENT LIFE magazine, May/June 2014)


I have seen the  Ties that Bind unfinished. The amount of effort needed to get the folds in the red cloth right  were a palpable evidence of the challenge the object set for the painter. Trouton has not flinched. Moreover, she recycles objects that won her recognition as stimulus and a source of difficulty. The image below is an earlier use of the motive.

Jennifer SHIFT white cloth

Comparing the pull of the different composition  opens up the difference in purpose,  a different sense of purpose.  It is not the convincing imitation, nor any instability  of optical experience. Instead, the painter submits to a delicate negotiation of how much pattern is enough, how much details is enough, how much approximation is too little. All paints  in that painting issue a call to the visual and tactile senses to engage.

Her art” sensitively acknowledges the scientific truth that neural signals are related less to a stimulus per se than to its congruence with internal goals and predictions, calculated on the basis of previous input to the system.” ( borrowed from an ongoing research by  Karsten Rauss at University of Tubingen).

In her still lives, Trouton assimilates  into her composition technical skills and formal values of  lens based and installation art by painting,  which  choice  clearly challenges the  “progressive”view that painting is over.


Image of Ties that Bind courtesy of the artist

Merode Altarpiece – courtesy Metropolitan Museum of Art New York, accessed online

Deposition – courtesy Prado, Madrid accessed online

Chardin, courtesy Louvre, Paris, accessed online


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Susan Connolly, Something about Some Things to do With Paint

Curated by Hugh Mulholland at MAC, Belfast, 9May – 22 June 2014

Susan Connolly at MAC

Great art and mediocrity can get confused, even by experts. But that’s why we need to see, and read, as much as we can. The more we’re exposed to the good and the bad, the better we are at telling the difference – that’s the considered conclusion of the researchers  in the field.  The above image presents one of the three remarkable  paintings Susan Connolly included in her current exhibition at the MAC, photographed by Simon Mills.  The first impression is of a painting destroyed in an emotional outburst. However, it is a carefully constructed work. Continue reading

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The sound of Campbells work  behind the back wall saturated the whole gallery,  interfering with the viewing of works by  Moffett (on the wall) and Hughes(between the columns)

Hughes installation

Curated by Phillip McCrilly and supported by  Ben Crothers’s  substantial informative essay as a free handout to visitors,  the exhibition aims at presenting several manifestations of reflective thought on its subject. Continue reading

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Alice Clark, Dispersal, Market Place Theatre and Art Centre, Armagh, 28/03 – 26/04 2014

White Cube!  Calm and confidently pretty,  it tolerates exhibits on the severe condition of no nails or screws on the walls, or anywhere.

In the centre of the room the greenhouse housed a chair, writing desk and a box. Outside, a shelving with more boxes, with more brown envelopes.  The bench at the far wall equipped with two headphones was a listening point to stories previous visitors wrote and Clark recorded.

Alice Clark greenhouseDSC_0367


The row of ink and charcoal drawings of plants are clipped to a horizontal line on the wall.  More drawings were scanned  onto brown envelopes containing seeds and arranged  as a grid leaning against an opposite wall.


Alice Clark  grid

The three groups interact.

The audience are invited to bring seeds ( in my presence, a woman brought seeds shaped like red heart,  collected in Mexico), then sit in the greenhouse at the desk and write a story about the plant, how they nurtured the seeds, and the plant, and what it meant to them.

Clark made a flow from one group of objects to another  and to another a tool for  growth rooted in  free exchange and  shared belief in value of seeds. This idea is akin a social ceremony of the kind assumed to be at the birth of paleolithical cave paintings. It has been established that a surface damage on Altamira wall paintings is indication that paintings were touched or wounded – possibly in the belief that a successful future hunt will be secured.


altamira painting/credit Ramessos

Altamira Painting.


With those early works of art, Dispersal shares a belief that manipulating an artwork has a corresponding effect in the real world.

While gathering seeds and exchanging seeds for stories, both share with that ancient belief its indeterminacy, Clark’s concept is nevertheless more direct, and independent of magic. Unless, we accept that the seeds may or may not germinate as a function of extraneous power, of which we have only partial knowledge.

Search for knowledge, invention of classification and  botanical nomenclature make appearance in Clark’s use of scientific names. After that she departs from the tradition of  botanical illustration. Its oldest surviving example  is said to be the  Codex Vindobonensis,  a copy of Dioscorides, De Materia  Medica.

Codex vindobonensis

Such drawings or watercolours depended on observation and later on scientific knowledge to ascertain the form, colour and detail of each plant correctly.

Six handcoloured prints   taken fro Die Alpen - Pflanzen Deutschlands und der Schweiz H1121872005

An exhibit from Die Alpen Pflanzen Deutschlands und der Schweiz

Clark applies the criterion of correctness, but feels free to focus on some parts only.  The following comparison of her drawing of  vetch   with a photo image of the plant illustrates her decision what from the observed is allowed to settle on the page.


Alice Clark lusky

Alice Clark, Vetch, 2014, ink and charcoal, 420x300mm. Photo Jordan Hutchings




The delicate drawing of  vicia sativa  aligns more to an alien insect or a map that the lush bushy plant.  Clark’s reductive process operates economy of means that is trusted to remove the threat of imitation.  Her drawing  claims kinship with embroidery, the marvel of a thread connecting what was separate.  It enjoys also a fluency known from handwriting.

It is unfortunate that in this culture a medium should influence the value of art. William Morris made an attempt  to remedy that when he called so called lesser arts( i.e. hand craft, weaving, pottery etc)  life supporting.  This exhibition is  life supporting by focusing on seeds as promise of future harvest.

Phlomis cashmeriana

Alice Clark three on a line

Alice Clark, Phlomis, 2014 ink and charcoal, 420x 300mm, Photo Jordan Hutchings


Clark has seen,  in  the Belfast gallery PS Square (July 2010), the exhibition  Plant Drawings.  A stall with perennial flowers was transported to it from the St George Market.  Visitors were allowed to take one plant if they made a drawing of it first.  The collection of drawings was later taken back to the market.  The emphasis was on the non artist, on amateurs who loved flowers.

The Dispersal  also expected public commitment, the relationship between objects and generosity of spirit. Dealing with a subject that belongs to those “lesser arts” (growing plants) the artist has to protect both the art and what is outside art, when often art and life are at odds with each other.

Only rarely, she slipped from strict observation into intoxication of imagination.  I sensed her need to breath life into the head of agapanthus by weaving shapes over one another.

Alice Clark hlavice scribbles


This delicate drawing professes another departure from the botanical illustration with panache: no need for the multicoloured informative completeness.  Just one stronger black short line  under the flower head – enough to believe that it is a three-dimensional stem.

Whereas the thistle got the more traditional treatment.

Alice Clark, Thistle, 2014, ink and charcoal, 420 x 300 mm, photo Jordan Hutchings


Except – what are the marks above it?  Well – smudges. Less careful artist may leave them without considering their impact. Clark is meticulous in all she includes.  And seeing the non-defining marks on another of the sheets – I came to think of them as transformatory.

Alice Clark Fennel 2014

Alice Clark, Fennel, 2014, ink and charcoal, 420 x 300 mm Photo Jordan Hutchings


Like the Altamira paintings these drawings were touched with fingers that transformed the seen  into believable.  The marks are witnesses of that process, sincere witnesses.

Seeds are delicate, fly in the air, without knowing their final destination, they find it by chance.  Clark’s drawings have  similar ambition  and fate.


Alice Clark, Clematis, 2014, ink and charcoal, 420 x 300 mm ;Photo Jordan Hutchings




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this is authenticity, Golden Thread Gallery, Belfast, 3-24 April 2014


Adrian Duncan, Self-building and upkeep, 2014, commissioned text available as a takeaway


Curated by Eoin Dara the exhibition takes its name from a marketing slogan for a gated residential development Santa Elena City  in the Philippines: What is real, what is honest, what is true …this is authenticity.

After that it has nothing to do with Philippines, and all to do with authenticity, its absence, and playing with it.

One of the exhibits is an essay Self-building and upkeep  by Adrian Duncan, artist, writer, structural engineer, who holds an MA in Art. Taking a catalogue of bungalow designs published by Jack Fitzsimmons in 1971, Duncan proposes that “these one-off, self-built houses were also expressions of a type of Modernity….a strange, inchoate, hybrid modernism.” Some of that strangeness is born by the paradox between an almost sacred  “Irish”  western regions and the “inauthentic” modern bungalows”.  A paradox that dies, if your neighbours do the same, the presumed “in-authenticity”  becomes “…normalised, restrictive, and silent to the point of being unspeakable, then irrelevant, then slowly forgotten.” (p 2)  Inadvertently, it is a reminder of the  aesthetic thought of the 1930s. The classic Modernism entertained the idea that every norm is immediately shadowed by an anti-norm ( J Mukarovsky).  The absence of authenticity is shadowed by something authentic. It must include Aoife MacNamara’s  idea that those alienated forms  were  “symbols of defiance”. Duncan equates the new authenticity with two features of dwellings:” the act of building one’s house and the public self-expression bound up in the general upkeep of one’s home and domain.”

As I write, I see through a window, over two meadows, a small bungalow. It was built in the last century by a cobbler who played a violin and published a book of poems. It was an one-off  dwelling, with no running water and electricity, two room on each side of the entrance, no foundation.  A shelter, not much advanced on the prehistoric stone houses on the Dingle peninsula, they keep rain out even today. They were also self-built, normalised, and slowly forgotten (replaced) – once.

My neighbour’s bungalow,  resonated with grounding the authenticity of a dwelling in a conviction that ” to live in a private house is in every way a higher form of life”. (Herman Muthesius, Das Englische Haus, 1904 -1905). Some forms  repeat, the curator of this exhibition lives in a type of housing  Muthesius praised when he saw the housing for factory workers in Port Sunlight.


Given the considerable differences between conditions in which people live, the “every way” obtains different meanings, nevertheless, in principle, it holds true for the financial elite as well as for a marginalised cobbler. However, as Zygmunt Bauman argues, people, mainly young people,  are today being cast in a condition of luminal drift without knowing when it will stop, if ever. The effort to merely survive becomes a way of life. That is the real alienation, which dominates the indeterminate, bleak and insecure future. It is not anymore “how one chooses to shelter, dwell and dream”.

The visual exhibits do address the outrageous toxic pleasure of pathological individualism and distorted notions of freedom.

Jun Yang ( 1975, Quingtian, China)  studied visual art and media work in Vienna and Amsterdam, and lives and works in Vienna, Tokyo and Taipei.

Jun Yang, Paris Syndrome, 2007/2008. Dv transfered to HD

Paris Syndrome, 2007/2008 relates to his later work through its ambiguous visualisation of social spaces that are unable to provide “a higher form of life”.

Jun Yang paris syndrome on balcony

The couple’s appearance and movements cast them as robots, manikins, perfectly groomed, appropriately correct, completely reluctant to imagine what unemployed, disposable persons are experiencing – yet. they carry/emanate  that bleak engulfing precarity.

Yang zooms on the inability to think as a  root of  outrageous ignorance. Before my consciousness registered it, he infected my viewing with colours and forms that screamed “false”. Not authentic – it convincingly looks like a film set! However, both the buildings and the two young people exist.  In the gap between the authentic and not authentic, between the expected and delivered,  – the viewer deposits own experience. Yang made a silent cradle for that.






Martin Boyle (b, 1982) adds visual trickery to his critique of “front room aesthetics”. Remember, front rooms proudly kept away from children, ready to impress visitors?

Martin Boyle, Sunrise (left), Padlock (right), both 2013, framed giclee print


Martin Boyle went further. He made a trap for the eye – I walked into it, briefly. Cherishing it later, when I realised that the trunk of the palm is not about to break, and that the banister is not painted.  The titles deliberately depart from the real towards the made up, a tactic that appears in his art quite often, not sheltering art from humour given the role to undermine received meaning.

Martin Boyle, Iceburg, 2010m plastic botles woven together with clear cable ties

Martin Boyle, Iceburg, 2010, plastic bottles woven together with clear cable ties

Or more recently in an exhibition at the Ulster Museum, Belfast.

Martin Boyle, The Worlds first all Diamond Ring, 2012

Martin Boyle, The World’s first all Diamond Ring, 2012/2013


The power architecture of the Piazza Grande is subverted by the sky that looks like moonlight/sunlight reflecting in the sea; the image condemned to battle/play with high lights and shadows, as if under the studio lighting.


Martin Boyle, Piazza Grande, 2013, pasted wall image


It matters how the exhibits occupy the space.  Singly – from different points of view. That isolation provides for private encounters that engender intimate togetherness between the image and the viewing. Touch of exclusive whispering, with in-your-face question: is it authentic?

this is authenticity, M Boyle, Piazza Grande (essay in the background)

In the mid distance, the curator erected a wall with Boyle’s visual play on one side and, on the dorso, the moving images of Jun Yang, the essay in opposite corner to the wall carrying the other two Boyle’s images.  A net designed to direct your attention, but not to everything, perhaps.

On the floor, left from a previous exhibition, a drawing of straight lines submitted its geometry as a silent witness to another display, to another work of art. I applaud the visual sensitivity of the curator, he embraced the unintended visual information  as a part of the calm whole, effortlessly. Well, at least that how it works for me. Beautifully. This exhibition is about visual intelligence, after all.

Images courtesy the artists and Jordan Hutchings.

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Sinead McKeever – visiting her studio March 2014

 Sinead McKeever (MFA, 2008, University of Ulster)  is based at Queen Street Studios, Belfast, in the new spaces at Bedford Street.  She described her art practice thus:

Sinead McKeever Threshold I&II

Threshold I&II, 2008,Dibond, spray paint, 3mmx80mmx2440mm


My practice is process lead; through experimentation and rigorous editing I explore the possibilities of found industrial and domestic materials. Ockhams’s Razor, the principle of parsimony (“ Plurality should not be posited without necessity”) informs my way of thinking. I integrate the Fluxus idea of the simple gesture as part of the process of creating. Minimalist sensibilities are reinterpreted and a more organic, ornamental response is incorporated.

Artworks are created in situ, psychological tensions are introduced to heighten the senses. By engaging directly with the physical space, both ocular and haptic vie for control. In an ongoing exploration of spatial occupation and application, layers of histories are at once revealed and concealed, these actions reinforce the delicacy and ephemeral nature of the work. The questioning of hierarchical systems of measuring and knowledge are filtered and constructed. Fragmented beginnings and endings are volunteered so that perception and interpretation are open ended. Diagrams, solutions, text and visual notes suggest possible communication that evolve and change. Concepts of educational processes are implied and types of knowledge are responded to in a quotidian manner. Revelation and concealment interrupt these interfaces. (Quoted from Artist’s statement)

When tested against her sculpture  three ideas appear dominant: economy of means, the delicate engagement with communicative layers,  and connection with older art (history layers). Continue reading

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Keith Connolly, Verbally Confirmed, Waterfront Hall, Belfast, January 10 -31, 2014

Keith Connolly Prima Materia

Keith Connolly, Prima Materia. exhibited at Belfast Exposed, March/April, 2012

Connolly is a classical modernist – and not just for the parallel  an eye may discern between his images and those of Herbert Bayer and Laszlo Moholy Nagy,  Bauhaus greats who inspired some of his decision.

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TACTILE at Catalyst Arts, Belfast, 2014. Helen MacMahon, Polychromatic Shadow Configuration Device, 2013.

Helen MacMahon, Polychromatic Shadow Configuration Device 2013, material: trestle, spotlights, coloured lighting gels, PVC tape, MDF. Photo by Jordan Hutchings includes two visitors interacting with the installation.

Mac Mahon lists her engagement with space and light as a dominant concept of her art practice (see http://www.helenmacmahon.com “Subject matter is simply space and light”) Before I write about her installation in some detail, I would like to introduce the other four works of art that  formed the TACTILE exhibition at Catalyst Arts from 7th until 14th March 2014.

 Clodagh Lavelle   offered   High Heart, 2012  – a circular installation  of soft sculptures, connected to ropes and pulleys, to enable people to change the shapes Continue reading

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Susan MacWilliam: Kathleen, 2014, video, 33 minutes

To view online: http://vimeo.com/susanmacwilliam/kathleen

An approximation of a video by still images and citation from the archival sources has its disadvantages. For example: loss of the rhythm at which each image stays on screen, the uncertainty that words and images are synchronous or not. The one advantage I cherish is that whoever reads this text has also a fragmented reminder of the video’s visual part.

The intentional fallacy notwithstanding, MacWilliam’s  i n t e n t i o n  was  a vague proposal  that the video subject/ content  “ will be some obscure or overlooked history”.  It also was a defined concept. When the Derry –Londonderry City of Culture Commission  was awarded to her she never heard about the writer Kathleen Coyle (1886 – 1952), who born in Londonderry  lived in Liverpool. London, Dublin, Antwerp, Paris and New York, and died in Philadelphia. Yet, the writer became the subject of this video.

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Angela Halliday, Topographies: Smithfield, Belfast, 2013


This archival image from 2011 presents the new Smithfield Market  replacing the one the perished in the fire during the so called Troubles.

Smithfield-Market-fire-1974050701SM1 (1)

The disappeared one is still cherished in  a charming web of stories, histories and tales, with a support of some old  photographs. Continue reading

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Cathy Henderson, Ebb and Flow. at the ADF Gallery, Belfast, 17 January – 7 March 2014

Cathy Henderson, West Kerry Winter Skyscape, 2012, oil on linen. The three smaller paintings have the shared title of Blasket Skyscape, 2012, oil on linen, and a consecutive numbers 1,2,3.

Cathy Henderson exhibited  twenty images  aiming “…to capture the transience of the coastal view: a sense of shifting skies, and the persistently fluctuating mood of weather.” (News Release January 2014). Continue reading

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MOMENTUM at Catalyst Arts Belfast, 24 – 31 January 2014

Ten postgraduate students of the MFA at the University of Ulster  presented interim exhibition  in the both exhibition spaces of the CA gallery.


The image on this poster is a screen grab of a video by Jonny McEwen (b 1966).Nothing moves except for the white material in the top right hand  corner under the name of the Continue reading

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Equilibrium? Royden Rabinowitch at the GTG Project room, 09/01/2014 – 25/01/2014

Equilibrium poster

The drawing  above carries the instruction for the sculpture that appears in this exhibition.

Organised in partnership with Politics Plus (www.politicsplus.com, launched on February 2oth, 2013) it aims at an elusive instrumental value of art while focusing on one work of art, Greased Cone, 1965 by Royden Rabinowitch (b 1943). Continue reading

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Michael Hanna, Behaviour Setting, Millennium Court Arts Centre, Portadown, 7 December – 25 January 2014


Delightful generosity of spirit and academic erudition of Dr Declan Long, who wrote the catalogue essay, have not prepared me for the visual beauty of the animation of patterns in Gallery One, nor for the  immersive environment in Gallery Two. There,  in the dark blue darkness one screen starts at the beginning, its close neighbour at the end.

Michael Hanna 2 by Peter

Michael Hanna by Peter 1

Two consecutive images in Gallery One, photo Peter Richards. In front the silhouette of his son.

In an elegant overview of Michael Hanna art practice before the current exhibition,  Long’s thoughtful focus reflected on the historical and theoretical scaffolding of Hanna’s three previous exhibitions. Continue reading

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An afternoon at MAC, Saturday, 11 January, 2014.

MAC 2014 Hugh

At  three o’clock, in front of approximately fifty viewers, Hugh O’Donnell started his performance in front of the projected video. Its subject was the weeping face of a Dutch artist who disappeared, later, in 1975, attempting to cross the Atlantic in a small sailboat .  Bas Jan Ader acts to a camera that documents in black and white. We see his head  en face-  few times his right  hand  touching  and twisting his hair, smoothing his hair -what was supposed to be  visual equivalent of sadness. The video, made in 1971,  is named  I am too sad to tell you.  The verbal and the visual immediately enter a paradox framed by “I cannot tell you” and “I am telling you via a camera and projected images”.  The video loop kept repeating over and over, ad nauseum, throughout O’ Donnell’s performance. Apparently it was his choice.

Two strongly competing phenomena took over: O’Donnell’s body and gestures were difficult to see, mostly appearing as black cut out silhouettes. Some details, e.g. smearing something over his head, could be only guessed.  The contrast between not knowable parts and those schematized into  two dimensional shadow  pointed to the cognitive insecurity so fatally connected not with the video, but its subject and author.  The second phenomena born out of the constant projection  was much more wounding. It lead to complete loss of the belief that Ader has been  genuinely sad.  Instead, convincing  artificial pretense became fully foregrounded.  Ader’s acting came out as dilettantish.

MAC Hugh balancing Jordan largeDSC_1720

O’Donnell responded with a long phase of balancing barefoot on two lines on the floor,  and then, carrying a broken chair, dismantling it with decisive noise of the wood hitting the floor. This visceral element wiped out the intended impact of the video, replacing it with a realization that the image  is an  exercise in narcissistic love of Self.

The projection was also at the background of the dance performed by  Maeve McGreavy. Working within her own choreography to a sound a cello.Significantly, she used a light to map a path across the space in front of the video projection. It positively affected the visual force of her  body  dressed black, inside  a warm,  almost earth coloured light.

MAC 2014 dancer

Her dance became so foregrounded that the video lost its visual force and turned into a “wallpaper” you can easily ignore.

MAC Maeve mid point Jordan large

She was a superb interpreter of the concept of dance I know from  Pina Bausch and  Ballet Rambert. I do not have the professional vocabulary to describe the precision of her stops to a fluent movement, definition of angles, fluency of stretches, graceful placement of pointed foot, light touch when changing a rhythm with masterly precision… Some of the passages she repeated with such gravitas that they easily became iconic, for the removal of the personal. Yet, were this be a poem, I would call it personal.

The third performer, Sandra Johnston, wisely switched the video projection off, and moved the audience nearer to the space where she positioned her performance. While the two previous works of art replaced the presumed intimacy of the video with a field of energy of here and now, Johnston’s  performance focused back on the ways of making the intimate visible. She started with brutally fast repeated,  bending down  to draw on the floor. A piece of chalk in her left hand marked the floor again and again, ending as an organic tongue of white.  Several times, the energy of the sweep resulted in losing her balance.  Then she briefly touched the floor in a spiky  tick to straightened up – as if effortlessly.  The hard demand on the body is her hallmark. It surfaced not only in her licking some of the chalk mark off, but also in her contorting right hand as if out of its anatomical  setting.  I thought – stop now…  I felt a relief when she did.  Not such success with her putting a stone into her mouth.  Sitting on a  chair, she bend her head  far back, letting the stone  travel deep into her mouth. Her cheeks turned hollow, like on old faces, like in Munch’s Scream.

MAC SANDRA chair Jordan Large

As if there was not enough torture – she placed three glasses from which she drunk, in an elongated triangle. She placed her hands on the two in front  and lifted her body above the floor. Then she started to wiggle her feet to reach the third glass. Failed.

MAC  2014 Sandra

The whole work was a kind of remembrance of Henri  Bergson’s claim that we do not achieve achievable. Presented as a tragedy –  kind of tragedy we know from classical Greece, Antigona comes to mind- its ephemerality mirrored life.  Johnston has a store of information in her muscles and brain, to choose from how to make something visible using her body. And more often than not, she crosses the cautionary discomfort of pain barrier.  Her performance was not describing sadness, it was it. The artists’ trust that we shall view her work on its merit may quell our anxiety to know more, as we crave a narrative. This means that there should be a wider breadth of meaning, even beyond the one intended.

Art has not lost the force to preserve the unknown, and still validate our private  aesthetic experience.

Images: Jordan Hutchings

January, 15th, 2013.

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Shiro Masuyama, Borderline Project, 2013/2014

Shiro vitrina

This is not a museum vitrine – it is a kind a table top at the front window of a caravan which

Shiro interior front

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On the other side of Les Fleurs du Mal, Fenderesky Gallery, Belfast, 21 November – 21 December 2013

 Twenty One  artists, responded to the invitation  issued by the art dealer extraordinaire Jamshid Mirfenderesky  to submit work related to the title of the most famous collection of poems, written in the 19th C.

Charles Baudelaire published Les Fleur du Mal several times:  in 1857 edition of 100 poems, seventeen removed by censors  and later reinstated in 1861 edition, followed in 1866 by  Les Epaves (Scraps). A definitive edition in 1868 came out  after Baudelaire’s death. Quite a history in  a little more the decade. The reception was not less complex. Baudelaire, his publisher and the printer were successfully prosecuted for creating an offense against public morals. They were fined but Baudelaire was not imprisoned.

In Le Figaro  J Habas led the charge against Baudelaire, writing: “Everything in it which is not hideous is incomprehensible, everything one understands is putrid”.Then Baudelaire responded to the outcry, in a prophetic letter to his mother: Continue reading

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FIONA LARKIN, BACKSTORY, Catalyst Arts, Belfast, 6 December 2012 -17 January 2014

Installation view/opening night/Photo Jordan Hutchings

The idea that something commonplace can be transfigured into exceptional has been habitually compulsorily twinned with reason and consent. Both appear at the preparatory stages of this  exhibition. Continue reading

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Distributed through Space and Time, Golden Thread gallery, Belfast, December 5 2013 – January 19 2014

Installation view

Curated by Sarah McAvera the exhibition takes its title from one line in Canto 1 of Pale Fire(1962) by V Nabokov. The curator limited the number of artists to three, possibly in relation to the small size of the Project Space at the GTG.  Deirdre McKenna(1973), Zoe Murdoch and Christopher Campbell(1983)  made good use of the scale of the room as well as of the daylight. Only one exhibit had to turn its back on the windows to protect visibility, the Incantation video by McKenna. Her two paintings, Campbell’s  two floor sculptures and Murdoch’s box and  36 collages benefited (like many a viewer)  from the traditional viewing conditions.  Continue reading

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Susan MacWilliam, 13 Roland Gardens, DVD 22 minutes 30secs, 2007

Recently, Eileen Coly has died. My essay has been distributed to the visitors of Golden Thread Gallery at the occasion of the video 13 Roland Gardens  being exhibited in  February 2009. It is re-published here  in memory of  Susan’s Mrs C. I have copied these two images from Susan MacWilliam’s  Facebook page with her caption.

susan+Eileen C

Good Times – myself and Mrs C (Eileen Coly 1916-2013), Summer 2007 at Parapsychology Foundation Library, Greenport and with cocktails at Orient Point, North Fork, Long Island

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SHARON KELLY and ROBIN PRICE, Process Lab, Rehearsal Room PS2, Belfast, Nov 18 -22nd, 2013


I visited this installment of Rehearsal Room series on its last day.

Sharon and Robin animation 1

On the wall opposite the window a continuous video of animated drawings easily competed for attention with three  large charcoal drawings on the right and  one exquisite work of art in charcoal on the left wall.

Sharon and Robin snap 3

My distinct choice of nouns in the preceding sentence is deliberate. I have perceived three aesthetic norms in operation, The highly efficient, magical surfacing of drawn forms from the white nothingness of the video light felt akin to music that so effortlessly disappears in time, after staying long enough for our  sight to not only register it but also translate it in to, quite insecure, yet valuable memory.

Sharon and Robin snap 2

The job of the somewhat laboured descriptions of the experience of running via a sensor holding on to the invisible ephemeral movements of the running body was farmed out to a software, and then to traces of the movements caught in the charcoal one paper.


The third mode was in its own league. Hardly any recognizable connections to running, or to the sensor mapping it.

wall drawing 2

I have not understood the digital process, the characteristics of the software, nor that and how the selection of certain forms were made. Help was readily offered by both artists. I start  here with Robin Price’s generous explanatory email to me:

Thanks for dropping in on Friday, it was interesting to hear your thoughts. You asked me to write to you with some technical information about the process. After meeting Sharon and discussing her interest in doing something linked to her running I suggested she use accelerometers to record her movement. I gave her a game console controller equipped with accelerometers to carry in her hand while she ran and a laptop that would log the data. After Sharon returned the laptop to me I wrote a program to visualise and animate that data in an aesthetic that was inspired by her works in charcoal and pencil and the idea of the cyclical motion of her hands while running.  The program was very simple, it maps her hand’s acceleration to points in 3D space and then draws curves through these points. As it advances through the log of data it draws out the new points and deletes the older ones, creating a trail like effect. 



   The program allowed us to browse easily through the 30 minutes of recorded data to find sections which were visually interesting. I allowed myself to take liberties with the mapping of the data, stretching and rotating it if that led to a visually more interesting result. When we found sections that we liked we saved them and then played back these sections very slowly and in loops allowing us to explore, through the mediums of both mapping and drawing, fragments of data taken directly from Sharon’s experience of running. 

  If you have any more questions, please, feel free to write back to me, I have written about the project on my blog here.


I strongly recommend the reader to click on the above link. It is a veritable fountain of delights delivered in sober presentation of the four  days work, both in words and images.


Sharon Kelly  became involved with running as a subject of her drawings  some two years ago, presenting her harvest first in Down Arts Centre, 26 September – 27 October, 2012, then at the Crescent Arts Centre in Belfast 25 January – 16 February, 2013. (see Sharon Kelly  on http:slavkasverakova.wordpress.com). About  her current exhibition at PS2 she kindly volunteered the following by email to me:

The collaboration with Robin Price came about as a chance encounter while I was creating the work for “Liminal Space of the Runner”  (2012 / 13).

I was making a body of work about the experience of running and exploring the parallels with drawing experience. I had recorded a run by attaching a small camera to my arm and this had caught sound and motion-scape while on a run. However I spoke to Robin about the possibility of ‘mapping’ the run in a different way – the actual movement of my body as I ran. Robin fitted me up with an accelerometer (wii-mote), with which I ran, like a baton in the hand. I carried a netbook in a small rucksack on my back that collected the data from the running movement / wii-mote. Robin then took the data and attempted to animate the data in a style that complemented my drawing. (Robin can explain this all much better than I can!).

So the Process Lab week was an opportunity to work directly together in a shared space for a limited time. We decided to begin with my hand drawn response to chosen ‘loops’ of the visualized data animation.


I worked onto large paper using charcoal while the animation ran beside me via a projected image. I followed the loops and rhythms, at first tentatively, then with more natural rhythm.

The process became a strenuous arm action and at times got very tiring, particularly when the process evolved to include the rubbing out of the lines that I had made, mimicking the ‘traveling’ lines of the animation.


We recorded this process using a stop-motion still photograph of each stage. 


The way we chose sections of the animated ‘loop’ was simply to find a sequence that felt ‘pleasing’; that was dynamic and contained interesting lines; that perhaps we could glean a sense of spatial depth. The process of rubbing out was also an attempt to enhance the feel of perspective in the loop and to vary the quality of the lines for example, the intensity of the line.

After creating a stop-motion animated drawing we tried other activities that felt too much like ‘tracing’ and too restrictive. Some were attempted on paper and some directly onto the wall itself. This particular effort, working directly on the wall, seemed to present interesting avenues in terms of the scope for the drawing itself… the charcoal actually scored the wall differently to the paper and rubbed off like powder, however each layer added something very subtle to the overall image.

IMG_9988 Finally I left the data animation behind and responded to the instinct to ‘beat’ the drawing back and then taking an eraser to ‘carve’ back into the space. The resulting image was an ambiguous entity that suggested landscape, running, certain objects, a sense of ‘being’ in the space of the drawing itself. It evoked the imagination and the energy of the activity in a way that the other attempts had not. This gave both of us a thrill and it left us with an urge to explore the process further.

 detail wall drawing 1

wall drawing

This is the final stage – a complete mutation into an abstract mass with negative drawing of shapes that insist on some approximation to goggles, as if protecting  the eyes.

The initial  rational mapping gives way to intuitive dynamics of expanding dark matter with light scoring pathways as its signature over it. As a map of human endeavor, both of running and drawing,this charcoal drawing addresses the seeing, the vision in both senses of the word.

Seeing in this case  is not believing, it is being. The energy needed to run and the energy needed to draw both point to equivalency between the subject and how it is made visible. The question is what is equivalent to what? Running and art start offering an answer in a unisono.  Perhaps indeed the  excitement of both warrants that. In relation to her exhibition at the Crescent Arts Centre Sharon Kelly described to me the similarity between the two: both running and drawing  allow the subject to be insecure – how far can I go? Adding the scientific approach to recording of a movement may end in a sober set of disconnected curves. Which at some stages did happen.  The selection and the decision making then changed   ground from objective recording to subjective aesthetic judgement.  Importantly, number of projected squiggles commanded  instant sensual delight without any further addition. Nevertheless, the work that crowned the four days activity was handmade, controlled by the eye and by the mind intoxicated with the evocation of experience.

For me the final drawing, regardless of more modern connotations, carries a memory of classical renaissance and its respect for a “complete human being” as thought of by  Marsilio Ficino (1433-1479).  The visual arts were of especial importance to him.  Their function was to remind the soul of its origin in the divine world by creating, through art, resemblances to that world. It was largely through Ficino’s insistence on the importance of this art that the painter’s position in Florentine society was raised nearer to that of the poet.

Kelly and Price mirror his belief in the importance of visual art. They  make visible  the data  collected by the accelerometer in a quiet celebration of  both science and aesthetics. And then – the mute poetry somehow comes about through dedicated drawing in spite of the physical discomfort.

Another interesting aspect of this collaboration is that it forges another type of imagination: not the one which starts with a word, not the one which starts with an image. This different type of imagination is a hybrid of the real and the not known. It starts with running, with a physical activity, mapped into invisible mode via  accelerometer and a software. That leads to a projected image, light on a wall, transformed into a charcoal drawing. 

Reminiscent of Ficino’s remark:“In these times I don’t, in a manner of speaking, know what I want; perhaps I don’t want what I know and want what I don’t know.”

Go to this Robin Prices blog to see it in detail.


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FORCES, Catalyst Arts, Belfast, 8-29 November 2013

Richard Box, Field, c type print by Stuart Bunce

Curated by Rob Hilken  the exhibition offers a chaste view on relationship of art and science. Five artists zoom on nature’s forces e.g. radiation, gravity, electricity, and magnetism, traditionally subjects of scientific investigation, appropriating them for sculpture, video and installation, as if mindful of Plato’s words ” things slip away and do not wait to be described”.(Timaeus, 495) In doing so, they manifestly  challenge an older paradigm, formulated by C P Snow in 1959 Rede Lecture.   In his view the two cultures, science and art  could not find a common ground because of the mutual incomprehension, hostility and dislike between artists and scientists. Continue reading

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John Robinson, Rehearsal Room, Part 1, PS Squared, Belfast, 30 October – 2 November 2013

The artist kindly emailed me some  images and his comments (here in a purple text colour) to compensate me for not seeing his installation.

John prep iage

In recent work I’ve used dark spaces to create immersive atmospheres; at first I thought about blackening out the windows of this space. I was in PS Squared during the summer and realised that the entire room becomes a dark space when the sun goes down, so instead I started planning to do something in winter when the days draw in. I liked that connection with outside.

Continue reading

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Diane Henshaw – sharing her archive.

Diane Hershaw, from Memory Drawings

At my polite request the artist generously e-mailed me  eleven sets of her drawings with no captions.  I want to share examples of her art in the order she e-mailed it. First on her list is a Black Set made up by four drawings.

Black Set

followed by Blue Series comprising of seven robust variations. Continue reading

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TONY HILL, New Works at Fenderesky, Belfast, October 17 – November 16, 2013

Piet Mondrian, Composition No 16, oil on canvas, 1938 -42

This Mondrian is in a private collection, thus it is very unlikely that Hill saw it while he formulated his idea of visual art. I have included it to provide evidence for an aesthetic order many artists in Europe, two decades before New York became  interested in it. Some intoxicated with geometric abstraction during the 1960s, others preferring  abstract expressionism.   Readers of Chipps will be aware of the two poles of abstraction, the geometric spoken for by Mondrian, and biomorphic spoken for by Kandinsky. Later, during the  1960s  a strong group of painters and sculptors became known as minimalists, several Continue reading

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Moments of Inception, 17 Oct – 16 Nov, 2013, Queen Street Studios and Gallery, Belfast

Images courtesy Tony Corey

Expanding the curatorial field Eoin Dara has chosen the unexpected.  Objects that may or may not be art, nonchalant debris of something else, birth of an idea made just about visible, or not. Dara describes his task:
I was also conscious of my privileged position as a guest in the studios, given free rein to roam about the building, ask questions of artists, and pore over finished artworks, works in progress, fledgling pieces and undeveloped studio experiments… I have chosen to focus on, and celebrate, the early artistic processes that take place in the studios, often seen by the artist’s eyes only… (QSS Gallery, Curatorial statement). While I read Dara ‘s saying  What we have here is a room full of beginnings, twenty beginning to be precise, each representing the denizens of the new studios at Bedford Street  I remembered an essay about the end of art by A C Danto(1924-2013) namely this:

…the master narrative of the history of art–in the West but by the end not in the West alone–is that there is an era of imitation, followed by an era of ideology, followed by our post-historical era in which, with qualification, anything goes.
. . .In our narrative, at first only mimesis [imitation] was art, then several things were art but each tried to extinguish its competitors, and then, finally, it became apparent that there were no stylistic or philosophical constraints. There is no special way works of art have to be. And that is the present and, I should say, the final moment in the master narrative. It is the end of the story” (Arthur Coleman Danto, After the End of Art, Princeton University Press, 1997:47)

Danto closes his essay with a prediction about a world without aesthetic progress: “The institutions of the artworld — galleries, collectors, exhibitions, journalism — which are predicated upon history and hence marking what is new, will bit by bit wither away.” 

If so, what happens to the artworld not predicated upon history? Danto insisted that  “When one direction is as good as another direction, there is no concept of direction any longer to apply.” What this means is that direction is not a defining value. In fact, the poetic, charming expansion of exhibition of art in nascendi cannot rule out any direction and so the exhibition becomes one too. Focusing on the possible and  not the necessary  Dara  converges on Danto’s preferred cheerfully eclectic approach, making the case for art’s various manifestations to the public rather than getting lost in internecine wars that were mainly of interest to the already initiated.

 Jennifer Trouton’s

constellation of wallpaper  and maternal grandmother’s brass flying ducks assemble  everyday objects  in one of several possible constellations. This is different from a traditional assemblage  because this arrangement is transitory, life like, work like.

Sinead McKeever

shows two concertina notebooks made with collage of photographs, painting, vignettes stuck on vellum.  Fragments and layers  forge  co-operation of being and not being  without choking one another out of existence.

Dougal McKenzie

states that he is interested in surfaces. This is how it is  before he selects an idea and a composition. This arrangement of two types of textile is easily a metaphor for  getting ready.

Catherine Davidson

made these melodic swerving  drawings of trees  moving in the wind without her usual vivacious polychromy,  in the shades of grey capturing  a life force.   Even the simple  holders are a thoughtful choice.

Gail Ritchie   

has been involved in research of parallels between  images of cut trees and fallen soldiers.  The photo collage, postcard and a document from the Imperial War Museum, London,   evoke somber remembrance of those who did not return to live.

Angela Hackett

has been working in this variant of abstraction for some time now, here she is making a decision to abandon her usual palette, and still holding on to her “signature”. That is a risky move, glad to see that it feels strong. She offers a link :”this study in oil is an intuitive response to nature in winter…”

Majella Clancy,

having finished her PhD  degree  is taking first steps to work in her luxurious new studio. It has a good light, an ingredient in this image employing paint, inkjet print, monotype and collage.

Gerry Devlin

 offers a twist on the idea of beginning. These photographs document everyday useful items . As finished  images, however, they are commanded to become, in his words,  “…carriers of social, historical and cultural significance”.

Christoff Gillen

allowed a twin of his unfinished installation  in a studio to descend onto the ground floor.  Over an image of shirtless Vladimir Putin  holding a gun,  six empty milk bottle cradle used crayons.  They are on the way to carry a political message, a characteristic of Gillen’s art.

Grace McMurray

placed her work  horizontally,  on a pedestal, as if ready to sing a Gloria (preferably by Vivaldi). Satin ribbon woven in a honeycomb pattern  glued to a fabric is an unusual way to draw.

I have appreciated the sensitive display in both gallery rooms, allowing me to contemplate one on its own or several objects together.

Zoe Murdoch

made these charming paper ‘flowers’ following a Japanese Origami technique called Kusudama.   I lifted one, they appeared sturdy to touch while fragile to sight. She volunteered that the paper used are pages from Jean-Paul Sartre’s  Les Jeux Sont Faits. And – that their future lies in Fenderesky’s exhibtion themed around Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du Mal.

Clement McAleer

 has sent this abstraction to the world to announce either that it is a grounding for a future landscape or that it will stay as it is, keeping all its secrets. A welcome openness.

Ashley Holmes 

presents two contrasting way of making images. The drawing rejects to overwhelm the empty ground in quite a harmonious and generous manner. The object insists on layers of glazes that control the appearance and  almost erase any marks of it being handmade.

Terry McAllister 

allowed an unfinished vista -taken from a clock tower, Dinan, Brittany- to let the viewer see how it is done. How the hand is so much slower that the vision. The fragment surrounded by empty ground  is a telling evidence of the idea of invisible composition governing the work from the very beginning.  His mastery of scale and tonality is, on the other hand,  clearly visible.

This installation view includes work of three artists. From the left: Susan McKeever, David Turner and Gail Ritchie.  David Turner  made a memorial to his search for LEGO bricks  all over the world. After he started making sculptures from Lego bricks, he found that many were difficult to obtain, hence piles of used envelopes and boxes from online retailers.

Another view of David Turner’s stack of used envelopes, then Colm Clarke’s loose assemblage and the already mentioned Dougal McKenzie’s piece. Colm Clarke  stacked notes, drawings, schematic plans for his site specific installations and live work, over a “well used sheet”. It invites a privacy of deciphering and imagination.

Dorothy Hunter

has considered constructivist concept  of both drawing and sculpture, the sculptural element appearing ready for the world. Would it cut its umbilical cord with what appears as technical drawing?

Alacoque Davey

cleverly contrasted earthly images of food, two pages from the Gardener’s Manual, 1934,  with cutting edge abstraction, keeping a very light minimal touch. Mimesis cut with geometric abstraction – a revival of the dispute between Kandinsky and Mondrian.

Sally Young

cadmium orange  acrylic square recalls the heroic Albers or other abstract painters obsessed with that shape. Her choice of colour adds energy to those evoked memories. Exquisite case of ambiguity:  it is confidently finished, and also it is  a ground for more.

Susan McKeever

explores incongruous sizes of marks in relation to the size of the ground while insisting on the ethereal hues and tonality to puzzle the eye as to the distances. Gestural abstraction always evokes the insecurity of distinction between the inner and outer.

The exhibition  succeeded superbly to introduce each exhibit with its own “voice”, yet, to make them sing from one sheet:  joy and discipline,  insecurity and faith,  play and commitment.

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A SUBTLE MATTER at Catalyst Arts, Belfast, 3 – 25 October 2013

Emmanuelle Nègre, Untitled, 2013
Materials – Dichroic filters, Magic Crystals, Fresnel Lens, Perspex, Glass, Wood, Lamps.

Curated by Amy Brooks it has her aesthetic sensitivities all over, with the exception of a rather massive box housing Emmanuelle Negre’s fantasy in light. The above image indicates Continue reading

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John Brown at Fenderesky Gallery, Belfast, October 17 – November 16, 2013

Gallery Two  has an inbuilt corner, on each side of which was one image of an open book. In this photograph they are next to each other, the larger one on the back wall, the small one as if in front of it.

John Brown, New Works, 2013, installation view, photo Tony Hill

Whoever else John Brown is, he is a lover of books. He is also a poet, and not just because he writes poetry. This is not a hyperbole. Looking at the smaller image, I became aware of the aesthetic principle of economy of means, so well described by  Gottffried Semper Continue reading

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Charles Tyrrell at Fenderesky Gallery, Belfast, 12 September – 12 October

Since 1983 the Fenderesky  Gallery developed a strong profile through single, groups, and themed exhibition.  Led by a highly educated philosopher with  discerning eye and unfailing determination to support all generations of artists, the gallery has presented  painting, sculpture, prints and photography, with some slight preference for abstraction.

Charles Tyrrell thus fits its profile perfectly, even when considering the “domestic” scale of his paintings on aluminium, titled by a capital letter and two hyphenated numbers.

The last characteristics the exhibits share with the rest of Tyrrell’s received a charming insight from  Caoimhín Mac Giolla Léith: Continue reading

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