Sharon Kelly at ArtisAnn Gallery Belfast, May 4-27 2017

Sharon Kelly watercolours with graphite  form a half of two persons exhibition titled Dissolving into ambiguity  with Lenka Davidikova( b 1980, Dolny Kubin,  Slovak Republic).  Both  graduated from the University of Ulster – 26 years apart.

I have written about Kelly’s drawings and video  before, this little collection marks a shift towards poetic freedom, freedom offered to and by complex ideas visible as a transportable object.


Half Hand, 2017, watercolour, graphite. 41 x 31 cm

Meditation.  Drawing a drawing. The process is opened bare, equivalent to the fragment of the motif, the marks flow on the hand  and forearm, and next to  and around, as if  competing how much each dares to escape the duty of describing.

Sharon Kelly, Cave, 2017, watercolour, graphite, 48x40cm

The distinction between the noun “drawing” and the verb, is meaningful. Once explicit as duration, as process, with a beginning and an end, and once as stasis, a stable moment  when the past  becomes the present and the future.  Once observed or imagined, the motif  determines  the mortality of  other  variations, hinted at by abrupt cuts or empty areas. Both watercolour and graphite  offer generously fluent suggestion of what is not optically there. Conversely, the anatomy while madly disturbed, still  holds to life.  The headless torso  is like a flat, fluid “garment”.   The  voluminous blue selfportrait  suggests depth.       The  convincing charcoal outlines  and modelling  follow the obedient observation of arms and hands  with  confident denial when, for example,  the outline of the  left arm is visible through the   right hand’s fingers.  It is real, but only as a dream is real.


Sharon Kelly, Blue Cloud, 2017, watercolour and graphite, 48 x 40 cm

Habitually – blue sky is behind  white clouds. Poetical visual trope reverses that, the cloud being blue and sky “white” or near white. And the “cut-off” hand is alive and caressing the air as if not wishing to catch the blue apparition; rather it looks as if the hand gently released that fluffy blue.

Drawing as a verb inhabits immaterial world. It prefers the world of thoughts to that of objects. Jealously, it is ephemeral, guiding its privacy, and at times it is impossible to apprehend it by senses. Hands can draw in the air leaving no trace, yet transporting an instruction or expression. Issuing sheer joy  of co-existence of a blue blob with the anatomically correct hand –  the hand treats the cloud as it would treat a butterfly – afraid that touching it will disable it.

Kelly offered an insight:

“…the animation work took place over a number of months and it meant I had to shut all daylight out of the studio to keep the artificial light constant for stop motion work. It was one charcoal drawing that changed, slowly so the whole process is very slow and can be almost impossible to work gesturally. From the middle of March I was able to lift the window coverings and clear the space and explore imagery with watercolour and pencil. So the watercolour work was like a flash of spontaneity in approach! The animation was for a projection for a dance production, a project I have been involved with for about 3 years and explored the territory of grief over time. “(email to me  15th May 2017).

Indeed grief is not an object….


In his essay ‘On Being Modern-Minded’ (1950), Bertrand Russell describes a particularly seductive illusion sensual and  intellectual progress. Because every age tends to exaggerate its uniqueness and imagine itself as a culmination of progress, continuities with previous historical periods are suppressed: ‘new catchwords hide from us the thoughts and feelings of our ancestors, even when they differed little from our own.’

Kelly’s use of a blue  as a fragment of sky,or of a head or a hand as a fragment of her own body,  invite comparison with a very well known drawing of hands  by  Albrecht Durer.  Like Durer she  confidently  places a  fragment of the living form into a viewing frame. Both ground the meaning in a state of mind when it escapes the uncertainties of daily life.

Albrecht Durer, Study, 1508, 29×19 cm, pen and ink, Albertina, Vienna, accessed on Wikipedia

There is a habitual hierarchy between the  drawing  as a work of art  and a drawing as a study. Both Durer and   Kelly  cherish the responsiveness of drawing to hold its truth without becoming a servant to any one truth. Both  give the viewer a freedom to complete  what is visible by what he or she imagines.  And that is, as Giordano Bruno advises ” a bottomless well”. Durer  connects the hands with status and the belief in a superior being.  Kelly’s connection  is grounded here but sends empathy over there into the universe.

Sharon Kelly, In the Rain Cloud, 2017, watercolour, graphite, 48x 40 cm

Image of grief? Image of empathy?  It seems to oscillate, preventing me to be sure, except that the graduated definition  of the watercolour mark  moves  from a standing firmly on the ground to an attack by emotion that disintegrates the  head and part of one arm…  The darkened volume of clashed fists belongs to despair.


Sharon Kelly, Vein, 2017, watercolour, wax, graphite, 48×40

The materials are promiscuous. Making mark with whatever is willing to do that on the ground of choice is not an anthropocentric act, it appears across the animal kingdom. The same tone of a hue expresses despair and resolve  in relation to different outlines that are “carved” either from a light or darkness. It activates  our cognitive faculties, invention, daring, scaring, feeling, intuitive guessing. It marks territory of invention that is mute, visual. In the next image – a memory of a dancing ballerina… both wet and dry outlines are obedient and enclose the from with clarity.

Sharon Kelly, 2017, Ochre Dress, watecolour, graphite, 61×51 cm

A drawing becomes sometimes evidence or a witness – like the print of  hands on the prehistoric rock face.

Pech Merle, East from Cahors, accessed on Wikipedia

Drawings addresses us as individuals, secretly offering seductive respect as a bribe. They flaunt their beauty, intelligence, even their hidden sources, through the rhythm of the trace and its tone. Even when there is a story, it is secondary. The viewer is invited to make up hers or his own.

Sharon Kelly, Ghost Dress, 2017, watercolour, graphite, 61 x 51 cm

This reminds me of August Rodin’s drawings  of dancers made  after 1906:He is quoted as saying

I invent nothing, I rediscover.
The artist must create a spark before he can make a fire and before art is born, the artist must be ready to be consumed by the fire of his own creation

courtesy of Musee Rodin, Paris

The lines and texture are the main message, however much they pretend to be just messengers. Drawing is gloriously free – any size, any material, any subject, from a sketch for a monumental building to an acute observation of a fly, to a definition of the plant atlas, to private loving greetings. Apollo or Dionysius? A wrong question. How much of each is in each drawing is the correct one. It is the classical Greek moira, a measure, of each that differentiates the characters of drawings. Rodin is reported saying  that the Cambodian Dancers made him think of antiquity.

I sense complicity in these drawings between silent observation and mute inner world to make all over perspective  redundant –  or at least discreet.

Sharon Kelly, Dust, 2017, watercolour, graphite, 48 x 40cm

Some drawings  do not like to be an end  – they wish to serve as a seedbed of different meanings. What is it like to despair? What is it like to feel happy? Human condition opposes certainty ( with the exception of death, which seems to tower over this image). The nurtured faith in the benevolence of fate recedes to allow uncertainty as a subject matter in.

Some  drawings submit their force to a fresco or concrete and glass, or stone and bronze, other drawings, Kelly’s drawings amongst them,  confidently stand alone: I am who I am. Let your senses and mind resonate with what you look at. There are treasures to be had.




Images courtesy Sharon Kelly and the gallery ArtisAnn unless otherwise credited above.

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Stuart Calvin, Greater than I, May 4 – 18 2017, GTG Belfast






Stuart Calvin wrote to me:

“The process for creating the plaster forms involves pouring the plaster directly onto a flat smooth surface. Before the plaster fully sets, I shape them until they are slightly domed.


The plaster is then air dried and repeatedly sanded to achieve a smooth surface. The gold leaf is applied in the traditional way using size. In the past, I have various types of adhesive but none of them achieve the very reflective finished attained with the size. ” (email 7 May 2017) Continue reading

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Unafraid Red, April 6 – May 4, 2017, QSS Belfast

Unafraid Red  (and the following U-Yellow, U-Blue and U-White)  curated by Dr Colin Darke has been inspired by Barnett Newman’s  Who is afraid of Red, Yellow and Blue ( four paintings made between 1966 -1970 as a pun on Albee’s play)) and not directly  by Edward Albee’s 1962 play Who is afraid of Virginia Wolf   even if it shares is principle, e.g. Act 1:Fun and games)

Albee described the inspiration for the title thus:

I was in there having a beer one night, and I saw “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” scrawled in soap, I suppose, on this mirror. When I started to write the play it cropped up in my mind again. And of course, who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf means who’s afraid of the big bad wolf . . . who’s afraid of living life without false illusions. And it did strike me as being a rather typical, university intellectual joke.[5


Jasper Johns, Roy Lichtenstein and Ellsworth Kelly, had begun to reclaim primary colour, using it on their own terms. Newman, who had previously always mixed his own colours, felt compelled to respond. ‘I was now in confrontation with the dogma that colour must be reduced to the primaries, red, yellow and blue,’ he said. The challenge as he saw it, was to make the colours ‘expressive rather than didactic.’ (Tate Gallery room 13)

1966.Oil on canvas.

The hue is inherently validating a meaning. Why? Because it is there.  Because it is a voluntary discrimination of the rest, because limiting selection of art to “red or yellow or blue or white” is an “unnecessary obstacle” that carries risks.  I recognize it as a principle motivating  climbing an Everest as well as  Albee’s play, Newman’s minimalism and Darke’s curating.  F. Nietzsche’ ” superficiality out of profundity” defines it well.

Darke hoped that focus on one hue will provide ” a level of visual cohesion, while retaining the conceptual and aesthetic diversity that defines Queen Street Studios.”( Gallery handout – worth reading all of it: the curator researched the hue’s flexibility to symbolize life, love, class struggle, fire, charity, gravity, dignity, grace and attractiveness)

Displayed in two rooms, it had to borrow the back space for the   performance by the superb Amanda Coogan.

Amanda Coogan, Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow, performance Saturday 29th April, 12 noon – 4pm

Her  decision to fragment the body into hidden static and visible moving  is one of those “unnecessary obstacles”. The spiritless container  still squeezes in the idea of a game even a smile, thus acting like voluntary discrimination against “body art”, inflicting contrary thoughts of imprisonment and disability.  The grace of arm movement, the drama of frozen open mouth, slow movement of head, all combine forces to disgrace, to overcome the obstacles.  Illusion of a whole body alive and well.

The ability of the artist to work through imposed limits  to protect the  freedom of thought, joy of unpredictable imagination  and to contain various skids and shifts of meanings  bounds the exhibition together.  A comparison of “Rose” and “Red Rhythm”

Catherine Davison: above “Rose”, below “Red Rhythm” ( both acrylic, n.d.)

Although in both paintings Davison  allows the red to look continuous over the colour field,  both tonality and brushstroke make obstacles to it.  As well as other hues. Yet – the red holds command over the “light” and “temperature” , a reminder of Cezanne’s rule that the painting should hold the same temperature from the left top corner to the lower right.

In a nod to symbolism  the red oscillates between several meanings (blood – fire) with holding on to its history as one of the three used by early humans, i.e. black, white and red)

Gail Ritchie. Wounded Poppy, watercolour on paper

The graceful fragility of the plant silently engages with Ritchie’s other set of the  hundred tracings of war titled Century (ink on tracing paper)

The technique of transfer and historical themes  attract also Jennifer  Trouton presented here as a grid of  “tiles”, each capable of standing alone, titled  What Remains (oil, decal transfer and wallpaper on board)

Her forte, the painterly illusion is represented by oil painting “Yield”.  On comparison, it seems  somewhat unfinished.

 Sinead McKeever  installed two of her crawling “relief/drawings” made from recycled material.

Sinead McKeever, Some Velvet Morning, Mixed Media

And when  this fragile looking velvety  tangible “line” got stepped on

it survived the change by embracing it. Her larger piece  Untitled  has not taken that risk of contamination, “crawling” safely on the wall as if coming out from the line between it and the ceiling.

Cheerful and melodic, it voiced the visibility of youth, energy – life.

For the way these artists treat humanity this exhibition was a very welcome alternative to the more brutal slogan like art  in some other current exhibitions. I particularly applaud   the curator and the artist for “raining the images” on the visitor as stimulus to their own imagination. While their points of departure are different, they coalesce  independent play with growing the meanings from different soil/sources  to make art that silently stimulates visual thinking.  Formed by intrinsic logic of visibility they -as if – obey Dante Alighieri’s celebration of imagination ” stealing us away from the outer world and carrying us off to the inner one…”. Not forgetting how they shelter under Goethe’s thinking about the red – cited by the curator – that it ” conveys an impression of gravity and dignity, and at the same time of grace and attractiveness.”


Images courtesy Dr Colin Darke and artists.

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Bbeyond Symposium Belfast April 3-8 2017

“I beg you….let us begin anew by doubting everything we assume has been proven.” (Giordano Bruno,1548 -1600) Continue reading

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Robert Ellis: Proverbs, 3/3 – 15/4 2017 at Belfast Exposed

The gallery handout makes astonishing statement calling this small exhibition upstairs ” “an ongoing  body of work using photographic images and audio recordings that engage with the contemporary landscape of Uganda while exploring its layers of memory.”

Whose layers of memory?  Memory of what? The body of work is not using images it is those images…

The exhibits were given a collective name “Proverbs”  for one reason: “… story telling still seems to hold a certain degree of reverence.”( Robert Ellis in the gallery handout)

Looking at the image above does not provide a persuasive evidence that it is an image from Uganda. Ellis spent there three months in 2013 and some undisclosed period in 2016.   Instead, the lens based image gives credence to the enthusiastic welcome  to Ellis as a part of a “terrifically competent” graduates  shown under Photoworks  2007 in a review by Aidan Dunne (The Irish Times, 27 June 2007), Dunne perceived Ellis’s document of Brazilian community then as “an outstanding project”. The recognition continues,  in 2014 Ellis’s photography appeared at Plat(t)from 2014 an the Photo-Museum Winterthur, Switzerland. That is a curated exhibition  gathering young artists – who are invited to be present  as well as they artwork.

So – I have almost classical dilemma (Aeschylus Iketides) between the visual thought of a foreigner  and the disinterested  subjects, natives or landscape.  The tree  appears  in a proverb I know – not a Ugandan one. My grandfather told me to protect trees, because killing a tree is killing a city.   My association to the wisdom of my ancestor is made admissible by Ellis’s juxtaposition of the majestic tree crown and distant roofs and lights and a light tower…

Easily – another connection surfaces while looking at the image – the tree looks like a kind of a platan tree, admired by Handel’s Xerxes in the aria Ombre mai fu  for offering shade:  dear, friendly and gentle tree.

The framing sets the tree in the centre of this fragment of the landscape  while the human settlement nearer the horizon sincerely admits that it continues beyond the frame.  The image has thus a tenor and the chorus – in two different rhythms – in a seamless co-existence.  Do I sense a latent conflict? Yes, but the artist holds me firmly on the side of the tree,  agreeing that human species depend on nature.

People appear in the rest of the exhibits, alas, I do not have those images.

Photographing persons anywhere raises the dilemma between the aim to document and the encroaching the privacy of the subjects. It is possible that they do not mind… it is possible that Ellis did not need to ask their permission. Nevertheless, he is an outsider  giving his view of what his subjects think of as familiar.   By chance this theme surfaces in a current exhibition at the Photo-Museum Winterthur  titled Unfamiliar Familiar. Outsiders views on Switzerland.

That is a parallel theme to Ellis’s view of Uganda.  He portraits the local people, standing, walking, perhaps talking.  That the images do not contribute to a particular national identity is their strength.In my view, the repertoire Ellis presents is not inflating stereotypes, his curious eye zooms on subjective characteristics of the viewing, it is not restricted by stereotype or advertisement.  Seen by an outsider – the subjects carry warm familiarity, replacing sharp differences by overarching similarity of life lived now – here and there.

Successfully, Ellis offers authentic fragments of the seen at every given moment, some look staged, but all subtly claim the status of a document, of external evidence.  Yet – since all meaning could be questioned, Ellis offers the insecurity of free interpretation with instinctive promise of beauty, the beauty of something ordinary, unexceptional, yet  uniquely  true.  I almost said  uniquely  beautiful and good – in agreement with Socrates’s  twinning of  kallos and agathos.  (Plato, Gorgias, 474d-75d)

And so Ellis  escaped the  danger of offering  exotic as the grounding for an outsider’s view.




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ADRIAN O’CONNELL: INTERSTICE, March 2017, Engine Room Gallery, Belfast

The ribbon window of the gallery on second floor of this modernist building offered picturesque view over Belfast and light and calm to envelope O’Connell’s   paintings. A gentle host to the unleashed passion for the modernist idiom. Yet, it made me think of Tintoretto in the Scuola di San Rocco in Venice, “San Rocco in prison visited by an angel” (1567) – minus the visual noise.


The baroque painter developed exquisite mastery of irrational lighting.  He gave it a poetic role to disconnect what is connected in the real world. Disembodied  by light and dark the anatomy  became a tool for passionate astonishment.

White as the highest light and black as its absence govern several of the all over  paintings O’Connell presented.  I shall come back to his attachment to other hues.

On one hand these illegible messages look like painting. On the other the white and black layers are disembodied by a sharp end of a tool that ploughs the field unearthing the first layer, in a manner an artist could work out a low relief.  Taking away is appropriate to sculpting, before Modernism developed abstraction.  Piet Mondrian applied almost clinical rationality to subtraction  in the painting  kept at the GementeMuseum Den Haag, the 1911  Grey Tree.

O’Connoll, however,  sides with Robert Motherwell who praised Clifford Still  for not working through images.  The painted surface is the image – a kind of tautology aspiring at becoming an image.

In many of the displayed paintings there are added small canvases painted in calmed manner with one hue.

Extensions: Green; Mixed Blue; Red; Yellow; Mixed Green; Blue (all horizontal, 2015)

Reminiscent of Clifford Stills cry: “It is intolerable to be stopped by a frame edge” O’Connell admits a need to tame the sensuous irrationality of the “carved” surfaces by the obedience of each hue  to be a good, minimalist, steadying, grounding area.

The carpet on the floor unwittingly, and less successfully, echoes that aim.  The larger paintings abandoned the neurotic baroque altogether. The high hysteria of emotion  is thus only on the smaller formats – adding the feel for private  contemplation.

Minimalist billboard scale examines the power of hard edge geometry  so softly used in the extensions of the smaller paintings.

Sentenced to  find home in public spaces, they are immaculate and confident.  The grey and black harks back to the light/dark play flipping the surface out of rationally measurable space.  A quite lovely break towards a play.

The discipline of modernism has its rewards when it offers soothing co-existence.

Detached Blue(vertical), n.d.

There is a renewed interest in this kind of painting – see in particular the S2A Group. (They list an artist from Ireland: Carol Diver)

The contrast of painted and unpainted, dark and light, do not preclude the poetic role of present and absent parts of what in a viewing conditions becomes an image.    It is different from  “working through images”( Robert Motherwell) in that it works so that the viewer can form and carry its image as one whole.  So -working for an image?

O’Connell has explored the various stages of ” working – for – an- image”  for some time, without leaning on Minimalism.  I have in mind his installation at Platform Arts 2012, namely the sculpture made of keys…   ( see Jason Higgins photograph on Off Limits – Belfast Project)

The fascination with repetitive occurrence of similar but different visible “objects”  seeped through  from those keys to these paintings  made during the  2015 – 2016/17 -.


The tonality of hues often whispers only about light and dark, thus being nowhere near the  Tintoretto’s drama of the belief in the extra-celestial beings.  Yet, the tenor of all O’Connell’s paintings  is an invitation to believe.   The low reliefs look like frozen Jackson Pollock  as well as like incomprehensible appropriation of the universe.

Stubborn to tell me more these paintings demand free fall imagination, they make that visible.


Images courtesy of Adrian O’Connell.





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Michael Hanna: Predictable Contact, Naughton Gallery Belfast, 16.02.17 – 26.03.17

The installation is made up of four TV monitors  and a continuous projection on the wall.

View towards the end

The  colours and sounds of Predictable Contact,  while allowing me the freedom to play Continue reading

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David Turner: A Series of Small Explosions,QSS Gallery Belfast, 23-25

Mosaics? Tapestries? Embroidery?  The look of Turner’s objects constructed from Lego Bricks or Hama Beads meanders from  an association to toys, to rules of construction controlled by gravity or frames. The sizes vary from huge Megaton #1 and #2  to hand held  little figures.



The gallery handout states that the exhibition was curated by Francesca Biondi as a set of “powerful images  of bomb explosions…intended as a critical commentary  on war and terrorism”.

David Turner has experienced the Troubles  growing up  in Belfast  during the 1970s – consequently, the explosions, the killing, the violence,  became part of his personal experience of the world.  No wonder if it surfaces in his consciousness, as reflective intentions  remove glorification from armed conflicts  and the proverbial ” my side” bias.

The gap between artist’s intention and the impact of the work of art invested with it, is always there, otherwise there would be just narrative, illustrative visual art.  Notably, the dynamics of creativity always wiggles out of the intention  – more or less freeing itself from the illusion of explanatory depth.

Turner uses real documented events as a source for the compositions, e.g. Oil Rig/Explosion, 2016


Oil Rig Explosion, 2016, Hama Beads, 80 x 60cm


The image does not illustrate one such event, but any such event… anywhere, where the humanity becomes hubristic  in relation  to nature, to the Earth.  The drilling companies demand freedom to drill for oil, even if they cannot fully  control the outcome, even if there are warning signs not to drill a particular site. Such companies are driven by hubris, not by precaution principle. If Turner’s image  increases awareness of the public to the gap between the companies intentions and a likely harmful outcome – it would have contributed  to safer future life on this planet.  This artist does not preach – rather he invites the viewer to reflect whether the current generation are responsible ancestors.

While the motives are rooted in Turner’s experiences  -whether direct or mediated – the works of art follow their intrinsic agenda, locked powerfully by the material and tools. Less of “art in service of…” and more of “art as a potential for increase of connectivity of brain.  Effective connectivity, the current  science proposes, depends on covariance  between intention  and the resulting impact.  Turner trusts  the  incongruency between the tool and subject matter, play and killing people, to undermine the so called  “confirmation bias”  of those who justified the Troubles. Or still do.   Some exhibits appear ambiguous.


This figure built from LEGO bricks  prefers the robot like appearance – androgynous,   of ambiguous gender and age – to  occupy the established territory of toys and souvenir.  In addition, in the gallery context, it requires affinity with small modernist  abstract sculptures. Contemplating it easily favours  associations with obedience, order, and loss of identity. The warm colours over the cold white skeleton  evoke desirability. The calm ” in-betweenness” of this  small statue has  left behind an earlier strategy of  sarcasm and hyperbole of Little Dudes (2013) and Nano Dudes (2015)

nanodudes98a5f73b-afce-4ed9-8d7e-b17c555adf87The similarity between Turner’s current  softer approach with Modernism’s abstraction surface in several of the framed- like- picture  assemblies of the tiny Hama Beads.


Structural damage #1 and #2, 2016. Hama Beads, 40 x 30 cm



I find this image interesting for commanding freedom from the artist’s intention.  Although inspired by a real tragic vent, and titled Structural Damage #1,  it is capable of a presenting clues either to surface or  to the structure of the Earth. If perceived as a segment of a structure it progresses from  the black heavy core, the fluid magma, and the green thinner surface with atmosphere.  I admit that my reading has been triggered by the recent scientific research about the centre of the Earth, and not at all by Turner’s, or the curator’s intentions.  I celebrate the art’s ability to open ways of being not predicted by the artist.  In that sense, I do not need to know what the intention ever was.   It is all between the work of art and me. Or work of art and you.  Luckily, people always thought that the universe was made of both similarities and differences, perhaps the most famously formulated by Plato in Timaeus. So- this composition is also similar to a progression of light from a shadow over reed sunset reflected on water and sky.  And may be more…

Not all works of art allow such a openness –  often they insists on limiting the viewer’s imagination.



Both images on the far wall represent decipherable objects … boats, ship, ports. Both have the word BOMB in their title.


Ship/Tug Bomb #1, 2017, Hama Beads, 40 x 30

Both look like tapestries, cross stitched embroidery – similar to Bayeux Tapestry in their clumsiness to present in right angles what it not right angled… an  explosion.


Ship/Tug Bomb #2, 2017, Hama Beads, 29 x 21


In real viewing the white departed from industrial even surface and breathed in space that kept declining away from the lower frame, calmly and with determination of a poetic word.

The association with the patient work of female of the species embroidering something while guarding children – is rooted in the vast history of human division of labour.  Turner decided to own it, I sense, inspired by his being a parent.  His faithful use of toy material… something to assist development of various skills, has significance for his tolerance to the gap between intention, inspiration, motif, and the art object.  He does not condemn the art object to be a servant of a reason to make it, for its link to identifiable source. By using tools for play – Turner admits  the importance of play for  creativity.  And for freedom of imagination. Not something to sneer at. Charles Baudelaire called imagination the queen of all faculties. qssturner003

The even machine precision of the surfaces  does not allow anything flamboyant to happen.  Yet, the very technique of accumulation of sots is quite open to that, as illustrated, inter alia, by the rather undervalued and magnificent  Yayoi Kusama’ “Infinity – Love Forever” (1966 – 1994)



Turner does not favour symmetry, rather he dismantles something real into useless, e.g. a weapon. While holding on to the convincing appearance, he  denies its function. He makes fakes, ignoring the possible undesirable mistaken perception.  Making  explosions and weapons pretty  is not without pitfalls.



All exhibits are for sale.  I like that combination of a gallery and dealership… it has glorious history on both sides of the Atlantic.



Images courtesy David Turner.


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BOSTON,02/02/17 – 11/0317 Belfast. Golden Thread Gallery

From the University of Massachussetts  via a dialogue at Scope NY, 2015, to the Project Space at the GTG in Belfast is a journey less startling than the  choice of making Belfast a  Sister City for Boston. Yet, in 2014 the Boston Mayor Martin J Walsh   spoke of  “…our historic connection and deeply linked heritage”. His name places him anywhere in island of Ireland, and quite comfortably among the many Walsh’s in Belfast and Dublin.

The four artists Margaret Hart, Zach Horn, Elizabet Marran and Cat Mazza  show competent visual art – a sort of polite gesture of a guest.



M. Hart’s video at the window and collage on opposite wall near the door; facing wall  with 6 Cat Mazza’a Electroknit series; near right Elizabeth Marra


offers  insights into her art practice  in her


“”To review my entire portfolio is to see a diverse group of works. There are definite relationships between bodies of work,and it is possible to trace the progression from one work to the next. As I was organizing my entire oeuvre, I was struck by the nature in which certain themes kept surfacing. The content of my work, as well as my approach to different materials, has grown and evolved over the years.

 The majority of my work is installation based. I was drawn to this form in graduate school and have explored it ever since. Installation allows me to bring together the variety of materials I enjoy working with and provides me a forum within which I can address larger critical issues. I have always been influenced by theoretical writings on the subject of identity. Both feminist works, and more recently, the many cultural studies texts on the developing cyber culture have fed my creative impulses. Michel Foucault, Luce Irigaray, Elaine Scarey. Donna Haraway, and Roseanne Stone have been very influential authors for me, especially their writing on identity formation and on the nature of the individual. Body issues, and the development of the individual identity, have always been central to my work.

 From this centralized position I have continually examined the nature of the internal and external. In earlier works, such as “Masquerade” and “Mapping Memory: Recollections of the Self” both in 1993, the examination was focused on body issues from within a feminist framework. The internal psychological impact of body image, and it’s part in identity formation, being determined from the external patriarchal culture was a large part of these earlier works. Later, as my research for teaching purposes began influencing my creative work, issues of the technologically enhanced body began emerging and intertwining with my earlier concerns. “(base)Pair Recognition” is an obvious example of this type of work. In both cases the internal can be interpreted as the psyche, as well as the voyeuristic internal gaze of society. The external can be seen as the construction of the identity or the masks we wear.

Physically, the move from photographic based installation to sculptural and digital based works has been a slow, but obvious progression. The manipulated and repeated photographic imagery are now being interspersed with objects and digitally manipulated imagery. There has always been an obsessive element to my work. This has manifested itself through sheer quantity, physical labor, and, more recently, through the production of multiples. The materials have occasionally changed, but the obsessive nature of the work has remained constant. I have always been drawn towards technology and the content of my work raises many critical questions about the nature of technology, it’s impact on the individual, and our ever-shifting definitions of self.


A shot from the video Dreaming Metal, 2016

The video feels unstructured. Abstract fields alternate with precision favoured by design and – in the case of genome, by science.  If the viewer accepts that an open-ended   lens based sequence has a potential to trigger either awareness or aesthetic experience , then  the video succeeds. If not – there is no seductive beauty or distressing terror, or anything in between, to wake up deeper attention.  On the surface, it is informative about the basic knowledge that nature in all its forms is connected. It attempts to disturb an expected comfort zone of viewing “just art” by  deep cutting consequences of something flawed.  But that peters out before the end. While I read this video as a “macho set of values” –  her earlier series Tying the Knot exhibit subtle and private existence  not unlike to moments we need to be still and quiet.    (seen on Hart  sent to Belfast  collages titled Liquid Metal Series, 2016  instead:



CAT MAZZA (born 1977) exhibits six panels  of Electroknit Series 2016. 



The Electroknit Series   is made in uniforms size of 12 x 16 in while harvesting handknit patterns from 1523 until  the present.


A view of the studio of Cat Mazza


Labor Sister Sampler 1824 -1999, 10ft knitted timeline of women’s Knitters history

Cat Mazza(b 1977) is an associate professor of New Craft and digital Media, the founder of microRevolt – aimed at improvement of working conditions in globalised knitting industry(see It seems that Mazza hopes that digitalizing the knitting will improve those working conditions.  So far in the published interviews and statements she did not pronounced on the impact of that change on the availability of jobs.


Soon after the WW II, anticipating the augmentation aspect of the debate over AI and jobs, Alan Turing suggested that humans will be needed to assess the accuracy of the calculations done by digital computers. At the same time (similar to many of today’s commentators on the subject), he also predicted the automation of high-value jobs (held by what he called “masters” as opposed to the “slaves” operating the computer) and the possible defense mechanisms by what today we call “knowledge workers”:

The masters are liable to  get  replaced  because  as  soon  as  any  technique becomes  at  all  stereotyped  it  becomes  possible  to  devise  a  system  of  instruction  tables which will enable the electronic computer to do it for itself…

They may be unwilling to let their jobs be stolen from them in this way. In that case they would surround the whole of  their work  with  mystery  and  make  excuses,  couched  in  well-chosen  gibberish,  whenever  any  dangerous  suggestions  were  made.


Turing concluded his lecture with a plea for expecting intelligent machines to be no more intelligent than humans:

One must therefore not expect a machine to do a very great deal of building up of instruction tables on its own. No man adds very much to the body of knowledge, why should we expect more of a machine? Putting the same point  differently,  the  machine  must  be  allowed  to  have  contact  with  human  beings  in  order  that  it  may  adapt  itself  to  their  standards.

Mazza puts herself as an artist in that context. The aesthetic/art impact of her exhibits  is somewhat lesser than  that of original hand knitted samplers,  members of “lesser arts”  so named by William Morris, who defended the subterrean kindness that governs knitting.


Both Mazza and Morris value the role of “lesser arts” in supporting ordinary life.  Mazza’s project of microRevolt  seemingly  revisits Karl Marx’s distinction between political emancipation and human emancipation, the latter closely related to non-alienated labour.  On the other hand, her manifesto also subscribes to Marx’s conviction that within the capitalist systems  instruments of production must be constantly revolutionised.


ELIZABETH MARRAN teaches introductory and advanced courses in drawing and printing.


Elizabeth Marran, Print Series 2016 (Digital Print)

 Traditional media such as drawing, painting and prints  are remade with current  technology. Yet, it makes little difference to the art, more to the loss of the aura or authorship and original. Even this democratising principle has roots in all old techniques of multiples.


The lightness of her touch perhaps recalls Joseph Beuys’ Multiples – without his daring innovation to print of blocks of wood.


 The desire to keep the images abstract does not limit the semblance of some to objects the viewer is familiar with, allowing  perception of warmth to misplace the cold intention.


ZACH HORN sent a video and a small painting.





(accessed on

I started these drawings because my son was born and I wanted to make work downstairs. I mean paint fumes just wouldn’t do. So I went back to the basics, pencil and paper, and I started to draw. What I didn’t expect is that the drawings would circle back to such representational imagery. Maybe it’s the muscle memory of 10,000 adolescent hours spent drawing? But what I happily discovered is that by using the figure I was able to talk about a much larger range of subjects.

These drawings are about my life, my memories, my screwy psychology. I don’t plan them out. There is no order. Even when I start the drawings I have just the faintest wisp of an idea, like wanting to draw a puff of smoke, or a huge baby, some lions or a face. In the beginning I try to hold the drawings loosely, and as they go, they start to assert themselves. The drawings tell me what they want to be. The hardest part is not to filter. I have to trust that every stupid, off-beat, taboo idea bubbled up for a reason. I think that it’s healthier for the drawings (and definitely therapeutic for me) to let it all out on the page. In the past they have called this inner voice, the muse, the subconscious, or the lizard brain. It’s all the same thing, trusting that little goblin in my head.

I’m usually surprised at the end of the drawing. I swear I didn’t know that Colossus was going to be about Goya, that the lady in Byzantine would have that other mouth, that the figures in the back of Easter Island would be bearing axes. The drawings asked to be like that. It’s only later that I realize that I am making a drawing about my life, about having a baby, about thinking about having more, about love, fear, weight, empathy, and cynicism. If you look at all the drawings together it would be a map of my brain, like the way that Hockney composited those photographs to create one image. These works are the last 12 months inside my head.

Since the subjects are so personal, I have been agonizing over the images. The alternative would be to make more expressive drawings, ie. violent arm movements as a symbol of my aggression. But, expressionism has a trade-off in that subject matter is often subjugated to touch. Because I’m drawing my son, my wife, me, my friends, my memories, my brain, I haven’t been able to sacrifice them to a looser hand. And I like it. I enjoy the challenge of waves, rocks, mist, smoke, and flesh.

I have had a blast making these drawings. I used almost no source material. I made up the figures, the rocks, the smoke, the fire, the clouds, the sky, the waves, the hair. I had to look up lion anatomy and some women’s shoes, but the rest is invented. Drawing from my brain lets every detail serve the composition. Light bends, perspective warps, figurative proportion distorts. Since I’m inventing it all, it’s mine to play with.


Zach Horn, Fixit, 2016, oil on panel (left) and video Spring Garden Street, 2016, stop motion animation

The video is humorous animation of drawings of lorries, houses, the street  – superbly delivered.  The drawings style reminds me of Marx Ernst – even the light  touch free of heavy ideology or unsettling sentiment. (see


In conclusion: the vitality of Zach Horn’s humour, invention and technical skills invests a hope that his academic carrier will not rob him of it.

The inevitable use of new technology is valid, but it cannot by itself guarantee the intrinsic value of art.

The universities all over are guilty of stifling art by demands for statements that the administrators can understand and evaluate.  Only some artists have been able to wiggle out of that deadly embrace the rationalising creativity inevitably brings about. And arts wither. In spite of good intentions.

Images courtesy Golden Thread Gallery.


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LISA GINGLES, 2 February – 3 March 2017, Fenderesky Gallery, Belfast



Metamorphosis of the Elephant, 2016, pencil on found paper



My work is influenced by many things; mythology, folk tales and invented stories, leaving their dark side laid bare.   It is about my life, the lives of others, and sometimes the life of no one at all. I use images of the past, feelings of the present and dreams of the future to inspire me in my art. Continue reading

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Catherine Davison, A Kaleidoscope of Colour, QSS, Belfast, 19 -21 January 2017

Queen Street Studios started a new tradition: Flash Show offering their ground floor rooms  at 31-33 Bedford Street for  a brief exhibitions  – like a visit to a studio.

koc-image-4  Davison’s  Kaleidoscope of Colour   is the first of a planned series, enabling the public in a busy part of Belfast, opposite hotel and BBC to use their  Friday lunchtime break differently, perhaps?   Continue reading

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Fenderesky Gallery,Belfast, on 13th January 2017

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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


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

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

Dan Shipsides ( art practice is multifaceted. His subject of choice is “visibility”.

I quote from his web page:

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

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

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

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

Three Triangles 

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



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



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

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

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


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

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

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


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



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

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


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



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

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

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

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


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Ciara Finnegan at Golden Thread Gallery, Belfast, 2016, August 4 – September 10



And yes, it has taken me this long to  write this essay about it.

Click on  grubberguide to see the sketch for the main exhibit  and the artist’s valuable notes.

There were four items exhibited: Continue reading

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Aisling O’Beirn at Millennium Court Arts Centre, Portadown, 2016

Curated by J. Baker . the exhibition  titled another day in futile battle against the 2nd law  of thermodynamics   included, maps, diagrams, installation, and video, all presented with meticulous care. Selection of gallery exposition  and O’Beirn’s introduction  is accessible on as the latest of many  of the delightfully rich inventory of her art practice.

She wields the uncanny mastery over chaos, without completely taming it, holding its energy present.  Found objects willingly forget their identity  and -with some tacit humour – co-operate with O’Beirn’s  will to transform base metal into gold, or the other way round.

As a characteristic of alchemy the transformation of found objects by O’Beirn is  reminiscent of Arte Povera, namely Gilberto Zorio.

“The various media used within his oeuvre include lead, copper, steel, clay, concrete, Tesla coils, compressors, strobe lights, lamps and incandescent objects, which are activated through processes including reaction, solidification, evaporation, oxidisation, fragmentation and precipitation. These are presented not as scientific occurrences, but are rather elevated to be considered on a more ethereal, universal level, foregrounding their primordial or even esoteric qualities that relate to the nature of existence, the cosmos and evolution. (

O’Beirn filled the first gallery with translation of scientific data about distances of stars  in the constellation of  Great Bear, the second with video projections.

I remember, hearing  it as a child  curious about the future, the adults expressing their fatalism thus: well only stars know…

O’Beirn juxtaposed the peak of each shower  with a memorable event,e.g  Lenin’s  appearance at Petersburg at the start of the October revolution.  I read it both as “predicted”, i.e. determined and as coincidence, a chance parallel.  O’Beirn allows both.

By insisting on the same pattern of juxtaposition of facts  O’Beirn fabricates the ennui born by the disinterested repeat. This makes the theoretical law  into a concrete,  experience, accessible to senses.

The Second Law of Thermodynamics States that whenever energy is transformed from one form to another form, entropy increases and energy decreases.

The installation of Ursa Major in the large gallery has been rooted in O’Beirn’s delicate interview of an astronomer, the whole is presented as  a video record:

The didactic element manifests further in diagrams and a poster.


This is Arte Povera with a PhD.  O’Beirn respects science and knowledge and truth and reality of the socio-economical conditions for living artist, so similar to the group in Turin and 1967 when Germano Celant published  Arte Povera. A large part of her practice utilises the scholarship as a method to make visual art.  At times the success is as if free of that intention – confidently engaging  aesthetic categories, including  beauty.




Ursa Major, Miza and Alcor, chair base, splash protectors,flexible cable and chalk

Significant layer of the installation depends on the success of persuasion. In recall of Duchamp’s Fountain  a dish rack wants to be  the constellation of star that is hardly visible. O’Beirn, the alchemyst, gathered the star dust out of the thin air, serving them on a plate. Some irony of human condition wrestles in.  Palpably, the coexistence of domestic chores and science and art, is possible.





Knowledge and art  meet in imagination, its transformatory power  of one identity into another also depends on viewer’s attitude/expectations what art may be.  At first I felt  dictated to – and resisted it.  Deliberately, I focused on  the objects abject refusal to transform.  This was strong tenor of all parts of the installation from near views of each part.    After watching the video where out of camera range O’Beirn politely questions the expert, I went back to the main installation. Still the pedestrian translation of distances in the universe into scaled down sizes  of each star in the constellation was an irritant.

Only when I abandonned the idea  of  the installation being a model for Ursa Major could i delight in the witty combinatory poetics of  play – objects playing  – like musical instruments in an orchestra.  They followed to prescribed size and strength, while displacing that objective rule by subjective  joyful gifts of surprising willingness to abandon their original role. Plates  pretend to be like vinyl records of yesterdays.  The stands could hold the sheet music for members of an orchestra … and it all started to work as the music of the spheres.

The bitter-sweet dialogue between the married couple, Jessica and Lorenzo, at the beginning of the final act of The Merchant of Venice, includesdiscussion of  the stars, each in its separate “orb,” or sphere, each sphere contributing to the heavenly music that only the angels (cherubins) can here. Ordinary humans, clothed in their earthly, decaying bodies, cannot hear the music of the spheres:

Sit, Jessica. Look how the floor of heaven
Is thick inlaid with patines of bright gold:
There’s not the smallest orb which thou behold’st
But in his motion like an angel sings,
Still quiring to the young-eyed cherubins;
Such harmony is in immortal souls;
But whilst this muddy vesture of decay
Doth grossly close it in, we cannot hear it.

When classical writers speak of the harmony of ideal order and creation, they are not thinking of the terms just as a metaphor. O’Beirn  does not either.

Images courtesy the artist.


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Moira McIver, Shadow Catcher, November 2016, Ards Art Centre, NI

As an invitation to a Shadow Catcher ( in my thought a rendez-vous with Mnemosyne)  the artist states:

In this exhibition in the Sunburst gallery in Ards Arts centre, I have used the historical photographic process called wet plate collodion. Wet plate collodion was invented by Frederick Scott Archer in 1851. This process involves coating plates made from either glass or aluminium (originally used iron or tin) with first collodion and then silver nitrate. The plate is then exposed through the camera and developed and fixed for exposure to white light. The camera needs to be suitable for holding these glass or metal plates in plate holders. I use a Russian FK plate camera which is from about the 1930s and was used for studio portraits and passport photography.


The process involves lengthy preparation. She wrote to me:

I have been working with wet plate collodion for the last three years, mostly in the summer, when I get a week or so, to set up a darkroom and work at this technique. It takes quite a lot of time to get the process working correctly as you must first master how to pour the chemicals to coat the plate correctly and then get all the chemistry working to get a good result. The silver nitrate can be quite tricky to get right as if it is too fresh it will fog and it will lose contrast when over-used. The collodion also requires some time to get used to the process of coating the plate, so that the whole plate is covered without gaps or bubbles. The collodion is sensitive to temperature and will pour quickly in warm conditions, more slowly in the cold. The bottle of collodion also must be kept still to prevent dust being stirred from the bottom of the bottle and ending up on the plate causing white spots in the final image. The plate must be developed immediately when exposed, therefore one must have a darkroom or ‘dark box’ close-by to prepare and develop the plates.

The advantage wet plate process has over Daguerreotype consists of a choice: it allows either positive or negative image. The latter  facilitates multiple positives.  McIver also researched its history: it was used during the American Civil War not only to document soldiers on a battlefield (Matthew Brady), the collodium  was used to knit the wounds.

McIver illustrated the process in a glass cabinet – of the opposite side from the  camera.


The wet plate process, that artist feels”…has an ability to unsettle the contemporary relationships with photography. It sets the subject into another sense of time and place…there is an unpredictability or wildness  inherent in the process”

The exhibits are grouped according the place and time they were made.


In 2014 a residency at the Tyrone Guthrie centre  led to construction of “dark box” to take outdoors, to make the wet place in it and to make images “within minutes of exposure” with it.


Darkness Descending, 2014


Each print is an after-life of the exposure, shaped by the mundane matters of preparation of the plate and “the dark box” for the  image becoming visible :”The dark box seems almost like a magic box where these images are revealed”

Two weeks in 2015 at Clo Ceardlann in Donegal were spent in a bright lit studio with a small dark room attached.


Cyclamen floating

The painterly marks result from a swish of silver nitrate around the edges caught on the wet plate.   The background behind the plant is a cloth with printed image, which may invite a false guess that the image has been altered by using Photoshop.   Three more images stand for that kind of experience, all portraits of women, the artists mother and two nieces.













The style of this image connects with the Guthrie group as well as being nearest to a more modern photography techniques.  Although painterly, its highlights are dry.

McIver scanned the images and used them in a simple animation, presented  as a video on a small Sony box monitor. The sense of intimate encounter evoked by the 2015 set seems levelled and wrenched outside, as it is broadcast over and over…

There are three original plates that bring  forth a surprisingly poetic  experience:

” I had been playing with some of the original plate holders, standing them up and creating triangular shapes between the slide holder and the plate. I discovered that when I put one of my glass plates against the black of the inside of the plate, it was visible. I enjoyed that the image was visible only from certain angles. This again played with the sense of the image being quite ethereal.”




McIver scanned images for animation and layered a red transparent circle over them



The images achieve resonance with something else at times releasing the original object, at times not.  It is akin releasing a censor in our consciousness. It also insists that artist may lose a control. As a reward – under the surface of image scanned from life is something akin oceanic meaning. Snatched from brief encounters the images do both – document the encounter and fly away from it as existential anxiety buffer into the sphere of symbolic immortality.  McIver is never irreverent, she  is audacious with  the archetypal visualisation of a portrait.  In the beginning I compared this exhibition to a rendez-vous  with Mnemosyne, the Titan goddess who with Zeus produced the Nine Muses, while herself was an offspring of Earth (Terra/Gaea) and Heavens (Uranus/Coelus). Photography is a visual memory tool par excellence, even if its relationship to truth is slippery.

The rich tonality of black and white  is reminiscent of those not so rare decisions by painters to make black painting( eve if not quite black only, Goya), monochrome black drawings (G Seurat)  and even the black figures painting on early Greek ceramics.  It is like a remembrance of sorrow in a song chosen by Aoide, named as Mnemosyne’s daughter, when the muses are reduced to only three, by the respected Roman Scholar Marcus Terencius Varro( 116BC-27 BC). The other two he allowed,  were Melete, the muse of practice, and Mneme, that of memory.

McIver evoked these three: memory, practice and poetry, as if effortlessly, by reviving the magic of collodion.


Images courtesy Moira McIver

Quotes from her letter to me in December, 2016


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Sinead McKeever: Tipping Point, QSS Gallery, Belfast

Sinead McKeever  does not do compromises.  Her installation at the Queen Street Studios Gallery  title CIRCUIT (2016) echoed several of the perceptual tasks examined since 1960s by Michelangelo Pistoletto. Continue reading

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Keith Wilson, Calendar, MAC, Belfast, 2016

The curators issued the following information:

Keith Wilson: Calendar

12 Aug 2016 – 16 Oct 2016

For this major exhibition in our Upper Gallery, British artist Keith Wilson further develops his longstanding investigation into the cultural status of sculpture, considering how ideas develop in the private sphere of the artist’s studio and transform into a public presentation of work in a gallery.

At the core of Calendar is a large-scale galvanised steel structure made up of multiple cubic units, organised in a series akin to the familiar monthly grid arrangement used for wall planners and electronic diary systems. These units are then occupied by various objects, items, and ephemera that offer a view into the artist’s studio from the wider enclosure of public space within the MAC.

Calendar whole1471019727_20160811-MAC-010


This artistic practice comprises an ongoing enquiry into the contingency of meaning specifically in relation to the public functioning of sculpture. The artist is interested in exploring the power relations inherent in everyday human interactions and his exhibitions are often dramatized by having to navigate your way around apparently authoritative pieces of highly ordered sculptural material.

Calendar several days boxes1471019754_20160811-MAC-016

Keith Wilson is currently based between New York, Sheffield and London. Over the past two decades he has staged major solo exhibitions at institutions such as Camden Arts Centre, London; Harris Museum & Art Gallery, Preston; Milch Gallery, London; Milton Keynes Gallery, Milton Keynes; Eastside Projects, Birmingham; and the Wellcome Collection, London. He has also contributed to numerous group shows and projects at; the Hayward Project Space, London; Institute of Contemporary Arts, London; the Henry Moore Institute, Leeds; as well completing a major commission Steles for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. From summer 2016 he will be Provost’s Artist-in-Residence, the Center for the Humanities at the CUNY Graduate Center, New York.

those few boxes in the whole1471019735_20160811-MAC-012

One of those days

Celndar detail

and a question: which is art? The metal bos is Wilson’s product among the industrially produced buoys.

Calendar box outside1471019770_20160811-MAC-033


A calendar is a time piece,  like  neolithic stones  or medieval tower clocks,  it is driven by an intention to bring order into past, present and future. It insists that it is possible, due to predictability or planning.  Paradoxically it is both divided and continuous. full and empty, finished and incomplete.  All done both with a considerable effort – and  slight boredom. The last quality has been invented as an aesthetic category  around 1500 in Italy – spezzatura.  No obvious effort was invested into selection of objects



– some are still unpacked small parcels.



Wilson was trying hard not to try hard




and still have some perfect artful dishevelment of mismatched items to entertain the curious.

Calendar objectcs14021726_656999007783777_7456359122645843231_n


Quizzical consciousness aims to remove nostalgia


possibly associated with an early design of a mobile phone  silent and alone in one grey see through box of a day. It sends around a note of sadness which infects intellectual defences.

Calendar yellow chair13895243_656998977783780_4391985055599772373_n

The yellow chair dares to nonchalantly  pierce through overnight to another week .

Wilson relies on cubes made with an industrial material and precision  to represent the sameness of 24 hours long day, repeated on the orbit of Earth around the Sun.  The grey march of the right angle is relentlessly collaborating with ennui and fatigue.


It looks rational, but it exudes mystery.

Calendar sideways13925058_656998851117126_5598642475759616988_n

Stonehenge it ‘aint’ – although if Wilson lived then I bet he would be one of the hard working men  hands on, calculating weight and sizes and distances.  His earlier work flirted with uneven, organic edges and sizes and allowed material to flow in the space, so rough shapes would not be a problem. Therefore, I felt at first quite alarmed with the relentless march of grey cubes stuck above and next to each other –  I could not see  where the march begun or ended. So – anywhere then.  It the flow stutters over gaps – irregularly – up or down or all the way from the ground to the top.


After all, he constructed the whole aedifice himself. His allegiance to Homo Faber  identity were manifestly present in his previous exhibitions  like the one at Platform Art.


Calendar box outside

The box among the buoys addresses a Modernist concern about anxious object: Warhol’s Brillo boxes inside a supermarket would not look like art, in a gallery they would.  Wilson  ups the stake: a simple ubiquitous kind of metal (?) box next to maritime past.  The visual difference does not carry conviction – the object is not reluctant to stay double faced.  The question mark in brackets refers to my insecurity of knowing what the box was made of. When I went to look, it was not there anymore.

The Calendar started in 2011 and was developed in 2912 to look like empty bookshelves.


courtesy of Aesthetica/Keith Wilson interview

Shelves with life taken out, life a walked away shadow.

“Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.”
—William Shakespeare, Macbeth, (Act V, sc. v 24–28)

In an interview with Aesthetica Wilson said about the above construction:

KW: Calendar is the last in a long series of galvanized steel works, which end here with these cube-form arrangements. Each piece is set out to represent a different indexical system, from the alphabet through to the periodic table. Starting with Vertical Hopscotch (1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,0) the cube-works bring the apparent liberation of the third dimension to more familiarly 2-D languages of representation, only to reveal their own tyranny. Asking these small spaces to represent time seems a fitting way to end the game. My Calendar structure has an inside and an outside. Inside I think of as the space of the artist, perhaps even the studio, with outside being a more consensual, public space. The apparent rationality of the system begins to crumble as you realise how very different the inside is from the outside.

He follows the quote above  up later in that interview by a magic departure:  he thinks of it as a silent work and if placed in a field, it could appear as a fenced tomb, a forest could grow inside…

That thought he connects to imagined “late Henry Moore” – which is a fragment from Wilson’s adherence to UNIT ONE Group, 1933.  He shares their concern about revitalising contemporary art.

No wonder  reference appears during his work on the Calendar.


courtesy Aesthetica/Keith Wilson interview


This is a cerebral calendar … marrying Mnemosyne with  a storage shelve housing just one mobile phone as a memory of a friend who is no more.

Accumulation of time and objects  forges serendipitous connections –  even denial of some:  Wilson never overloads a field of vision with objects, only with the whole that appears like fortress with no entrance.  In practice slim bodies may squeeze through narrow gaps inside to note that several objects are visible only from inside.

Is it  suggesting that time has an inside?  That I cannot answer. Instead, I think that  it approximates the orbit – not around a source of life, rather around a void.

Wilson does not offer an immersive visual experience. On my first visit – the objects dribbled in the field of  vision  broadcasting their insignificant ordinariness, with the exception of  those still unpacked. Those held their secrets.   Subsequent visits woke up familiarity  as well as  broken off  sensory experiences.  Round and round, whether walking around or inside, the tension of repetitiveness grew heavier with connectivity.

I sense philosophy creeping in, namely, something, Giordano Bruno was burn alive for on 17 February 1600  at Camp del Fiore in Rome:  The continuity of the universe ( he proposed that God was all over the universe, not just in one place, Earth) , the calendar goes round and round – I am not sure where it begins and ends, so it may be anywhere. Even if Wilson marked every months as a group separated from the previous and the next  by a gap,  a small hiatus.



Wilson’s intention is to make art that can do for the now and here what the UNIT ONE achieved before the mid 20th C for then and there.

To the extent to which art mediates freedom – he succeeds.  He seems to be attracted to the cases of  flight from the theoretical constructs  of sovereign leaders/ a  master signifier, e.g. Duchamp or “late Henry Moore”. Wilson is  questioning whether such theoretical overcoding can be absent and void.  As a consequence he treats all he includes as siblings  of visibility, in the Italo Calvino terminology.



It is also a silent, fenced of tomb of the past time.

Images courtesy MAC, Belfast and as stated. For all images see:



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Liam Crichton: SLEEPER

Liam Crichton: SLEEPER

12 Aug 2016 – 9 Sep 2016

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


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

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


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

Sleeper bottom

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

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


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

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

ARA PACIS 02ee32b2b7ed98ab21dc2679b45d29040baf434f

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

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

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

sleeper corner

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

Sleeper part1471019671_20160811-MAC-028

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

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

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


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

Images courtesy MAC Belfast and as stated.

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Part 5: CUMULATOR 7 at The Point, Groomsport, 7th July 2016/Addendum


Rainer Pagel has visited the site of the Cumulator 7  ten days later.  He took  photographs of the gilded stones and shells, his installation. High and low tides changed his arrangement.


The sea made its own installation – with seaweed.


Still some gold leaf attached morphing the stone into a face  reminiscent of  paintings by Hieronymous Bosch.


A shell  –  no sign of ever being painted with a gold leaf… some gold leaf left on the large stone…the suggestion of a circular arrangement of the smaller stones become more apparent in the next shot


Taxing perception, the acuity of vision, the discrimination between a  chance and an order.

Lovely case of the debunking of  artist’s intention being dominant. It is a mover but not the harvester.

Rainer 10dayslater1

Easily, Pagel’s installation  connects to land art of Richard Long  or Pawel Althamer.


Richard Long, A Line in Bolivia, 1981


Pawel Althamer, Sculptural Project, Munster, 2007


Pagel shares with them the limits he puts on both his interference with the found reality and on the durability of its impact.  Redolent of  various associations, Pagel  leaves his performance open to natural forces in a kind of conceptual symbiosis.  An idea explored earlier by Robert  Smithson, not only by his  Spiral Jetty, 1970.


Natural forces are as if calculated into the process of making art as equivalent to the artist’s intention.  This equivalence is benign – and contradictory.


Robert Smithson, Mirrors and Shelly Sand” 1969-70 50 mirrors back to back, beach sand, shells or pebbles, installation at The Met Breuer, NY, March 18 – September 9, 2016

He is not on his own. Three days before his forty-second birthday,  Alfred Kazin (June 5, 1915–June 5, 1998) explored  in a series of Alfred Kazin’s Journals (public library) — an immensely rewarding trove of wisdom  like this:

Trust  the contradictions and see them all. Never annul one force to give supremacy to another. The contradiction itself is the reality in all its manifoldness. Man from his vantage point can see reality only in contradictions. And the more faithful he is to his perception of the contradiction, the more he is open to what there is for him to know.

For me – Rainer’ Pagel’s performance/installation/land art/  – ten days later –  focuses my perception on the play between two types of creativity – whimsical, perishable, temporary one – like a song of the bird, or the cry of one of the seagals at the site where Pagel worked , and the other, governed by the universe, aspiring to eternity.


Keike Twisselmann

She has followed up with the list of materials  used  in her performances on the 7th July – as part of the Cumulator 7. Descriptive, the text also includes connections, reflections, fragments of memories, own and inherited.  Her ephemeral performance emanates  personally meaningful thoughts left open ended. The following text I treat as a primary source.

Off-shore…setting up camp at low tide on top of a hillock of razor sharp black slades exposing themselves like a sleeping primeval creature’s back surrounded by the warm golden sand of part of that the bay which remains islanded when the flood rushes in……time…reoccurring and changing with the tides and stranded within the clothes and remains of loved-ones…

the old sea-worn suitcase once packed off to a journey to Singapore on the „Empire Pride“ by a family called Walshe…it must have returned to Ireland somehow, where I „found“ it for sale at a Dublin flea market hitch-hiking back to Belfast with it wrapped in a borrowed golden shawl…

„crying, I saw gold – but I could not drink!“ (Arthur Rimbaud)

the time battered suitcase containing objects of wisdom and desire:

1 – a black mohair jumper from my dead mother

2 – a pair of 1st World War British Army issue thick canvas leg protectors in olive green from my love Michael’s beloved dead grandfather, who had the same shape of legs as Michael and coincidentally as myself – they fit us all three like      a glove –  a coincidence of love or birth by another coincidence, my grandfather and Michael’s grandfather did not kill each other over the trenches of the Somme or the Ardennes, but both survived   to be able to have   families and eventually us grandchildren…

3 – a black window fly net

4 – a US army jacket from a teenage friend of Michael’s US cousin, which went to the Vietnam war with him…olive green

5 – a pair of binoculars (black)

6 – a 7-part hip flask set

7 – a white pair of Moroccan women’s underpants with red embroidery

8 – a white doctor’s coat

9 – a huge white bra

10 – a black swimming suit

11 – a light olive green scarf with leopard print camouflage

12 – sixty black refuse bags for medical disposable urine catheters used by my love   Michael

13 – a chocolate fudge cake in chocolate brown for Rainer Pagel’s birthday

14 – a decorative Indian sword used for weddings

15 – lengths of white muslin

16 – a black long-sleeved T-shirt

17 – a white short-sleeved T-shirt

18 – a long dress in nearly black with a printed grey cross down it’s length

19 – a roll of thick red ribbon left over from Michael’s fathers decorations

20 – a blue gift bag of ultramarine pigment from the same London art material shop, Ives Klein bought his Ultra Marine blue special pigment mix from years before I was born

21 – a pair of novelty socks, with penguin faces and single toes, pink, multi coloured dots and white


these objects were worn and used successively by me,or some used interactively with the other 6 performance artists, the rocks, the sand, the water pools, in short, the environment in image and sound during seven hours intuitive actions and inter-actions- being and the past memories of past lives…of others…ornamental details on a mental staircase into the dark. Lined by life’s gargoyles. Long forgotten. Sun-blessed and forgotten demons. Drowning in pure white of death – a light-spill from the other world through objects touched by the dying. Drowning in white light. Into life.


K Tw 14.07.2016


Like a bell tone with a central pitch seasoned by overtones  Twisselmann’s trust into loose approach to finish  leaves thought invisible and deliberately incomplete. Yet, visibility as a tool for her  thinking is prioritised.  A paradox?  Possibly – but also a hard nosed rational decision: what cannot be articulated, defined or fulfilled, can be still manipulated by appearance and movement of the performing body.

The faithfulness to the riches offered  by each segment retreating  before the next one  starts – without  exact duration and a formulated end, brings in association  with changes of seasons, with natural growth and decay changing places.

On occasion this state of a visual work of art is determined by  a force of the universe.


Gustav Klimt has died while working on this Posthumous portrait of Ria Munk III (detail), 1917 -18

Twisselmann’s take on ephemerality  has similar overtones.  She consistently violates expectation the viewer may entertain –  like Klimt, she makes us have a conscious experience of the  “making”, which is tasked to imprison  time and change and embody a promise which never manifests to our senses.  That’s perhaps, why she added to the email with the above a black and white  image of a winged soul.

It is a tenuous link – adorably capable of vanishing if you need to document it.  It is one of those you find, when you browse your old archive of images, and one of them says – hello again.

So as a farewell with this addendum here is one  visual coincidence:

Siobhan Mullan


put a bucket on her head as a warning to the power station on the far shore.  Another woman, centuries ago, wore a similar shape on her head on the way to eternity.


This is a (funerary?) copper sculpture from Mezopotamia, 3300 – 2000 BC, now  Morgan Library and Museum, NY.

The end of the Addendum to Cumulator 7





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Part 4:Cumulator 7, The Point, Groomsport, 7th July 2016: James King

James King

James King is the origin of the Cumulator series.

This time he emailed me the following text, to which I added Jordan Hutchings’s photography:

Cumulator 7     notes. July 7 th. 7.30pm – 2.30pm.

McCormick’s Point, Groomsport, Bangor, Co. Down.

This location is managed by The National Trust. 😱

Participants: Siobhan Mullen Wolf, Keike Twisslemann, Christoff Gillen, Brian Patterson, James King, Colm Clarke, Rainer Pagel.  Accompanist: Beatrice Didier, Brussels,12.00am- 7.00am.


The location was stunning.


Small grass and craggy rock islets enclosed a small bay like the perimeter of a lagoon. Wet muddy sand separated the islets from the shore, when the tide was out, as it was for our first five hours!

Then the sea came in with a rush.

crossing tide13585188_312237682451448_2262007691550025110_o


  • With pink pavement chalk drew lines upon the natural fissures of several large rocks, and also ornamented two of the rocks with found , “man-made”, rusted metal objects.


  • Placed on each rock one or two small toy cars.



  • Responded to bird noises and distant barking with woofs and tweets.


Rainer was sitting at a table, carefully painting seven stones in gold leaf.

  •   In slow motion ritually and ceremoniously carried , one at a time small cars towards him and placed the cars nearby on a patch of sand .
  • Found a few tiny flakes of gold leaf amongst the seaweed. Returned some to Rainer and held others to the air, letting them fly away in the sunlight.


  • Read aloud extracts from a poem by  Geoffrey Hill, written in stanzas of seven lines : “To Lucien Richard:On Suffering.” Repeating appropriate phrases. Eg. “The fine machinery of instinctual natures is well adjusted to the environment.”  “Perfect your chagrin- charged resignation, mute expressive glare:” “which of you is the angel? And which angel? I did not think there were angels.”

“The sea light was visionary, as it sometimes is to susceptible people.”

  • Approached Siobhan seated on rocks by a bucket of coal, which she had partially emptied. She was now using a potato peeler to methodically scrape individual lumps. She gave a small lump to the writer which he chalked white and returned. He gave her a small flake of gold leaf, which had fluttered from Rainer’s table.
  • Wearing the orange tarpaulin like a cloak, walked  in a wide circle on a large patch of sand surrounded by rocks, leaving a trail behind . Beginning at the perimeter , gradually moved inwards making slightly smaller circles .



  • Engaged with Keike ,she with blue pigment on hands, then hands to her face. She was dressed in a swimming costume with underwear on top, and short stockings on her legs. Told her a mysterious story in gibberish.


  •   Walked around the vast muddy stretch of sand between the islet and the shore, enveloped in the orange tarpaulin. Feet sunk above the ankles, making squelchy slurp sounds and leaving behind temporary foot holes. Sat on a rock and improvised abstract sounds with the recorder.


Laid out some cars on dry sand.

Played recorder to a rock upon which I had earlier chalked and ornamented with a toy car and and a found rusted metal square thing.


Crossed the torrent

Recited in gibberish and extracted words; wrote these on stones laid on the sand.

Thus.   “My lie vast she suss keep it the beast fish tan oh da ticket vast tomato”. Later having written them on the inside lid of a small suitcase (used for carrying the toy cars mentioned above), repeated the words in a variety of rhythmical arrangements accompanied by Colm banging two large nails together, and Brian on Cellotape base : we were like a skiffle group.

Numerous rearrangements of the words are possible. Eg

Vast fish tan/ ticket beast tomato/  oh-da lie my she suss/ keep it ticket tan/. Oh-da tomato vast /. The tan my lie /. Fish keep tomato ticket



I have listened to only short example of his gibberish – James came to me shook my hand and started – I asked whether he was afraid that some of his words may have a rude meaning in some other language – he responded by showing me the chalk and intoning his “gibberish”  so that I understood something like:” well Colm was able to write some down… “. On departing he pointed to the safer path for me  to walk  on, the layer of seaweed, safer in comparison with the treachery of the tide making mud turn into a sauce to drown my feet. All in his  gibberish –  fully understandable – because of the shared immediate observable contexts.   The hearing still sent signals to the brain – but the meaning was passed on to a gesture and movement and direction of the sight.


Certainly not minimalist art – not just conceptual either – reminiscent of medieval passion plays –  without shared script. Grounded in intrinsic motivation it offered the enjoyment of creating something out of what I perceived.  Whatever outcome. If so, then the outcome has not mattered – it was the creative process as an  emotionally interesting  choice of what  I made meaningful.  James King performed and did not look for the feedback, applause or  understanding.  Rather it was about play, playful openness, virtuoso control of the brain to avoid recognisable meaningful words, while presenting it as  a meaningful speech.

There were darker thoughts – associations with stories of people choosing to live on their own in the wilderness… hermits and Diogenes echoed quite  near.   King allowed the associations with a constant grit of  soft humour, pretence of assurance that  it  is not just a rehearsed Dada.  Rather, a virtuoso withdrawal to a dreamy level  layered by one man acting the whole play written for voice and orange trampoline – and a book, allowed to be held even upside down…

He commands a mastery of his craft in the full sight of the powerfully competing  nature.


Images courtesy Jordan Hutchings.

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Part 3: Cumulator 7, 7th July, 2016, The Point, Groomsport, NI, UK (Rainer Pagel)

Rainer Pagel

The following text in the Italic is verbatim Pagel’s text emailed to me after the performance, I placed Jordan Hutchings’s photographs  when they relate to his words.

My performance tried to make however small a comment on all the horrible mis- and disinformation our government saw fit to disburse or allow to be posited unchecked over the last few months.


My white coverall suit had a logo on my back, spelling  “Foreign=Sic!”, added to which I presumed to be from the  “Jobs Theft Unit”, written circularly around the misspelling of “forensic”; I also adapted the shape of the London Underground (!) signage for my logo.


The populist movement, sadly growing everywhere in Europe, is fascinated by  (pseudo-) forensics, especially those of a financial nature, as in forensic accounting: who spent how much on things considered luxuries or unnecessary public expenditure, such as orchestras, the Arts, and, of course, health and social service provision for the arch enemy of the populists: MIGRANTS!

There is currently a  useful support for Rainer Pagels’ focus on this subject – an exhibition in Paris – that an immigrant does not equal a parasite, the life and work of Picasso’s friend, the poet   Guillaume Apollinaire.

Born Wilhelm Apollinairs de Kostrowitzky in Rome in 1880, Apollinaire was the illegitimate grandson of a Polish nobleman in the service of the Pope. In France he came into writing, first in the south, where he spent his adolescence, and then in Paris, where the young poet spent the first decade of the 20th century struggling to support himself with a series of odd jobs, including as a bank teller, tabloid journalist…. accessed on


Rainer 2

Therefore my  word play with “foreign” and forensics; “sic!” one can read as the Latin “Sic!” or as the English word missing a “k” at the end; I had the Latin version in mind.


I am convinced that the migrant population in the UK, especially that from other EU countries, does contribute vastly more to the coffers of the UK than certain parties claim. (I myself have only ever needed UK state support for some six month in a 43 year long career in Northern Ireland, all the time having paid my taxes.)


My performance on 7/7/16 on Ballymccormick Point consisted of my finding a suitable place or a space for my actions at the start of the day. On what would later become an island (!), close to the other artists, I set up a folding table and chair, and placed on the table: a can of spray glue, a jar with dissolved shellac, a booklet of gold leaf, and two brushes.



Next, I scanned the ground and rocks around me.



The mainly black shale pieces made me notice that many of them were shaped like arrowheads and chevrons. I collected seven such stones and laid them out on a black piece of rubberised (non-slip) material to the left of the folding table on the ground. I also chose an almost perfectly round, 8th stone of approximately 15 cm diameter.

Rainer 2


Taking up the first of the collected stones, I applied the glue and gold leaf to it and placed it back on the black material. I continued to do this with the following stones, but after every second gilding, I applied a protective cover of shellac over the gilded stones. (Apart from Tony Hill, these days only a few local people know about shellac, its application and how to use it to create a proper French Polish. My maternal grandfather taught me the skill over many summer holidays in the 60s.)



Having gilded all eight stones, I searched for a flat area of slightly more than 7m diameter. A muddy stretch of sand behind my station suited.

Rainer 3

I placed the round gilded stone centrally and then measured 3.5m distance from it seven times, placing the gilded stones pointing outwards of the emerging circle. I roughly adjusted the distance on the perimeter of the circle between the seven gilded stones to be equal and left the circle to be submerged by the floods, perhaps to be rediscovered by passers-by on some other day. Gold, a natural element, fixed with shellac, made from the excretions of a small beetle, placed back in nature by an immigrant, to be marvelled over by the indigenous dog walkers with their dogs fouling the shore.


I then gilded seven empty limpet shells and placed them randomly in the streams close by.


My next action was to choose items, which would resemble Stone Age implements, such as axes and knives. Using a boomerang-shaped stone, I fashioned seven stone implements that could be used to cut, point, stab, mark, scrape, score and write. It would have been my intention to gild them, as the other objects and leave them in the rocks, however, the tide changed my plans, and the rest of my performance became concerned with the rescue (small “r” only) of my fellow artists and looking after their physical needs (food).

crossing tide13585188_312237682451448_2262007691550025110_o

Looking back, I am pleased with the outcome of seven artists (or 8, as we know now) spending seven hours on a day supposedly loaded with other references to the number 7. The tide surprised us all, and for me, made an interval (the food session) necessary.


My only criticism would be that the underlying idea of 1 in 1, 2 over 2, 3 over 3, etc did not have much more than the increasing numbers of artists and hours in common. I am not sure if James can spot a “red thread” of performance action throughout the year, once it finishes.


My dilemma throughout was to decide whether I was making a performance in parallel to six others, or if we were all constituent part of a greater whole. Apart from some interventions from Keike, my work happened in parallel to that of the others.


I also witnessed some of the other artists interacting with each other from time to time, much in the vane of  Bbeyond’s monthlies.

I only made my work a shared action, when I left the gilding part of my performance and focused on nourishing and feeding the group.

All in all a great day and a wonderful experience.


12 July 2016


Rainer’s verbal contribution is self – sufficient in relation to the actions he chose to make. It could exist as a “Do-It” scenario.   My seeing some of it makes for multiple and perhaps conflicting points of interest in the gravity of the emerging paradox as it reveals deep unrest and unconfessed torment.

The visual, esp. lettering, extended the action into the realm of socio-political context,  which will not escape people with classical grammar school education.   Not known how many of the men and women walking their dogs  in the same area where the seven artists performered would have noted it.  For me – the word play foreign /forensic/sic  burned into my attention on the first look.  The white overall expelled it out of its own surgically  neutral sameness on the red and black rays of the hues.

The  bon vivant hospitality (food) and handmade labouring with gold( painting it on stones)  were repeatedly  pierced by the words he wore.  In a clash that stayed  accessible to the sight and uncontrolled.  Not unlike the migration of people in Europe and into Europe.

The gilding of found natural forms, stones, opens another subtext: he refers to it by refuting the accusation that people not born here are a burden for those indigenous ones. Gold on stone is a paradox, both gifts of nature, parts of the universe, their equality disabled by people judging gold as highly desirable, and stones as too plentiful to have much  value. Yet – a house of stone is superior for living in –  to that  would be made of gold.  To get gold out of the ground people poison soil and water. To get stone – they cut, disfigure  and wound hills  and pollute the air. Both have to be uprooted from the place where nature deposited them, to make each to work inside our hierarchy of values.  And that’s the point – examine, analyse and change the current hierarchy of values to minimise harm.  Pagel joins both gold and stone into one – and leaves them near where he found them.  On the island, accessible only at the low tide. A simile for a “low-tide hierarchy of values”  – as in words of Schumacher “Small is beautiful” or Buckminster -Fuller’s insistence that design has to make sure that  people share resources….

Judging quality of people by their racial, social, national origin  and not by what they do, how they live and support lives of others, is a paradox.  How to solve it?  Refutation of the belief that one nationality is above another, one race is below another – should be accessible to most.  The ease – with which Pagel selects stones and shells – as equal, as similar, as capable of accepting the adornment by the precious gold without losing their original values. They carry the weight of gold -effortlessly.  A lesson for us? A classical theme.  My interest is thus anchored  in the reciprocal interplay between objects and thoughts –  person’s  and their right to be.  This is a traditional thought: Leonardo thinks of  the visual as rays that both penetrate the depth of what is seen and bounce back gazing out  from what is seen.

Tristan Tzara, in parallel fashion, claimed that the hope of Dada was to strike two contradictory elements together – to forge a previously unrelated similarity. Gold and stone stand as a metaphor for hierarchy between autochthonous and strange (etranger). A similar concern appears in a number of works of art after the WWI – e.g. Marino Marini suggests that we combine “disparate images”  and discover “hidden analogies”.

Pagel’ performance is sensitive to the possibility of re-occurance of  the forces that led to conflict.  His call is for whichever way people will improve communication and transformation away from inherited bias.

And no – he does not prescribe how to condense energy needed for that transformation. This  performance hails  common ancestors: some stones  picked up, looked like stone age axes, the brushing shellac over the gold in the way  medieval journeymen  learnt from one another, while listening to Troubadours and Minnesingers.  The gilded stones are left by this immigrant as a gift to others, as a lament for understanding.

Images Jordan Hutchings












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Part 2:CUMULATOR 7 on 7th July 2016 at The Point. Groomsport,NI, UK (Siobhan Mullen Wolfe)


Siobhan Mullen Wolfe


Siobhan  Mullan emailed me the following:

Cumulator 7

Performance – 7 Artists

  • Time: 7 hours
  • Materials :Boiler suit, hand-crafted chair, potato peeler, aluminium bucket filled with raw coal and remains of burnt ash of financial records.
  • Actions: Continuous peeling of lumps of coal, walking to shoreline with bucket of coal balanced on head at intervals of approx 1/2 hour. Breathing with the rising tide.
  • Site: Ballymacormick point: ASSI, Intertidal communities, rare communities and species, breeding colony for Arctic Tern.
  • Sightline: Kilroot Power Station, Antrim basalt escarpment (eocene period), Belfast Lough, peripheral vision of the actions of 6 fellow artists.


The performance actions are site responsive, labour intensive, transitive by encounter, exploring value systems, labour practices and models of power.

3 days later, I wake to excruciating pain in my neck and back – body responsive to the performance. My finely balanced frame has been knocked off its axis by the actions in the performance.


The co-existence of coal and ashes of financial records  inside an aluminium bucket  are both timely reminder of climate change and needs for sustainable energy, made particular  and site specific by the artist facing the sightline to the Kilroot power station that used coal in the past, is using gas at present, and, is slowly/hesitantly  moving to the sustainable renewables.

The performance was centred visually on the  physical, on eroding the body’s energy,  punishingly ending in pain.  The physical was allowed to lose.  Two of the images appear to me locking in themselves two important ideas:  something that is continuous and something that has ancestry.

The continuity of existence is treated as connectivity between the natural world and human species,  while not denying differences, insisting on similarities: the need to be in an environment that allows for future generations, be it people or Arctic Tern. (image courtesy:


Sharing her breathing with the sea waves Mullan signifies belonging  to the same life supporting system as the bird. Her silent, nonintrusive performance exudes respect for the area she works in.  As Naomi Klein warned – the need for fossil fuels sacrifice the area were it is found. The industry is damaging  to the  environment that already supports life, advancing  the belief that fossil fuels are necessary for supporting life.  Indeed,the 20th C Western culture  established that  so swell, that many people believe it is  inevitable.

Mullan looks back  for how to be an ancestor- to tribal societies- she uses as a token, the link to the mode of carrying a load on their heads.


She looks in the direction of the power station – holding the coal and ashes of the money documents -not advancing just accusing quietly – or questioning ?… or holding it back ?H Naomi Klein  asks that we become “good ancestors” by making sure that fossil deposits are left in the ground for the future generation’s use, which could be better than just burning them as we do.

Mullen highlights two strategies:  become a good ancestor and seek alternative sources of sustainable energy.

Hers is not a shortsighted  campaign – it is a moral decision.  Her performance insists on sharing, caring and practical wisdom. Even if she includes  dadaist disregard for protecting herself against damp and cold and the sheer fatigue of the ongoing labour.

She leaves no physical traces  of her being there, working there. The environment was not hurt or degraded.

A symbolist poet of the early 20th C  spoke of trees  as brotherhoods kneeling to pray for the future. Watching Mullan’s performance made me focus on the ambient peace surrounding her as  if saying something in unisono with her. Silently.


Images courtesy of Jordan Hutchings.






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Part 1:CUMULATOR 7 -0n 7th July 2016 at The Point, Groomsport, NI, UK (Twisselmann and Clarke)

On the of July 2016  seven performance artists  worked for 7 hours at The Point, Bangor, Co Down: James King, Brian Patterson, Christoff Gillen, Rainer Pagel, Colm Clarke, Siobhan Mullen Wolf and Keike Twisselmann. I watched for slightly over an hour only.  I start with a former postgraduate of MFA at the Ulster University, living at present in Berlin and Belfast.


keike on a bike13442644_1339355206080268_7898845460452917562_o

She is bike racing driver.

A painter:


Keike Twisselmann, Six Doors (detail door number 6)

Keike: ..these 6 doors – from darkness to light – (6 canvas frames in door size 80 X 200 cm each) were done between 1995 and 1996/7 – most of them in one go, plus some additions…

six doors 13113038_1310584018957387_8423249962551900827_o

Later on, around 2000, a friend of my mother who saw them in Germany said to her, that these where just like those creatures he saw (!) when he was in a coma, clinically dead – and the creatures made an almost unbearable shrieking high sound…this I found so interesting, that I keep asking people who had a a near death state experience, whether they had a similar experience and a de-ja vu seeing the painting…I recall one girl visitor to my studio at an open studio show in 2007, where I had displayed them running out of my studio, saying, she could not bear them! Hm…(I was nearly dead after drowning when I was 3 years old, but I can recall nothing, just a complete temporary loss of memory) OK that’s the story about experiencing the painting…


…it had always been turned down for exhibition proposals in the past, but Dr Thomas Maier, a literature lecturer, who curated the Orpheus exhibition in Kleve for me last year (he passed away in December 2015) was besotted by it! (you have the catalogue & are in it with your essay!)

Twisselmann is also a translator and performance artist.


Slavka: The panorama of some artists and water and the sad sky

Siobhan Mullen Wolfe - Copy - Copy

Siobhan,Keike, Colm, Brian...

– after the drama of the tide coming up,

Three of them

must appear to you all quite soothing..

Christoff Gillen

.although Christopher screamed a lot…

Slavka: I wonder if you would like to email me a few sentences about your own concept of performance. For ex. do you act a persona (costume, attributes)?


Keike: the look at wild flowers piece was your spontaneous explementary performance! …the spectator becoming the enactor facilitated through the lens of my video camera…I will give you my thoughts on my own performance work…I’ve started writing an automatic writing piece on that already, but it’s less “practical like your questions and drifts off into the philosophical beyond too much, so I think you can help me keeping grounded with these questions! 
Slavka: except that including me in any manner ruins the 7x7on7th of 7th – the idea behind the cumulator… once you start including the audience you take responsibility for them – so my turning away from the Cumulator as planned by James diminishes its concept, diminishes the role of concept, diminish the aura of authorship – to name just few negative results.
I noted touches of surrealism ( Brian lighting a lighter under the umbrella)
of Dada – ( e.g. Sinead sitting on the chair in the sea)
, romanticism ( you sitting on your own against the vast horizon)
 cognitive bias ( with Colm Clarke)
, incongruity of urban against rural ( Christoffer)
, superior control of the language centre in the brain oh with what ease and mastery ( James King )
– dry rationality of a clearly defined aim at a magic moment (Rainer) ..
.As for your statement –
– you mentioned autism once – maybe that is what you focus on? But there is of course your willowy appearance – feminine principle – different for your older performances with bicycle, torn tights, dishevelled appearance of a rebel… you shifted social concern -= from the narrative surface into the aesthetic impact – which is like painting. etc etc
Keike: yes! but the cruel thing about abusing you into it in this respect was outweighed by your charming appearance – I’m sorry for “using” you as the willing and only voluntary audience that day as an “object of wisdom and desire” ! REALLY am !!!
 seeing you appearing around the corner, when we had our “Russian Camp” , was like a revelation to art!

SAT 09:46

Slavka:If there is anything to forgive – it is “automatically done” – I am interested in the necessary differences between art/performance art/ life. It may seem a petty interest – but the deterioration of performance art globally calls for an honest appraisal about that “art” bit. Hence my concern – oh, and I hate being photographed… but that’s a private issue.

Keike: SAT 19:38

Choosing a fragment of life to use as an “object of wisdom and desire” to be transformed into art, the performance artist acts like a “LICHTMASCHINE” (“light machine” = generator) to create the sparks, energy, electricity – this requires skill, experience and the utmost of concentration…like compressing a piece of coal into a diamond…
Slavka:Your use of Lichtmaschine remind me of Moholy Nagy – his needed electricity to work…
 What skills would transform a fragment of being into art ?
Keike: Hm! Interesting! Have to look this up! the electricity is generated BY the artists as the “alchemist” and Licht-maschine..
Keike:to create art is like running an engine: air = inspiration, petrol = fragments of life/flux which are chosen by the artist as “objects of wisdom and desire” and the spark from the artist as Lichtmaschine – the skill is to keep the right balance to keep the compression of the engine, tune it for performance (!) … hmm…something like that…
Slavka:Jordan just sent me 90 images. Did you appear in white holding the sabre and having your head wrapped in some dark fabric? I feel it is you, but …
Keike: yes, I blindfolded myself to cut Rainer’s birthday cake with Michael’s sabre…
Slavka:May I quote some of your thinking ?
Keike: yes of course!
here is me on No 67 “Back in Black” – Michael and I completely rebuild her in December (life) I raced her before that (performance)
Keike racing13625146_1358260367523085_1982369821_n
Slavka: I recall that you thought of it as performance – is it OK to mention that ?
Keike: yes! whenever you are riding a motorbike, you mentally are almost in a similar “zone” of high concentration, focus, purpose and AWARE of your environment as you would be in an action of performance art…
my favourite quote was something like “within a second on a fast motorbike you live more than some people in a lifetime” I’ll have to dig out the correct quote and author…
Slavka: I like that comparison – it helps me to make my argument…

FRI 15:10

Keike:Hm -it didn’t ruin or water down the concept! James said, an artist from Brussels, Beatrice Didier, had done a parallel 7 hour performance in Brussels for us on her own, so there were already 8, plus Jordan and his camera, 9, the woman dog walker who fell into the water, 10 and you 11 ! – and that doesn’t count the seagulls, crabs, sea spiders, fish, stones and rocks – and, of course, the sea!!! – so the 7 performance artists chose in a way who and when there was a contribution! That’s REALLY working with your environment – an invisible performance!!! –
But please don’t get confused! My own approach to performance art is very, very open to situations and environments. I enjoy “zipping about” from fellow performer to fellow performer in a group performance and gently tie myself in with their action…Artur Tajber had a chat with me over 20 years ago in the art college when he was over and came to the conclusion, that I was “out there”, outside of FLUXUS…I called it Neo Fluxus at the time but now, I’m not even tying that one down…
Keike: …hm, I think, when the social concern grows more into an all-encompassing global concern, it may be less visible and poignant in a performance – the most important aim with group performances for me is the “sketch” aspect (e.g. Brian Patterson’s actions – trial wipe out error, try again approach) and the “invisible” environment and potential contributors to my action – the clothes are part of the approach and mood to an action, not a persona…

FRI 19:45

Slavka: I am still objecting to your appropriation of an observer non artist into performance art as a spontaneous performance – what do you think of the will to do a performance? Is it not necessary? I was an observer on my free will, and i was not doing performance as my free will not to do it. Do you think another artist has a right to include me against my will and intention? I think of art as a particular freedom, and this kind of domination worries me, even if it is offered by a charming good person like you. Do you think intention to do art, make art matters?

FRI 23:48


PS the British Army leg protectors are from Michael’s grandad from the 1st World War (he went to all those ghastly places including the Somme – this is 100 years later and they fit me like a glove, because he, Michael and I have the same shape of calves!!! – the jacket is from a friend’s US cousin who went to Vietnam with it! – two pointless wars all dressed up in one?)

Gesine Garz Amazing image and story!



The main thesis of Twisselmann’s take on performance art is akin to alchemy. She aims to transform a fragment of life into art.  So to perform fuses with to transform.  What if a given transformation does not change the fragment of lived experiences into anything else? The above illustrates – a fragment of lived experience.  Why does it have to become art? Is life less than art?  Is a thoughtful (or not) response to a stimuli less than art?  Are skills for living less than art skills?  The contemporary performance art raises these question with greater urgency as it becomes more commonplace. It still fits Benedetto Croce’s definition of art as experience – both the experience of the person performing and experience of the person observing the performance.  Twisselmann respects these difficulties – by doing/performing  “lived episodes” in a whimsical dadaist order that allows her freedom of exaggeration of any living experience as well as a dead pan direct living experience: Cutting Rainer’s birthday cake with a sabre…  racing a motorbike.  She performs for audience that is not there – that’s the friendly absurd encroaching over her transformations.






is a sculptor in love with the gracefulness of geometry and  logic….the Greek “moira” – a measure. is perhaps the overarching value  connecting his oeuvre.  His performances are tightly planned, faithfully delivered , deadly serious.



Coincidentally, this morning a reminder of the difference in how we treat logic and morality dropped into my inbox.  In an abstract  to  Jack Woods :Mathematics, Morality, and Self-Effacement, it reads:

“I argue that certain species of belief, such as mathematical, logical, and normative beliefs, are insulated from a form of Harman-style debunking argument whereas moral beliefs, the primary target of such arguments, are not. Harman-style arguments have been misunderstood as attempts to directly undermine our moral beliefs. They are rather best given as burden-shifting arguments, concluding that we need additional reasons to maintain our moral beliefs. If we understand them this way, then we can see why moral beliefs are vulnerable to such arguments while mathematical, logical, and normative beliefs are not—the very construction of Harman-style skeptical arguments requires the truth of significant fragments of our mathematical, logical, and normative beliefs, but requires no such thing of our moral beliefs. …..But we can cleanly doubt the truth of morality.” (accessed on


For Harman’s argument this is a trusted account:

“The Harman/Sturgeon debate is complex and widely misunderstood. (See Tropman 2013.) Harman’s ultimate position is not that there are no moral facts; indeed, he explicitly asserts “there is empirical evidence that there are (relational) moral facts” (1977: 132). His intention is to issue a challenge: that those who believe in moral facts owe skeptics a plausible account of how the moral facts that are cited in realist explanations (e.g., concerning depravity and injustice) relate to those non-moral facts that seem otherwise adequate to explain any phenomena. This account must also clarify how we enjoy epistemic access to these moral facts and why they seem of such practical importance to us. (my emphasis) Harman suspects that such an account (which he calls a “ reduction”) may in fact be forthcoming (see his 1986: 65), but the point relevant to our current purposes is his contention that the believer in moral facts has extra work to do in order to establish her position; thus this may be interpreted as an attempt establish a burden of proof.” (accessed on



Clarke  charges his art with a burden of proof – at times by transgressing to verbal translation of the visible. His texts walk on the edge between logic and poetry, the epistemic access, even his  statement, emailed to me, skids  happily into that partnership:

The work I made on Thursday was a material led experimentation and processes-  a sort of continuation from my studio practise. So I suppose what would be most apt for my statement would be an ingredients list as to what I used.

rubber mallet
cordless drill
bearhunter folding knife
folding utility knife
climbing rope (2m)
tuning forks x4
red woodworking grip clamps x4
35mm stainless steel screws- x24
assorted lengths of (1×1) planed timber x6
Bluetooth speaker
MP3 – Adam Curtis – The Power of Nightmares
MP3 – Adam Curtis – The Century of Self 
MP3 – John Zerzan – Modernity and the Technosphere
MP3 – Aphex Twin –  Selected Ambient Works Vol 2.







DSC_9919 - Copy



















Not once-  the carefully movable structure rested into a hexagon – the perfect shape preferred by bees and universe.  So the burden for the aesthetic proof lies not in the “most perfect” – even not in most responsive to any context – it is forged by  the curiosity and instant checking up if it supports another short lived existence. The see-through linear object is more willing to sit on the ground than fly like a kite.  Held like his it is content to be a scribble in the air.  An experiment how to hold on, even if briefly,  to the  variants  of  the  man made ephemeral.


Images courtesy Jordan Hutchings

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Victories are shortlived – Golden Thread Gallery, Belfast, 23.06.16 – 13.08.16

20160628-Golden-Thread-005 - Copy

Milena Bonilla, An Enchanted Forest, HD video 2013- 2014; on the wall: 16 A4 prints Photo: Simon Mills

Milena Bonilla (b 1975, Bogota, Columbia) tracks a “no man land” between Germany and Czech Republic – a residuum of the Cold War  between Soviet Union and the West. Where used to be an electric fence for almost half a century, the red deer developed genetic differences and memory of the fence, treating it as  if it were still there after being removed, following the so called Velvet Revolution in 1989.  Visually – the lengthy reading of the sky while “walking  the camera” in that strip of land is unduly given dominant role.

The damning message is that human conflicts impact on innocent nature, an unwelcome and not considered “aftermath of the conflict”.


It being  communicated in words, not through medium of the video , raises question about suitability of the media, or poverty of creative insights. It appears that the intention blinded the process of translation of the knowledge and experience into the visual realm.  Not the case with still images… they win hands down… the beauty of nature is superior.

Even so, it is fits the curator’s object ( gallery handout, p1):

“The fundamental premise of the exhibition Victories are Short-lived  is to provoke discussion and reflection  on both psychological and phenomenological aftermath of conflict”

Ouch. Pleonasmus or …? Phenomenology subsumes psychological processes…


  1. 1:  the study of the development of human consciousness and self-awareness as a preface to or a part of philosophy

     2(1) :  a philosophical movement that describes the formal structure of the objects of awareness and of awareness itself in abstraction from any claims concerning existence   2(2) :  the typological classification of a class of phenomena <the phenomenology of religion>b :  an analysis produced by phenomenological investigation

     As  a philosophy or method of inquiry based on the premise that reality consists of objects and events as they are perceived or understood in human consciousness and not of anything independent of human consciousness, the method is appropriate both to the cognition and art.

To the extent to which “psychological” is also  a reality – the distinction in the opening sentence is hollow.   Let us put that aside, for a while – and focus on the visible, what the exhibition makes visible.

20160628-Golden-Thread-002 - Copy (2)


To my great delight, the display is extraordinary in its impact on feeling free, good, and tolerant.  Those values will be precious in any conflict, or aftermath of one. They also gently define what may be perceived as ” a victory”.   The video shows the map where the electric fence divided the animal kingdom.  Shiro Masuyama redrew the map of the deer movement  on a larger scale – indicating the “memory” of the dangerous boundary, approached, but never crossed.  It works as a simile for human behaviour. Once we perceive a person as a danger –  the avoidance becomes the preferred action.


Cecily Brennan(b 1955), Snag, 2015, film, 3 mins


Cecily Brennan  filmed a dancer Cindy Cummings, falling repeatedly. Brennan’s instructions, I have read in the gallery  hand out,   aimed at falling freely, forgetting any learned restraint, highlighting loss of control.  The words spoken over the actions,  have not enhanced the visual perception of this viewer.


Deliberate hurt is difficult to tolerate – well, impossible.  Luckily – all throughout, I felt the dancer  could take the falls, and hard hitting the ground, in her stride. The clash between the artist’s intention  to achieve an “act of abandonment”  and the speed and willingness of the dancer to go on, insinuated a hidden, parallel,  thought: of the clash between the desire for happy  and peaceful life and the  heroic risk of injury and death in conflicts. For whatever reason.

The singularity of personal decision is limited by the inevitability of death.  That is the ultimate “short-lived” – whatever.  Subject  of the Water process  by Elvira Santamaria Torres(b 1967)


Elvira Santamaria -Torres (b 1967), Death mask, Parable VII, series 2, Water process, 21 August 2015. Art Process -photography Collection, Colombia

Coming out of the darkened room after watching the dancer felling and hitting ground, the next view is of the above large image on the opposite wall.  A complete opposite. Silent, the scale just under the real dimensions, forging an illusion of greater distance of the eye from the seen.  Superbly displayed to make the whole instantly understood.  And then the details are stepping up their clutter, or giving out their secret. I have not noticed the death mask where i expected the the hair flow,  until I stood nearer the surface.  The waste of it all. The diagonal composition facilitates both the flow and the stasis – unfathomable  depth and busy surface. The opposing truths do not lose their conviction, they just create a new one: that the opposition is the truth.


Left Dismembering; Right Rapid Flow. Both part of Parable VII, series 2, 21 August 2015



The narrative and emotional impact of a detail   could have fallen prey to the sensational horror  of dismembering –  instead, it softens the possible terror by not masking the living tissue, skin, foot, still moving toes…  She – life- is in control.


Parable VII, series 2, Water process, 21 August 2015


The display was particularly supportive of the viewer.  Airy space,  correct amount of light, well placed images, all of it  invited contemplative focusing on each, both  the fragments of nature and fragments of actions.  It gently provoked participatory aesthetic togetherness, as if evoking the precaution principle.


Images courtesy Golden Thread Gallery, Belfast.

Installation photography: Simon Mills.

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Shahar Marcus: King of Falafel, video 2016

To make a falafel in the space above our atmosphere/ stratosphere,  erect a kiosk on the Moon to make it  is a grotesque amusement.  No wonder, it associates with the view on grotesque as rural amusement as recognised by William Wright in 1790.  The Moon is a special case of rural.  Falafel a special case of food drenched in history.  Both the falafel and the grotesque   have medieval roots, blossoming across national and cultural boundaries, at least in eleven different communities in the Middle East.

To take Falavel of  Iraqi Jewish Community in Baghdad and expand the business into the universe is unnecessary, unrewarding, useless. Touching Dada aesthetics, the narrative  constructs  the frame of incongruence  between a thin rational thought and a flood of irrational clashes. He loses the map for the Perfect Spot  when responding to his Mum’s call –  descends into despair, is told to switch to manual navigation, sneezes, and  as by a storm like force is taken away ending in a centre of a crater. The lens zooms on his laying body, partly  buried in the dust. He awakes,  and, magically,  sees the Perfect Spot  marked with a flag nearby.  Using his own survival kit, he disconnects his own oxygen supply to inflate the kiosk – butka.  Shows the sacrifice – like a proper hero- holding his breath while inflating the King of Falafel Kiosk. Out of nowhere, dishes with ingredients are at hand to start making the falafel.  The parody of control instructing the astronaut is well crafted:

“Commence music protocol”

“Proceed to pita preparation

Marcus ,do you read me. Do not overload, do not overload

I think we have lost the salad

Marcus, Tahina first, I repeat Tahina first. “

At this point the humour takes over before the decrescendo of reality kicks in : he holds the final product apart form his body as an offering – but there is nobody to take it.  He cannot eat that food either being sealed in the protective gear.  The end cannot escape a tragic discord  with all that enthusiasm of achievement.  The tradition crafted over centuries by more than eleven different cultural groups of people – is about to be wasted.

This humanistic pessimism about food and techology  is released with calm wisdom – no drama, rather a nod to philosophy  and ethics of sustainability.

It is therefore of interest to note that at present is the video is a part of exhibition “Things to Come” curated by Doreet LeVitte Harten (, from 14/04 0 20/08 2016). It is introduced thus:

Science fiction is a relatively new field that deals with the impact of imagined science and technology upon society and individuals. It is a controlled way to think and dream about the future, which at the same time reflects the values of the culture in which it is produced. It is through science fiction that existing social desires, cultural aspirations, and political and technological patterns manifest themselves. The imagined vision of the future speaks volumes about the present, and is always also anchored in the past.

As part of the exhibition ‘Things to Come’, Marcus exhibits his work “King of Falafel”. It is a continuation of Marcus’s video works that deal with Israeli cultural symbols, manifested by various food rituals. The current work takes place on the moon and depicts a fictional event – the opening of a new falafel stand. 

The text   is loose enough to work as an umbrella concept for any visual art that imaginatively alters science or technology, including this humorous parody on “globalisation of business – outside the globe”…Touching on a satire – the artist holds the last frame on the level of realization of limits.


He performs to a  camera –  in intractably particular asymmetry of ordinary – he on the Earth and in pretended space attire – the narrative centred on the Moon without an atmosphere and lot of dust.  And sudden wind that takes the map into -as-if- air…The asymmetry is accessible to senses of the viewer of the video – deepening the cognitive bias that the story is not compatible with life, unless it is art. Which it is, so it is gets off that hook.

The ending on the note of recognition, conscious judgement –  lets this video into the category of morality plays, even though the artist cannot be accused of moralising. Too light touch of his is incongruous with negative judgement in the view of all the humorous and attractive features.    While elliptical, it flows reasonably well to stay fresh until the end.

It is like amba just of the right consistency, carefully borrowed  from ancient Assyria, and optional for the modern falafel. As the control says to Marcus:

Initiate Amba protocol

Amba level is fine.

Marcus, this is a crucial pita. We are all in your hand






King of Falafel

The fully equipped astronaut ( Marcus) seeks the  “Best Location”.


Link to video and image courtesy of the artist.





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Leo Devlin at Golden Thread Gallery, Belfast, 2nd June- 9th July 2016

Devlin titled this exhibition  of drawings, sculpture and a video, TODAY I WROTE NOTHING.

It works like an answer to a curator who requires “socially engaged art to literally articulate responses, messages of change”. For Devlin, writing is an altar to an unknown god, an empty pedestal, he will do without. He goes for a “manifest image”, summary of parts of visual thinking as given by the visible object, but not reduced to it.


Untitled, 2016, installation


A statement that writing is of little or no relevance to  a visual art, a soft  attack on the ubiquitous of verbal elements or long texts  in  a small layer of contemporary Western art.  I hasten to add – that illuminated manuscripts nurtured co-habitation of the verbal and visual on the same page  thousands years ago for centuries. A cultural habit picked up by How to-  manuals and other educational illustrated books since 16th C until the present.  Devlin minimises the expectation that art must educate and to explain how it does it.  The paradox lies between the unnecessary demand and the stoic acceptance that it is expected.  I find it both humorous and critical.

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On the far wall  a row of circular  bas reliefs forms a sculptural installation. Calm and  dark. On closer examination these are not glass top boxes… Devlin told me he cut the bottom off silver teapots with the actual sediment untouched.


Cultural habit of polishing silver clean  has been replaced by Devlin with  craft skills. He cut, sanded, polished and engraved those little slivers of metal that act as a frame.  The en face material holds its own history – silently, visually, without words. At times,  Devlin drew inside the tiny vessels, treating the tea sediment as a ground. Treasured provocation of the viewer’s imagination sparingly thoughtfully placed inside the past use of the teapot. Multiple re-occurances (Nietzsche)  jell into a velvety layer  of a stilled life.


Still life generates imagery for the large drawing triptych, partly abstract, partly hyper-realistic. ( At first I thought the gloves were photographs digitally printed over the drawn ground)

drawings 1

Ground, 2016, Graphite on Fabriano paper, 140 x

The three motifs in each hold their meaning to themselves. The ground drawn directionally allows a belief of shallow depth embracing the incomprehensible see -through lighting objects and full illusion of a pair of gloves hanging in the air.

drawings triptych


drawings 2


There is a hand inside one of them!  Devlin’s humour again.  The free faux cubist analysis of a lamp is a legitimate, if confusing ingredient. His command of both edge to edge abstraction and realistic trompe l’oeil impresses me.

I have known him as a performance artist of high international standard deft with mixes of various modernist takes on the autonomy of art.



Consequently – the videoed performance accessible on the monitor ( some 14 mins)  revived my memories.  Useless act. This is different.  First of all he performs to a camera attached to a drone piloted by his partner, an  artist herself.  The intentional distancing of his authorship of an idea from how it is made into an art object, proposes a departure from modernist tradition of author’s aura – into an almost medieval anonymity.  It wants to belong to the anonymous root of the “history” it wishes to document. Devlin’s trust in the machine for as long as the battery last,  is not complete, as the drone is piloted by a person with rich visualising power.


Devlin snakes his  body over a pavement with a single green plant stem in one of his hands, facing the ground.  At times the camera reads it as climbing up. Devlin thinks of his wriggling his body over the ground , with insecure meaning of its history, as of a dialogue about surface, material and function. (Gallery handout)


The video is not evoking one’s openness – it turns too much inwards. However, it revives an older theory model of “engram”, the physically recorded memory of seeing and with what insights. Devlin’s.  And as a secondary variant, mine, when I  watched him seeing the ground as seen by the lens on the drone.  Quite a few removes from the real pavement.



Images courtesy Leo Devlin.

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Angelo Garoglio -ways of seeing

Rondanini in Milan640271395

Allure of autonomy and self-respect in the presence of Michelangelo’s Pieta Rondanini (1555 – 1564, marble 195 cm H, in castello Storzesco, Milan) govern the light and angle 0f Garoglio’s   meditative looking at it through a lens.

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Italy’s 20th C art devoted special introspection to speed, with  notable exceptions.Giorgio Morandi inspected surfaces of body or objects in a slow rhythm, slow  art  capable of recording not only the insecurity of seeing, but also of the materiality of paint. This becomes clearer on comparison of attentiveness between Claesz and Morandi.


A Banquet Piece by Pieter Claesz courtesy Getty Centre online

On the screen it offers an illusion of being lens based image. The brushstrokes are driven beneath the last layer of varnish.  Not so Morandi.

Giorgio Morandi, Still Life, 1931, oil on canvas, 42 x 42 cm PC copyright ARS NY

Giorgio Morandi, Still Life, 1931, oil on canvas, 42 x 42 cm PC copyright ARS NY

The image is so distant from  the Dutch acuity of vision that your eye may hesitate as to what is seen. It is physically recorded memory of looking, seeing, observing, forgetting, correcting, rather that recording of details of each object. Morandi cloaks them into soft gestures  of divided brushstrokes deliberately failing to enclose each from inside a decisive outline.

This ability of light to dissolve accuracy has been a tool of choice of many artists, including Garoglio:


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Garoglio found his own kind of “puro-visibilita” (Roberto Longhi’s term) to freeze his insights into seeing Michelangelo’s sculptures.

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Browsing through Garoglio’s images of Pieta Bandini (below)  by Michelangelo approximates the eye movement over the group in situ. First a Wikipedia image of the whole noting the departures from correct scale of each body.


Intensity of the feeling is transmitted both by framing/ cutting off (not possible in normal viewing)  and by bleaching highlights. Strategy well rehearsed in Baroque art all over Europe resonates with modernist fragmenting of the whole to make present the uncertainty of sensual perception. The battle between finite and indefinite,conviction and illusion,gentleness and fear, all combine to project an idea chiselled into marble.  A paradox between the search for exact knowledge and blurry  data. Michelangelo’s brilliance saturates Garoglio’s sensual travel.


brought in a sentence cited by Italo Calvino from Giacomo Leopardi:

“…night makes objects blurred, the mind receives only a vague, indistinct. incomplete image, both of night itself and of what it contains.Thus also with  oscurita (darkness) profondo(deep)”  (Six memos for the next Millenium:58)




Garoglio gives exact an meticulous attention to minute definition of details framing the view in degree of vagueness driving the sight to travel away and back to stay a witness to both terribilita and exactitude. The last one developing frivolous plays of freedom from anatomy to anchor the subject in unshaken belief.



In an earlier Pieta, now in St Peter, Vatican. Michelangelo enlarged the body of Mary so that it can support the body of Christ so that if she were to stand up, her height would be out of acceptable scale.

Pieta at St Peter Vasari wrote:

” Here is perfect sweetness in the expression of the head, harmony in the joints and attachments of the arms, legs, and trunk, and the pulses and veins so wrought, that in truth Wonder herself must marvel that the hand of a craftsman should have been able to execute so divinely and so perfectly, in so short a time, a work so admirable; and it is certainly a miracle that a stone without any shape at the beginning should ever have been reduced to such perfection as Nature is scarcely able to create in the flesh.”

Garoglio savours the impossibility of anchoring any “view” as the one capable of defining the whole. Hence his images “rain” on us reminiscent of Dante’s “…poi piovve dentro a l’alta fantasia…”( Calvino’ translation: then rained down into the high fantasy,op.cit.81)






Vasari noted that Michelangelo began to work on the sculpture  known as Florentine or Bandini Pieta around the age of 72. Without commission, Michelangelo worked tirelessly into the night with just a single candle to illuminate his work.  Garoglio approximates that light for his lens by modern means.


Garoglio’s art  focuses on visual perception as both  the subject and  the process trusting the lens to make each movement of his observing  eye  visiting and revisiting  the given  work of art – stationary and stabilised and certain.  A sincere subversion by admission that each framed  view is a part of a whole  not ever visible at once gives his art a seal of approval. It also offers revelations easily missed in situ.

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Black and white photographs courtesy Angelo GAROGLIO.

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Martin Boyle at GTG Belfast, 28.04 – 11.06 2016

The framed image was taking on my phone, which quickly led me to film the scene. I wanted to use the image to implicate further myself in the scene. The image was printed out Black & white and manipulated by hand instead of digitally. (Martin Boyle email to me)

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The gallery 2  has focused on visibility and otherness – both courtesy of lens and light. Canto 28 comes to mind, when Beatrice tells Dante: ….”delight in the measure of depth to which their sight can penetrate the truth… From this it may be seen, beatitude itself is based on the act of seeing.”

Martin Boyle the screen view

Not only the poetry of the real is evoked, it is made to be tangible, present, testable. Sitting on the bench and watching the image of trees while sensing the leaves on the floor all in the unisono golden  light  is a direct encounter with the lived reality, which Martin  Boyle photographed in Japan.  He has emailed me his notes on this:

Chain Reaction

Video Installation

Video footage captured on a busy walk-way in Tokyo, Japan. In this footage continuous passers-by stop in their tracks to capture the beauty of the autumn leaves using their camera phones, before quick moving on again. The peacefulness of the scene is disrupted by people quickly shuffling past, forcing the camera to constantly refocus on the trees.The fabric of the curtain was selected for the title ‘Sun Yellow’ as a lead into the installation. The leaves were individually preserved this autumn by replacing the water with a glycerin solution, so they will potentially last forever. I left the cardboard box in which they where stored as part of the installation as an admission to the staged installation I was placing the viewer in.

The framed image was taking on my phone, which quickly led me to film the scene. I wanted to use the image to implicate further myself in the scene. The image was printed out Black & white and manipulated by hand instead of digitally.

Even in his direct prosaic statement  Martin Boyle  presents  “beauty of the autumn leaves” “peacefulness of  the scene” as values in themselves.   The  moving people (the seeing Others)  disrupt the camera’s “seeing” and   Boyle needs  “to constantly re-focus on the trees”.  The artist takes on a responsibility described by Nietzsche as “repairing the world”.The viewing of the trees is shareable. The large projection of the video imitates that condition.  The actual leaves on the floor stimulate the association with touch, and the sitting bench with refocusing on the trees. In that sense the installation approximates the act of seeing  present at the birth of this art, and stands as a correspondence to that truth (in the meaning given to correspondence theory by Charles Baudelaire).

Installations, like television or Performance Art, approach the boundaries between art and practical life as soluble. Where television blends the public and private  as a choice of the viewing subject, the other two approach that crossover from an opposite direction  and from an ambiguous and unstable situation. The  choice to see it or not is the same as with the on and off button on the TV – so  what do I mean by ambiguity and instability of the situation?  On the phenomenological level the placement of the objects is stable, we recognise what is what and where in the darkened space it is.  It is the very placement, however, that together with the  medium of moving image  allows my seeing to overlap with a previous view or directed glance.  This element is familiar from practical life, while introducing instability of the art object  as I  cannot see all at once, or at least together, with allowing something to disappear from my field of vision.  Yes, it is temporary – but it is. The element of disappearance makes the art object temporarily volatile. In other words; this art is akin an investigation of possibilities. Consequently, it is capable of assuming different meaning.   For me – it was a glory of trees, of their long life and self-sufficient way of being.  While they cannot move – they grow tall and become visible from another place.  Abandoned,   like a dreamy appearance, they stand   in a glorious dignity of being.  Once seen they cannot be ignored. I think of this as shared by the universe. Boyle’s manipulation of the lens based material  is a trusted tool to let the images emanate  beauty and peacefulness ( a chain reaction?).

The role of placement similar format in a row or pyramid – will inspire similar reading of one part while almost forgetting another.  If thought of as a sequence it is like reading the words on a page. It is not like that.  Shifting the focus from one image to another cannot be held by the functional sentence perspective. Within visual neighbourhoods this is disabled. Especially if the format is the same.  Curiosity  drives the seeing to focus on differences.In the narrower part of the gallery, in the so called Back Space,  Boyle appropriated “Other people’s images adopted from Gumtree, a popular online classifieds website”

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Only warn once, 2016, digital print, diameter 10cm x 23

Boyle describes it:

A series of images in which people sell their wedding dresses by using personal photographs of their special day to illustrate and up-sell the items. Only worn once being the most frequent description of the items condition.

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In the photos selected people have blurred, pixilated, or covered their faces taking on a more unsettling undertone. The once picturesque photographs reveal intimate moments while absurdly concealing the identity of the individuals, a similar technique used in escort adverts. The images play on the line between objective and subjective, familiar and unfamiliar.

The artworks were printed onto circular coasters. Lazer cut round hardboard coasters with a cork back, attached to mounts. When installed the images float out from the wall, with the background wall painted a colour panel of Sweet Pink.

The tub of paint bought from a charity shop was picked to respond to the similar type of place these images have been found. I felt the colour & title worked with the nature of the images. I have been collecting these ‘mistake’ paints recently (full tubs of paints donated to charity shops, and for whatever reason, had never been used).

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Only worn once,(bindi) 2016, digital print, 20.5 x 20.5 cm


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Chandelier, 2016, video, image found on Gumtree

Boyle commented: Over 500 images collected online of people selling their Chandeliers, The seller hands is seen holding up the fixtures in the images. The bad quality images pixilate in a similar way a chandelier reflects light.

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S/he, 2016, Velvet C type Digital Prints, 9 x 29.7cm x 42 cm

Boyle commented:

Photographed in the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek in Copenhagen, a Museum focusing on antique sculpture from ancient cultures.

These photographs capture the crotch area of marble male nudes which have been damaged by periodic censorship; when display of genitalia was seen as immoral. In an effort to remove the modest marble penis, orifice’s have been created in place. I was struck by how provocative these sculptures appeared in comparison to the statues were the genitals remained intact. I became interested in how the altered statues could be read in a modern day context, drawing parallels between societal and cultural stigma of intersex and transgender people; how hung up we get over human genitalia.  The violent act of the chisel being inadvertently creative from the intentions, creating a super human, or evolved human being.

Around the same time I had taking these photographs I had been listening to a lot of debate on the radio about Anti-transgender bathroom hysteria. The panel of paint was intended to represent a diluted heritage colour from the museum, and also the dimensions of a typical toilet stall in a public bathroom.

Martin Boyle  cherishes the oscillation of private and public spheres  and lets it continue in a somewhat humorous take on a found object: toilet rolls ready for the distribution by the appropriate staff.

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New Art at Dublin City Gallery the Hugh Lane, 2015, 70 x 50 cm framed digital photograph and the explanatory text.


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Appropriation thus flows throughout this exhibition as a benign force  pointing out where to focus – or not.  I applaud the freedom with which Martin  Boyle appropriates previous art – the heroic Modernism so intoxicated by the risk taking.  He does it with respect and generosity of spirit.  It never looks “stolen” or “destroyed”.  Boyle applies it to now and here,  responding to wherever he is when he gets the idea to make some encounter into  a work of art – thus imbuing the image with the aura of genuine interest  in it.  The serial edition of an idea also supports a positive response.

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Peak, 2015, 30 x digital photographs, 30cm x 21cm

No more the dictate of fear  that whipped the talent of many to differ at all costs. Boyle can pick up a lesser art and make it feel beautiful and intriguing and nurturing imagination.

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There was an object –  as if the “coda”, a dot, a sign for the end of a story – an enigma, I do not know anything about.  Its mood is stubbornly dark. On my way out  I wish to remember the colour of the sunlit trees.

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Images courtesy of GTG and the artist.

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Lorraine Burrell at GTG, Belfast, May 2016

THESE DAYS ARE PERSISTENT AND CHANGEABLE is a title of an exhibition of art by Lorraine Burrell and Martin Boyle,  at the Golden Thread Gallery from 28.04 – 11.06 2016.

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Installation view – L. Burrell

What days are not that? Yours? Mine?  Whatever answer is elicited, it will be either  incomplete, or  misleading, or provocative.   This does not imply that the art exhibited  in this exhibition is either or all. It only indicates the  light approach to contemporary art as something akin Schiller’s “kingdom of freedom”. It is -whatever you make of it.

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It tolerates opposition  while employing a visual subterfuge. For example: the sculptures carry destroyed images like poster torn from the billboard, positing the object between art and waste. The lens based image is compressed between performance/modelling  and printing, graduating the aura of original via two steps of alienation from the eye and and from the maker (inkjet print is as neutral as any printed page and dead until you read it.

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Scrunch, 2016, vinyl billboard,wire, veneer pins, dimensions variable


Burrells exhibition consists of five two-dimensional inkjet prints, two drawings, one low relief and three three-dimensional sculptures.  They share her chosen subject – female body – more or less.

Her representational style ranges from hyper-realism

Deflated, vinyl billboard and bungee cord, size_ variable, 2016

Deflated, vinyl billboard and bungee cord, size_ variable, 2016

to abstraction,

Scrawl, drinking straws and veneer pins, size_ variable, 2016

Scrawl, drinking straws and veneer pins, size_ variable, 2016

from documenting

Eat The Image, inkjet print, 67cm x 92cm, 2016

Eat The Image, 2016, inkjet print, 67cm x 92cm

to imagining.

Ghost, inkjet print, 67cm x 92cm, 2016

Ghost, inkjet print, 67cm x 92cm, 2016



Burrell’s concept of art reminds me of Marisol Escobar, who recently passed away.  Burrell’s Deflated  velds together observed and not observable  while using pliable material. Marisol combined right angle and hard materials with observed portraits and appropriated materials.  Both share the confidence in the force of fragmented view and in power of addition/ assemblage.  Any part of Marisol’s group of female figures is not possible, yet believable, as in a dream.


Similarly strangled consciousness hangs on the recognisable detail of eyes in Burrells Deflated  drowning under the floor of the gallery  not unlike a ship  hitting   an iceberg.

Gallery view

Yet – the terror of such a demise is not there – the object assures me that it will not disappear.  That paradox has a cutting edge – it demands visual thinking  to become more like Dante’s alta fantasia. A sprawling narrative mixed with photo- realism just this side of a nightmare.

The five inkjet prints (all 2016, 67 x 92 cm)  share a kind of assault on decorum of normal behaviour.

Casual Sex, inkjet print, 67cm x 92cm, 2016

Casual Sex, inkjet print, 67cm x 92cm, 2016

In a landscape format, in a shallow space defined in art history as not comforting (think of Deposition by Rogier van der Weyden), the female body is wounded, disabled and deformed by the act of casual sex. Yet it is not a morality tale. It is a tale of transformation, cause of which is not visually  defined. Reminiscent of Yorgos Lanthimos distopian Lobster it presents a world in which a person may be turned into something else.  This image is aggressively literal mismatch of cruelty and humour – deliberate mix of realism and “fantasia”.  It is not a sprawling narrative,  tender conglomeration of emotions fits  its impact better.  She brings to public life intimacy in an absurd constellation of fragmented real.  She ties the new constellation with reality while removing it from the real world. Not once does she balk.  I am left not to understand the rules of its “real” of its “world” – however, I cannot shake off induced curiosity.  With a straight face -as if – Burrell delivers absurd constellations, their surreal absurdity sticking with me.  And no – it is not trying to be popular.

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The above  wall mounted  variant of Scrunch  holds  a portrait as if unearthed in some other Pompeii and Herculaneum.  Free of all responsibility for my perception Burrell peregrinates conceptual art already aware what of it had gone extinct.

A bizzar loner, each of her objects carries authority of earthly reality of being. Believable, they are visualised emotions, some born out between need and want.  Like gluttony.

Consume, inkjet print, 67cm x 92cm, 2016

Consume, inkjet print, 67cm x 92cm, 2016

Where Arcimboldo used vegetable- Burrel prefers consumer goods.

Persona, inkjet print, 67cm x 92cm, 2016

Persona, inkjet print, 67cm x 92cm, 2016



Arcimboldo-Rudolf-II, Vertumnus, .

Cyclops, inkjet print, 67cm x 92cm, 2016

Cyclops, inkjet print, 67cm x 92cm, 2016


We see her experiencing -not knowing what exactly – like experiencing something when making performance art. The meaning reminiscent of a butterfly moves from one source to another: fear, pity, hesitation, remorse, curiosity, bewilderment?  She allows conceptual art to turn visual, even retinal.

“None of these artworks are really for passive contemplation,” said Andrew Wilson, curator of British contemporary art and archives at Tate, who put together the current  show of conceptual art. “They’re not pleasant arrangements of shapes and colors on a canvas. They are provocations, some of them: provocations to actually thinking what art might be.”

Burrell is decisive- by binding the freedom of arrangement with visual aesthetics of both mimesis and catharsis.  Another conceptual artist Ryan Gander insists:

“It’s about learning,discovery, investigation, turning over rocks and seeing what’s under them.”Conceptual art emerged in the United States, Europe and Latin America in the 1960s. “The idea itself, even if it is not made visual, is as much of a work of art as any finished product,” the early conceptualist Sol Le Witt wrote in a 1967 essay.  

This exhibition has  a root in each conceptual art, performance art, lens based art, abstraction  achieving departure from exclusiveness of any of them.

Burrell  makes   thinking, feeling, making  visible,  at the stage when each (or all together)  seeks escape to timelessness.

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Open work ? Belfast (March/April 2016)

Three concurrent exhibitions invite that question. Marie Hanlon at Fendersky, Desire Line at Golden Thread Gallery and In-Stream at the two galleries, Ulster University and QSS.

Fenderesky Gallery and cafe is a new place with a four decades of  history  forged by a kind of classical dealer/philosopher/ artist  who does not foreground curatorship  staying admirably sensitive and  careful about display of each image or sculpture.

Desire Line and In-Stream are curator led. Quite often, curators require “socially engaged art “to literally articulate responses and messages of change. In both exhibitions a cloud of implied instructions  is supposed to activate probable behaviour. More on this later.

Marie Hanlon avoids the dangers of a “cause” by working on intrinsic connections between observed and imagined, allowing instinct rather than conscious reasoning  to guide her.  In her own words:
” But lack of a conscious plan does not mean that our work is random or arbitrary, improvisation always has its rules, even if they are not a priori  rules. When we are totally faithful to our own individuality, we are actually following very intricate design. This kind of freedom is the opposite of “just anything”.” (see Marie Hanlon & Rhona Clarke, DIC TAT, publ Rubicon Gallery Dublin, p1: essay by Rowan Sexton)


Marie Hanlon : Finding Equilibrium installation,Fenderesky Gallery, Belfast 2016

Drawing BA_XI Gouache & pencil on paper 30 x 42 cms 2011

The two unfinished triangles in a  chance like meeting  open the picture plane to the space outside the frame. One of the consequences of that decision is a compulsory illusion of depth where there is none, trapping thus  the viewer’s range of responses in elegantly reduced visual clues. As it reminds me of unfinished poem, it also strongly evokes the refrain of a song being repeated in a whisper.  The link to music is not as arbitrary as it may appear, Hanlon made drawings while listening to a metronome. Rowan Sexton (op cit) has proposed

The locus of meaning in the metronome suite of drawings comes from connotative dimension, so that rhythm is the all encompassing, primary source of activity

Drawing BA _XX Pencil on paper 30 x 42 cms 2011

This drawing appears in DIC TAT  book as  Drop Down,  29.7 x 42, 2012.  A simple error ? If it were a  deliberate change it would forge a refutal of  the aura of authorship  as in Umberto Eco’s assertion: “People are tired of simple things. They want to be challenged” .  However, that I failed to find  in Hanlon’s repertoire of intentions.   Her drawings correspond to  her  resonance with whatever her senses  register. She creates  correspondences  in the sense defined by Charles Baudelaire, here  in Richard Wilbur’ translation:

Nature is a temple whose living colonnades
Breathe forth a mystic speech in fitful sighs;
Man wanders among the symbols in those glades
Where all things watch him with familiar eyes.

Like dwindling echoes gathered far away
Into a deep and thronging unison
Huge as the night or as the light of day,
All scents and sounds and colors meet as one.

Perfumes there are as sweet as the oboe’s sound,
Green as the prairies, fresh as a child’s caress,
—And there are others, rich, corrupt, profound

And an infinite pervasiveness,
Like myrrh, or musk, or amber, that excite
The ecstasies of sense, the soul’s delight.

Yet – her drawings  do not  symbolise a structure – they  achieve immersion in a structure she makes visible. Her “living colonnades”  appear as  a mystery of synchronic co-existence of hearing and drawing to “excite ecstasies of senses” (with apology to Baudelaire)

It was a classical visual art exhibition  gently caressing the viewer’s capacity for the value Italo Calvino selected for saving for this millennium – visual thinking.


Making visible is a central concern of the exhibition  DESIRE LINE at the Golden Thread Gallery (25 February – 16 April, 2016).  The intention seems the same as in Henlon’s exhibition, but it is not.  The rooms were dark,  the spot lit  quotes in gold hue from Italo Calvino’s  Invisible Cities  helped to perceive a black massive black form  running across the space as if supported by the air  near your hands.    The words were more visible than the objects: suspended walnut, compass points, reference to the North Star .  The curators defined them  as the tools to help  visitors to navigate the “desire line”  as if of their own choice: ” this exhibition invites the audience, or participant, to imagine their own urban space, without any parameters” ( see the gallery handout).  If in doubt that this exhibition has a cause the curators -PLACE – make it clear: “… in this exhibition we present a series  of ‘objects’ or clues that form a framework  and give you tools  to position yourself physically, without setting a literal narrative.. This space has no pre-supposed history and every future one could imagine.” This cloud of words  aims at behavioural experiment on your powers of imagination to generate probable but different image of a city, space, place, time, temperature, noise, fumes, colours etc.   Commonalities born by knowing the gallery space and Belfast are in a category of deficit for that imaginatory city.  That wobbly independence of imagination from experience is given a patina of significance.  If you fail – it is your fault for not doing as you are told.  Although they claim not prescribing  what  should result from a visit.

Well – if I am given a framework and tools – those will limit my imagination, moreover, I am conscious that this is the gallery space I know, I know some its history. No instruction can erase that.

The curators continue:

“We have constructed a sculptural interruption in the gallery. Not prescriptively  but referencing a route across Belfast, this sculpture is basis for you, the participant, to create any urban space,actual or fictitious, imagined or imaginable. Within the environment  of the suspended spot lit sculpture, and with certain tools – altitude, compass points  and references to the north star – to help you to orientate yourself …”

There is a planned obsolescence of the whole installation for those who do not resonate with the tools on offer.  That includes me.

Calvino’s  words  “serve as a reminder  to suspend your everyday perception of reality…and create  for yourself fantastical urban spaces” the curators write.

On reading his book I succeeded to imagine spaces  different from any city I have known. Walking through the Desire Line  installation  did not end with such a success.  The installation expected  me to use its meagre tools to evoke my fantasies about urban spaces… impossible without a lot of memories,  miles of walks in various cities and play.   This, in principle, includes conceptual art, even as paired  down as this one, so why I so easily resist its call?  What cognitive bias governs my rejection?  Others may tell me  – one conscious thought governs my aesthetic judgement –  that what Calvino defends as visibility, visual thinking.   Another salient point of my resistance may be my conviction that art is the kingdom of freedom without instructions how to get there, and visual art  in particular. I value its mute poetry.


University of Ulster  Gallery hosted one part  of In-Stream exhibition (March 7 – April 2,2016) , the other found its home at QSS Gallery in Bedford Street. Photographs courtesy Jordan Hutchings.


Joan Stacks,Everything will be in one colour, 2016

At the opening the two musicians, Anthony Kelly (on the left) and David Stalling (on the right)  gave an improvised concert/ sound performance.



Above  David Stalling’s head  is visible  an abstraction by Kevin Miller, which  at one point could have been a monotype.


Kevin Miller, All okay 1, 2016, acrylic on acrylic sheet, 37 x 26 cm

Seeing from near its surface  evokes memories of gestural abstraction, Tapies,  when not limited to black hue, De Kooning  – and some others from the CoBrA group, and also Action Painting as understood in 1952 by Harold Rosenberg.  Action Painting has been also referred to as “gestural abstraction” – and this painting shares a number of characteristics with American paintings of that period. The dynamic application of  spontaneous directness is denied boundless spread as in colour field. Kevin Miller’s instinct is quasi sculptural,  like  Hans Arps’s low reliefs or Henri Matisse’s cut-outs.  The paint is not dribbled or splashed like in a Pollock. It is smeared  in layers  that keep distance form one another. Look how the blue arches above the brown! I would not be surprised if it suddenly crawled to the corner on top right.  It si almost Klein’s blue, just a shade cooler. The commitment to the presence of three primary colours still tolerates and accommodates the whimsical smaller  passages, each holding its own voice. Quite an achievement that it hold all together.

Anthony Kelly  embraces apollonian principle of measured sophistication of dualism and small gentle shifts on the picture plane  – reminiscent of M Rothko  grey- in- grey – I saw once in a private collection.


Anthony Kelly, Flutter:Echo, 2013, Enamel paint on Mdf, Timber, each 65 x 65 x 22cm


Kelly invented the trembling wave  to connect small interfering white and warmer grey  in a kind of dialogue with the hard edged right angled wood that  overshot its destination – frame.


Hard edge had its hey day also in the second half of the 20th C.  here it is smeared over with liquid paint  and splashes as if to remind the geometry of its subsidiary role.  The grey outline is refrained by the grey frame – like in a duo of operatic voices – keeping each they own rhythm and score. And as any Mozart’s duo, equally successfully.

Juxtaposition of  real and imagined  receives tender care from  the drawing hand –  but the words insist on some absence  of care – or even malfunctioning. That is visualised by the density of the black – impenetrable.  Julie  Lovett prefers her Incidents in series and in a hand held format.  Initiating a possibility that a stretched hand may cover each incident – instills an illusion of control.  The visual force of the absence of light inside the animated  black shape  refutes that, leaving the fearful state of mind to cope, yet – it does not reach  the really frightening level.


Julie Lovett, Incident 1, 2015


The curator(s) of In-Stream zoomed on the idea of disrupting  the viewing of the selected art by dividing the “display” into two different galleries, thus allowing either the memory of one appearing as comparison with the other – or a complete disregard for any continuity.

In the handout for the audience  there is a strange idea: “The temporal disruption between Studio -Gallery – City – Gallery  is not necessarily bound to or determined by circular closure of both exhibitions spaces”…. yes- that is not only obvious abut also completely in the power of any viewer,  who – fro example-  can walk out after seeing one exhibit only.

The interference of  the concept that happening together but in two venues alters substantially  visual aesthetic experience is not that powerful. Aesthetic experience does not feed that much on comparison – rather it depends on the power of the visual thinking – both on the part of the artist and the viewer.   The concept that two  groups of paintings (incl prints and mixed media)  will alter their essential values by being apart only enters the consciousness on reading the words  of the essay or the handout- which  can happen long after the visitor saw the visual artefacts.  In that sense it is irrelevant.

The curators disagree, grounding their conviction in the power of  differences  between the  two sites and  their social and cultural contexts.  None of the work is site specific ( Joan Stack’s installation will tolerate another site) – so the dependence of my perception of the art  on indoors or outdoors  stimuli when walking from one gallery to the other – of both sites is as much or as little  as in another case, where the distance is not given this spectacular power, e.g. numerous mini exhibitions in the Venice Biennale.

There is one case where the “distance” between members of the same series of prints, paintings or sculptures ,  comes into the fore.  How critical that division is can be established only when the series is meant to be  viewed as one work of art, when they all must be seen together by the virtue of their  inter- relationships. I’ll illustrate that  on the images  by Majella Clancy, below.

For the In-Stream  handout, Geraldine Boyle wrote a magnificent passage on sensual rewards of diligent observation by  curious mind triggered by reading up about Urban Flora of Belfast.   Her claim that ” The gap in between viewing is important – it confirms and creates spaces for new ways of seeing, tangential and associative thinking”   is not specific to geographical distance of two groups of works of art. In particular, because  a viewer may decide to visit the second gallery days later or not at all.   It is  also not possible to deny to her/him  the capacity for associations and  imaginative leaps between sensual experiences in different places and at different times, experience utterly  independent of the distance between the two venues.

There is a set of  12 related works – four  are exhibited at the University of Ulster Gallery  and eight at QSS.  Majella Clancy’s  art is a superior example of that creative force, autonomous visual presence wherever it is displayed.


All four at UU and the eight at QSS  share material: oil, paper, digital print, tape, pencil on board;   size: 19 x 24 cm; and date: 2016.  Admissible to treat them as a  set –  as a series.  From the left: Overview; Land II; Mass; and Untitled II.



Image_04In general, Clancy claims that  her collages  explore social, cultural and geographical space. Her use of identifier is fairly established – a fragment of text and of  lens based image of something seen.  The two – although important – are not allowed to dictate to the other elements.  The letter is difficult to read – it is there as a sign for all possible letters, the fragment of the photographic print speaks through its tonality of the absence of anything threatening, but is itself  pushed down under the lighter field divided into triangular net . Echoing each other the two parallel spaces, one empty governed by abstract geometry, , the other richly full with fragments of the real world. Careless debris is scrupulously clean and of regular shapes. The image strives at calm after some damaging fracture of the previous whole.

At the QSS -the installation consists of eight  images.


This is : View   (displayed left top above)



This is the one that manages to use the inner space differently  – there is continuity with added depth, which introduces different layers for the elements. Some are nearer the picture plane also by the virtue of the hue, the red somewhat crude cut out shape  that looks like broken of a frame.  Others shy away into a distance – both small irregular rectangles, as if not wanting to show off the collection of whitish sheets and coloured sticks.  Like pencils ready to write onto the empty pages.  The circle offers multiple meanings: it is a photograph of a tree or bush – its lowered acuteness allows it to be read like a distant star or moon.  At least until the eye gives that up and sticks with the branches of the tree. That, in turn introduces time, which is also suggested by the circle morphing into a clock face with pink hour hand…  There is a warning: what looks like a right angle accuracy – is a result of a  wobbly shake of the scissors or brush – softly denying the rule  for the sake of trembling individuality of each shape.  Just  compare it to El Lissitzky – when he needs to tell the story! Majella Clancy tells about her experience, understanding of found relics, while staying true to the feeling of intoxicating awe  of the first impact. That’s what she gives to me  – sincere incompleteness of knowing- paradoxically – that whatever it is, it matters.

Clancy gave this the ominous title: Platform



I owe you my take on the  curator’s  platform   – as formulated in the handout to In-Stream – that is an attempt to treat exhibition as a work of art – which became recently a fashionable way to battle through regulations of the funding  and enabling  freedom to select exhibits on their intrinsic not their instrumental value.  As such it is relevant as enabling idea for the outer layers of the business.  It is not relevant to the intrinsic value of each work of art for each individual viewer.

I end my communication by Clancy’s  distinctively freewheeling Message – which hides a  cheeky smile  in a yellow.



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Difficult art (April 2016)

The MAC, Belfast

Helen O’Leary has included the following as a part of the genesis of The Shelf Life of Facts (2016, MAC Belfast):

“I ended up in Paris and found myself walking to the Museum of War a lot, and I’d look at all the flawed armour… I’d look at the armour with cannonballs through the heart and they seemed to have real power for me … started thinking about … armour with … holes [in it] and I wanted painting to come out, be like a phoenix out of shreds… So I started thinking about a painting that would be a history painting, that wouldn’t just be memoir… I wanted it to be about the world as I knew it through kind of a haptic sense. And I started thinking about making paintings as big as Kiefer, I wanted paintings bigger than Kiefer. But I’d do them bit by bit; I’d do them in a very intimate way. I wanted that you could piece together a language out of false starts or out of small moments.”( accessed on

It is a coincidence that weeks before I read the quoted transcript I have been toying with Kiefer’s “Art is difficult,” …. “It’s not entertainment. There are only a few people who can say something about art – it’s very restricted. When I see a new artist I give myself a lot of time to reflect and decide whether it’s art or not. Buying art is not understanding art.”…”Art has something which destroys its own cells,”  (accessed on

The statistics keep showing the gap between contemporary art and audiences. The funding bodies blame the art and the art managers for not doing enough to attract large part of the population. They labour under an illusion that their attitude is the right one – ignore the elite and support only the art that the masses approve of. This has determined cultural policy of the Soviet Union and its satellites. Then came Mao with his idea to let flower every flower… Not only it confused the political regulators, it also respected the different preferences, a reality recognised by current research. The conclusion is not that the socio-political context determines the range of aesthetic experience. Instead, it claims one-to-one mapping – i.e. I like what is like me. That verb is a significant cover for a complex connectivity between me and the world, inclusive of art. Art then cannot possibly reduce itself to one aesthetic preference – taste – without slipping out of it. The wonderful consequence of this limitation is an open field of art to anything an artist may love to do, dare to do, risk to do. Installation art is particularly successful in irritating established canons. At the same time it is also irritatingly near establishing its own death by not finding its specific energy and visual force. Some early installations are beautiful even in fading memory.

As a part of Venice Biennale 2003, two Swiss artists, Gerda Steiner and Joerg Lenzlinger, installed “Falling Garden” inside the San Stae church, inspired by the “need to feed the reindeer” of St Eustache legend to allow the miracle happen.


Its attachment to the verbal story about the saint did not matter. Its autonomous visual poetry did. Lying there with no shoes on looking up into the gentle colourful multitude felt good – a genuine case of Kalos Kagathos.

Both O’Leary and Kiefer focus on the autonomy of art. He observes that a renewal is due to art’s self-destructive force, she conceives of harnessing of contrasts (large scale / intimate, history / not memoir, painting / haptic sense) like armour with holes, as a force that lets art rise like a phoenix out of shreds.

Installation detail, Helen O'Leary: The Shelf Life of Facts at Metropolitan Arts Centre (MAC), Belfast

I have not thought of her constructs on the wall as shreds – but now, I cannot escape the authority of that word. Earlier, I enjoyed the play of my imagination replacing the parts that found a home by dovetailing another by some of those strewn on the horizontal surfaces. What if the parts the artist joined into one long or short togetherness decided to change place with those on the tables, waiting without knowing it, without any will to take the place of another. The way the verticals are threading different size, colour and shape, under the strict rule of an exact fit between two neighbours, introduce the feeling of instability at the core of the construct. Consequently the verticals need alien support, or freedom to bend like a tall grass in the wind.

Installation detail, Helen O'Leary: The Shelf Life of Facts at Metropolitan Arts Centre (MAC), Belfast

Seeing all the rest as superfluous, not needed, inspired a rebellion of curiosity: would the future sequences be equivalent to those already realised? The scarcity of sensual dionysian joy obtained from the redundant colourful remnants easily diminished the cool constructive logic of what keeps what together. Consequently, the principle, known from poetry, and famously formulated by George Elliot – the open endedness of a poem – allowed one comparison: with Anthony Caro, Early One Morning. 1962

Sir Anthony Caro ‘Early One Morning’, 1962 © The estate of Anthony Caro/Barford Sculptures Ltd

The display caption in Tate Britain sets out observation that are shareable with the display at MAC

‘Early One Morning’ is a major example of the kind of sculpture – light, airy and open-form – which Caro had begun to develop by 1962. In this work, Caro’s arrangement of planes and lines along a horizontal axis gave greater freedom in creating different rhythms and configurations. The work has no fixed visual identity and no single focus of interest. Rather, it unfolds and expands into the spectator’s space, its appearance changing with the viewpoint. The individual elements are unified by the bright red colour and Caro sees the way they cohere, making a sculptural whole, as being like the relationship of notes within a piece of music.”

O’Leary also arranged lines imbued with a rhythm and overlapping configurations, that would change as I move along the display. Absence of single focus is not absolute, it appears and disappears from fragment to fragment, unfolding and expanding with my field of vision. The appearance changes with viewpoint. Yet, the colour although on the brink of not being there at all – calls in all the bits vertical, bent or lying there in incomprehensible multitude, to cohere now, to become whole now.

The comparison of Caro’s sculptural whole to the relationship of notes within a piece of music is particularly apt for the installation by Niamh K McCann.

2nd yearBAMcCann16IMG_20160424_015504

The old chair seat, stone, candles – as if a deep chord, well down the left part of the piano keys holds, possibly destined for the left hand holding it, while the right hand manages the rapid staccato of repeated note interspersed by several long runs its length until it runs out off the page…



2nd year BA McCann16IMG_20160424_020014

Materials easily associate with sounds, glass, china. stone, plastic….wood


coconut shells, stones

2ndyear BA McCann16IMG_20160424_014551

Art Povera, found art, found objects, rejected objects, recovered from the destruction of the Orpheus building, an Art Deco jewel of 1932, place where for decades undergraduate artists learn about art making and themselves – precisely about the autonomy that can’t speak its name.

The combination of a strict right angle order over the memories of nature, architecture, domestic use and Fine Art studios – however each sphere is different – under the sensitive calm rhythm cohere into the stasis of the destroyed past. McCann effortlessly matches earth colours with manmade into the chorus of remembrance.

She gave it a name:

Name: Absurdity (2016)
Statement: “Arranging, Placing, Pandering, Gathering Allowing, Objects and Spaces, Materials and Places in between”
Size: 2m by 3.5m Height variable.

Images courtesy N K McCann.


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Peter FitzGerald, 2016,

These photographs are deliberately rotated 90°.

We see into landscapes. We are less inclined to see the visual structure of what is before us. But we can make things strange in order to see differently – through rotation, for example. Then we see the landscape the way a painter has to see it: shapes that will emerge out of the bare canvas when given tone or colour.

Connemara is a place of stunning forms. If you give these photos a few moments, long enough to let your initial resistance dissipate, you see the forms.

– Peter FitzGerald, 2016

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Your visual thinking  is asked to abandon the viewing angle nourished by the evolution  of need to observe the landscape for food and danger. In addition, visual art has strong preference for the the eye/head to be in 90 degrees to the horizontal when painting or photographing a landscape.  There are intriguing departures though.  Until 15th C, when the Danube School broke the cannon by Aristotelian trust in observation, landscape representation derived for its role in the story.

In Giotto or Duccio  – the role of detail signifies the illusion of being there, and witnessing.  He paints the crown of a tree as if he was not only inside it, but also climbing up to each leaf/fruit, all represented from the same near distance.

Manipulation of believable distance is one of the optical tools to achieve foregrounding  of otherness.

Giotto Di Bondone: Joseph’s Dream, Scrovegni Chapel, Arena, Padua

Frescoes in the Arena Chapel in Padua (Scrovegni Chapel), Joseph's dream scene - Giotto Di Bondone -

The discrepancy between size of the figures and the building and trees ,  and between distances, is not to approximate perspectival distortion, but to assign significance.  As a trusted toll it is found in Egyptian  and Byzantine art.

Sicily 12thC artsfeat0904

This is a detail of the mosaic depicting the martyrdom of Saints  Castus and Cassius  in the cathedral of Monreale, Sicily, 12th C  every part is seen for the same  near distance. Of specific interest in relation to FitzGerald’s photographs of Connemara is the irrelevance of rational space.

That in itself has been mined by Modernism of the 20th C in many ways, including a rational insertion of geometry into lens based view of the landscape, by Jan Dibbet.

dibbets with a technical drawing

FitzGerald  trusts simplicity:  just turning the image 90 degrees looks like a mistake waiting to be corrected,  my head instinctively bends to get the “right” view.  Only if I scroll without lingering from an image to an image  the habitual expectation makes way to perception of the strange unease forged by competition of the known with  unexpected. That denial of the norm  appears as  necessary.  Victor Shklovsky and Bertold Brecht  have some thought on this. FitzGerald emailed me that making-strange – Verfremdung  is one conscious part of his intention.

My art historical example illustrates that it has roots in the need to make something believable – but not as a document. The biblical stories were to be made visually believable, so the optics  aimed at a convincing scene.  Dibbet is  concerned also with representing the whole from observable parts, this time ruled by geometry – not biblical stories.  His introduced otherness (mostly also right angle) reaches towards the sublime while holding back before it tips over into the strange.

FitzGerald’s strange landscapes go deeper, behind the belief,  below the  rational and optical.  They depend on their power to induce the vertigo like experience  moving from unpleasant upheaval to calm acceptance of another world, otherness being just this simple strangeness of a small, 90 degrees, turn of viewing angle.  My instinct is, that FitzGerald’s images activate the amygdala, my early warning system.  Especially when I compare them to  the mosaics at Monreale – the house is not upright – but does not induce the strangeness  of the intensity and persuasion these images of Connemara do.

Right angle is such a tame creature – yet, here  it is endowed with animalistic force.  Or – the force we know so little of – and which astronomy accepts as a part of the universe.  FitzGerald manages to present an approximation of how the familiar  tips so easily out of anthropocentric system.

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Colin Darke at Suki Tea 2015 Art prize at Golden Thread Gallery, Belfast, 25th February -26th March 2016


The Snow-White Rose of Paradise (2015, 170 x 230 cm)  is made with partly empty toothpaste tubes with pennies and magnets attached. A part of the content has been squeezed out before the assembly of the relief assemblage, with almost surgical care. Used -yet pristine outside. That betrays an intention carefully planned and executed, a high degree of artist’s control. More than 50 % of each toothpaste tube  is visible thus fitting  the definition of a High Relief in sculpture.  This is subverted by the plane, in this case the wall, being  only slightly lower that the toothpastes making it  fit another definition, that  of a Low Relief, a sort of bas-relief.

The slippage, skidding,  of categories and meanings,   play also with details: the manufacturer’s name: Arm and Hammer – easily skids into Sickle and Hammer/Hammer and Sickle,  a  symbol of worker/peasant alliance,   of salvation/paradise  ubiquitous during  the 20th C across the globe.  The added ice axe  nonchalantly  evokes that arm  is needed to secure a position on a slippery surface – the insecure paradise.

Stuck on pennies do not  offer any  assurance of the  Snow-White Rose  as a path reaching the paradise: of small exchange value  they still manifest control by money.  All is held by magnets –  power of nature that people learned to manipulate.  William Morris’s expectation that in 2102 humans will not use nature for ends exterior to it comes to mind almost with a touch of sarcasm. Ever receding horizons….

The spiral is carefully balanced, its prettiness cherished,  determined not to tell  what is it that is being repeated. It could be cries for …liberty, democracy, respect for human rights, fundamental freedoms, rule of law – where are they ?  Too anthropocentric?  What if it is just an application of science’s claim that nature prefers symmetry? Modernists accepted that idea. This is

Karl Gerstner, Color Spiral Icon x65b, 2008. Acrylic on aluminum, diameter 41 in. (104 cm). Collection of Esther Grether, Basel, Switzerland.


“Gerstner’s work is in the tradition of Swiss Concrete Art, which was founded in Zurich in the 1930s and ’40s by Max Bill, Camille Graeser, Richard Paul Lohse and Verena Loewensberg. Zurich was a place where physicists and mathematicians, including Einstein, Andreas Speiser and Hermann Weyl, gathered to give a unified description of the forces of nature: gravity, electromagnetism, the strong nuclear force and the weak nuclear force. They used the mathematics of group theory to describe symmetry, which is the property of remaining unchanged when certain operations are carried out.” (Lynn Gamwell accessed on…)

Gerstner’s abstraction  does not cross from art  to socio-political issues facing mankind.  Darke’s use of “lesser” objects and evocative title – embedded the Snow-White Rose of Paradise  in the dense belief that the current work of art is merely  life itself moving  moving toward the betterment of mankind  – and failing. Its beauty liberates the familiar (toothpaste) into a metaphoric net woven by recalling  K Marx, V I Lenin and Rosa Luxembourg as well as the Snow-White waiting to be woken  up.  No secure answer to a question whether the spiral is  ascending or descending…  Fermi paradox.  Or – is it born by our own inadequacies – leaving the universe out of it?

The spiral is not a serene retreat, nor arcadian reverie.  It provokes stern watchfulness  as it lives in the future of the Karl Marx’s past intelligence.  I admit this thought is connected to Darke’s  previous work on Das Kapital.  (see

Should I recall here Seneca’s belief that the world is doomed  for cyclical destructions due to natural forces? He foresaw waters salt and fresh to overwhelm the land.  Will an injured hill enact revenge?

The ice axe seems pointing to a (past?) future ice age replacing the current global warming.  In theory – both were identified by the science as possible  “final solution”.

The spiral of manufacture and use of goods has a latent force to turn – reminiscent of  Karl Marx’s ” locomotive of history”. The relaxed ice axe  waits, as if, to be grabbed “for the emergency break” of Walter Benjamin.

The spiral’s freedom/ambiguity  becomes visible in comparison to concentric circles.

Peter Monaghan Aurum-II-lg

Peter Monaghan, Aurum II, 1200 cm

The spiral promises to go on, grow bigger… it is inviolable by additions – sharing its relaxed boundaries with the classical view of the ocean –  which bounded the known world, the inhabited Earth, oikoumene, with yawning voids  around it.

The spiral is a conscious field –  reaching on  the possible thresholds, evoking structure visible at present and remembered from previous encounters. Such synaptically mediated  interactions forge an instant assembly  as well as a winner-takes-all competition.  Your conscious field  may stabilise an aesthetic experience very different from mine, a difference that is not only welcome but also defining how we each are.

The Snow-White Rose of Paradise may be ironic – it is also sincerely beautiful.

Images accessed on Facebook…

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Bbeyond at Ulster Museum, Belfast, 12th March 2016

BbUMMarch2016 -steps with 210623493_245677579107459_2549394357839147229_o


They called it INTER-BEING, durational performances.

Here, on the steps, ascending, Dorothea Serror carries a silver head box, and,  Linda Montano holds a  silver bucket  before descending and getting out of the building, to light a fire of sorts.

BbMarch2016Sinead and Monatana1934235_245677585774125_2571231839268017988_n

BbUMMarch2016 Montana12823286_245677512440799_6333660892473826850_o Here she sits as another visitor, before or after she interacts with others.

BbUMMarch2016LindaMontanaand visitor10317700_245677519107465_5151911066387309131_o


Silently at times.

BbUMMarch2016Montana and a man10604069_245677525774131_4004542857197318679_o

She is both ordinary and not so ordinary – melting  into a visitor who does not look at the museum installations  anymore, as if  tired of the multitude of art.  The slight gesture  of both hands issues   an authority  sign for difference and control.  She is not a consumer, she is a producer by the virtue of that difference.  Keeping performance art only a hair thickness away from ordinary behaviour,  of expected  being, demands other skills.  I regret to have missed  those phases of her work on Saturday.

Alastair MacLennan grounded his art in the rhythm as slow as he could bear, while distancing from that monotony by introduction and manipulation of objects. Walking barefoot, his boot was free to become a container , a vase – no vase ,  for a fragile white rose.



Deliberate distancing from the poetic nature introduces incongruence,  established as a strategy in  visual art a century ago by the Dadaists and Surrealists.  Thankfully, every time, it brings the fresh touch to a recalled similarity. This is a vital nonsense, it intensifies dislocation of the walking man from purposeful walk in a museum.

MacLennan sometimes introduces a clown as his alter ego, as if wishing not to look like a shaman figure.  Here he has a black lense over as if over a wounded   eye – allowing that the viewer sees through the pretense and  simultaneously, inviting the viewer’s choice how to interpret that detail.

BbUMMarch2016 AlMac en face

I addition to the objects he holds here, MacLennan included a bronze legs of a bird in a splendid isolation of any context. Yet, it becomes entangled in the rest by the virtue of being there.