Size is everything

Rose Wylie_inglorious_basterds


Sometimes big is better – big canvasses and big bold gestures. This is what you get with Rose Wylie’s paintings. Simple figurative representations and unequivocal depictions of everyday objects executed with a loose, rapid and freewheeling approach that has a real sense of freedom to them. There are also cultural mash-ups with cross-references and a wry humorous take on populist culture with references to TV, movies and celebrities.

Rose Wylie_flowerpiece


The corollary can of course be equally true that small is beautiful. The adjunct exhibition is a scrapbook-like cross-section of the bewildering range of matchboxes produced by innumerable small manufacturers all over India. Here the curator is more akin to the small schoolboy with that obsessive collector trait that we all go through at some age and which some of us never abandon. These small objects invoke that particular pleasure of trying to assemble a complete collection in your chosen obsession.








The matchbox designs themselves have mutated over the years from initially depicting the rich panoply of Hindu deities to now embracing every aspect of day-to-day life including the most bizarre and random of objects. The sheer range and eclecticism of imagery used is both hilarious and intriguing. Literally everything it seems can be appropriated to act as visual aid to sell something as mundane as matches. So it is that every conceivable animal is featured along with smoking monkeys, umbrellas, shoes, kitchen utensils and a moustachioed baby.

indian_matchbox_2The everyday becomes totemic, amusing and personalised. The sheer spectrum of designs means there is an image for everyone to relate to. The small size strictures actually become a template for the creators to work within producing slight but imaginative variations on a constant theme. The results are charming, amusing and often humorous insights into a completely vernacular world of design and culture.

Both exhibitions continue at the Douglas Hyde Gallery until 16th May.

Rose Wylie_installationindian_matchbox_installation



Sunset Please_Mairead O'hEocha


Something’s happened to Mairead O’hEocha. Or rather something’s happened to her painting – a liberation through a subtle but vivid acceleration. A new gear or higher-octane value has been injected into her work. O’hEocha’s paintings have always possessed a cool, measured and detached atmosphere with a strong sense of location and environment. They have an allusion to the expectant stillness of a Hopper but eschew the potential narrative provided by his solitary figures, a tinge of melancholia but lack the laden symbolism of a De Chirico. Often they are depictions of international everywhere-bland but without the studied realism of a Martin Gale. They are little paeans to the ignored oblique margins of roadsides and industrial non-descript buildings and backwaters.

Story Centered Family No.2_Mairead O'hEocha


This small collection of recent work displays a marked leap forward with a new vivacity and a much more expressive approach. Now there are brilliant flashes of colour and skittish movement – a pleasure in colours and speed of application, an increased abstracted quality producing a wider field of view with a cinematic quality. This looseness conversely brings a very assured confidence and boldness. The locations are less identifiable with temporal qualities and an air of that which is about to happen lending them more resonance. There is certain poignancy not evident in previous works.

Tree for Missing People_Mairead O'hEochaHoarding Lights Rain_Mairead O'hEocha


Carefully considered but with fast execution these new paintings are bold and strong, vigorous and delicate all at the same time revealing a new self-confidence. More is the pity that this is not a more extensive display of her current direction. A larger exhibition is a must. More of these please.

A must see before exhibition finishes in next few days at Douglas Hyde Gallery, TCD.

Are we there yet?



The centrepiece of Niamh O’Malley’s exhibition is a video entitled Nephin that has a tantalising, elusive quality depicting a circuitous never-ending journey. Filmed in black-and-white it depicts a silent journey through countryside as viewed from the passenger window of a travelling car. The camera maintains a constant view through hedgerows and flickering branches across fields towards the looming Nephin mountain. This is deliberately maintained as a constant focal point. The hill appears to have a magnetic, hypnotic quality on the viewer with a hint of something eerie about it. This elicits an elusive queasy feeling – that of slowly nearing the mountain but never being able to actually get there. It evokes that frustrating sensation in dreams of running but never reaching your destination as it steadfastly maintains a constant distance from you.

The subtle domination of a persons psyche by a lone mountain is reminiscent of the quest by Richard Dreyfuss’ to Devils Tower in the movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind as he seeks answers to inexplicable phenomena.

The video Glasshouse also shot in black-and white has a looping, spliced, sliding-doors format that has a beguiling feeling of alternately hiding and exposing the viewer. The slow tracking nature of the images plays with flatness, motion and depth of field. We are not quite sure if we are viewing or being viewed – of what is real and unreal.

The remaining forms scattered throughout the large gallery space merely hint at parts of structures – frames, doorways, windows and screens – without exerting the magnetism of the stronger video works.

nom_glasshouse nom_installation


Continues at the Douglas Hyde Gallery, Trinity College until 25th February 2015.


Memento Mori



An art gallery is not necessarily a place you go to contemplate your mortality. Maybe it should be. In the past there existed a rigid classical hierarchy of art genres. Allegorical paintings alluding to mortality, decay and death were an accepted and recognised visual contemplative form. They were of course a lower subject matter than paintings depicting grand historical scenes. Nevertheless these memento mori were a commonplace feature in the homes of those who were admittedly wealthy enough to actually own such things as paintings in the first place. They acted as visual reminders to their owners of their own inherent mortality.



The idea of including images of decay in your everyday surroundings has disappeared. So today you don’t expect to see fungus growing in an art gallery. The artist Lois Weinberger embraces such iconography. He has sliced varying sized and shaped fungi and fixed them to the gallery walls of the Douglas Hyde creating the feeling that these protrusions are growing through or feeding on the very fabric of the gallery itself.








The small room displaying the fungi induces a disturbing and melancholic sense of quiet malaise. The building is decaying and dying – succumbing to entropy and decline. A comment perhaps on modern art spaces and their contents – that all will ultimately rot and be turned to dust.

Lois Weinberger
 – Invasion 

8th. Oct – 3rd. Dec 2014. The Douglas Hyde Gallery –

photos: Douglas Hyde Gallery and the artist. Installation photographs by Davey Moor.

painting: Pieter Claesz, Still life with silverware and lobster (1597/1598-1660), Museum Kunstpalast –

Ai No Corita


We expect our artists to be a certain type – somewhat louche, a little bit leery and slightly left of centre. They should certainly not look like accountants, IT engineers or hedge fund managers but rather should conform to our notional characterisation. But we certainly don’t want or expect them to be wearing a nun’s habit or a priest’s collar. Heck we’d rather have a bearded lady-man singing an antiphon for Europe instead.

But there was a time when our view of who could be deemed an artist was far less conformist and the boundaries didn’t matter as much as they often do now.

Indeed not so long ago we even viewed clergy very differently. Priests were at the vanguard. They led protests, manned barricades in Latin American political struggles, campaigned for justice and equality for the poor and underprivileged. They embraced the change blowing through society in the 1960s and challenged the political establishment and that of their own hierarchical churches swept open in part by the Second Vatican Council. Soon they disported themselves in mufti and went native. Times have changed. Nowadays we have strong views on what members of the clergy can and cannot do. This of course is filtered through the contemporary horrors of systemic clerical child abuse.


But during the shifting dissembling world of the 1960s one nun became deeply associated with the Avant-garde in art and its possibilities. The current show at the Douglas Hyde Gallery re-focuses on the work, writings and teachings of Sister Mary Corita Kent. After spending 32 years in a convent in Hollywood she left to dedicate herself to the pursuit of art practice and teaching. She toured America giving lectures and helping others to create art. She is now cited as an influence on other more recent artists. Her own work recalls a simpler time of gestural art and simplistic statements. Yet strangely in the wake of current events in Gaza, Aleppo and Mosul her art and screen-printed statements of simple humanity seem strangely potent again.

corita_shaker_song_lrgcorita_installation_lrgContinues at the Douglas Hyde Gallery, Trinity College, Dublin until 30th July.

All photos courtesy of Douglas Hyde Gallery. Installation photo Davey Moor. Sister Corita B&W reproduction the Corita Art Center, Immaculate Heart Community, Los Angeles.


Control Freak









Infuriating. It’s good to inflict a little bit of discord every so often and observe the resulting consternation. Giorgio Griffa made a career of it. Painted on raw un-stretched canvases with their unfolding still showing, his works are pinned limply. There are no frames and they never seem quite complete or finished. They are simple linen hangings or banners in the manner of medieval room-warming tapestries – mere provincial ‘arte povera’ accoutrements.

Very few artists in whatever medium walk away from their creation and declare that it is the complete and perfectly realised object they intended from the get-go. And so it is with the work of Giorgio Griffa. You can see a pattern emerging, a sequence of colours or broad-brush strokes. Magenta, red, blue, ochre and again repeated in thin arcs for several sequences until they inextricably halt. The artist deliberately stops the process – the rhythm, the beats stop. All the works are abandoned invariably it seems at that infuriating 2/3 equilibrium point. Why didn’t he just finish the damn thing?

But of course that is the very point. The idea that a perfect realisation will never pertain. Nothing can ever be complete, fixed, or finished to perfection. We start so many endeavours but never reach completion. But it is the very task of making and creating that is ultimately the crack-cocaine to keep us doing it again and again.

These are very simple, basic works with an obvious minimalist quality but prepare to be infuriated.






Douglas Hyde Gallery, Trinity College, until the 30th July.

all images courtesy of the Douglas Hyde Gallery.

Apples are never Oranges



You should never do it. But I did. It’s too easy and tempting. I mean you should never compare apples and oranges. It’s a truism in any discipline and of course you should never do it in art. All art is apples and oranges. Numerous varieties of each and then of course there are all the lemons, kumquats and strawberries, kiwis, guava and mangos of the art world.

I had come from the immersive powerful 360˚ art installation of Richard Mosse (my second visit) to a more minimalist exhibition of Andrea Büttner. It was quite a contrast. Indeed there were actual apples involved in the latter. A pile of them, placed carefully in a corner of the gallery space formed one of the exhibits.



There is a theme of poverty in this exhibition. A visitor sat on an improvised Spartan bench, a couple of 2×4 planks placed on upturned milk crates, to consider matters. This it transpired was one of the exhibits. There are clear allusions and references to early Christian art forms in these paintings and large woodcuts. An outline shape of a tent or igloo could be a beehive hut or monastic dwelling. There are signs of praying monks and a simple Madonna. A palette of coloured cloth to indicate that of illuminated manuscripts as well as actual direct reference to stained glass with some paintings executed onto glass. The theme of simplicity is continued in an image potatoes or peasant food. A primary coloured painted corner niche was all ready for its attendant saintly statue.

Art should not always be supplied to you as an open truth on a plate. It should make you work for your mental repast. But sometimes hunger pains mean we miss what’s on offer and in this case I left feeling decidedly hungry for some real substance. For that I will return one more time to Richard Mosse.

Andrea Büttner at the Douglas Hyde Gallery, Trinity College, Dublin continues until 19th March.

Photos: Andrea Büttner, Installation photographs, January 2014, Douglas Hyde Gallery, courtesy of the artist and Hollybush Gardens, London