4 Days in May

a pigeon sat on a branch reflecting on existenceA Pigeon sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence is quite simply unclassifiable moviemaking. Winner of the Golden Lion for Best Film at the Venice Film Festival it is a rare thing indeed. The film’s title refers, so the film’s Swedish director Roy Andersson says, to the imagined thoughts of the birds sitting on a branch in Pieter Breughel’s famous painting The Hunters in the Snow.

Pieter_Bruegel_the_Elder_-_Hunters_in_the_Snow_(Winter)This painting was the first popular depiction of a winter scene in Western art and still provokes enquiry and mystery to this day. Anderrsson’s film is the third part of an extraordinary filmic ‘living’ trilogy following on from Songs from the Second Floor and You, the Living.

Now showing in selected cinemas.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5N3ILGFu1K8

Ruth-McHugh-ModulorAlice-Maher-Goddess-After-CanovaJoe-Caslin-YesequalityRoyal Hibernian Academy Annual Summer Exhibition 2015 You could never describe the large annual RHA Summer Show as unimportant. Sprawling and often predictable but always displaying some stand out pieces it should not be ignored. Not designed to be mould breaking or offensive nevertheless the high quality is guaranteed and it is still possible to acquire excellent work with a reasonable outlay.

Opens from 26th May – Free Admission.

Japanese woodprintAn Evening of Japanese Culture, Food and Music

If the previous standard of lectures and events organized by the Heritage Department of the DLRCOCO is anything to go by then this cultural evening focusing principally on Japanese printmaking should be well worth attending. To add to the cultural atmosphere there will be Japanese themed food on offer and accompanying music. It is all part of a programme to highlight the friendship agreement between Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown and the Izumo district in Tokyo, Japan.

Thursday 28th May – Cabinteely House, Cabinteely, Dublin 18.

Tickets available at www.paviliontheatre.ie

Dave Dineen - Kim Haughton

 

In Plain Sight – Kim Haughton

In Plain Sight is an important and timely exhibition at The Gallery of Photography in Dublin about the devastating effects of child abuse and it’s continued legacy. Using recorded testimonies, survivors own photographs, portraiture and landscape photographs Kim Haughton presents a disturbing sense of the pain caused by these crimes committed in plain sight. Views of ordinary, banal suburban landscapes harbour far darker acts and are also crime scenes with society as a whole very much complicit.

Opens 14th May and runs until the 31st May.

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This is the Sea

Dorothy Cross Exhibition 14/3/2014

 

When Daniel Defoe created the archetypal shipwrecked castaway in Robinson Crusoe his fictional character was in a battle for survival. He grasped whatever he could salvage from the flotsam and jetsam washed up from his stricken ship to eke out a life.

But what if he had also possessed the inherent eye of an artist? Whilst struggling to live he also took time to consider the hidden meanings in the wildness of his new world.

The artist Dorothy Cross possesses that unique insightful eye. She applies it to create weird and wonderful objects and encounters at her new exhibition in the RHA Gallery in Dublin. Cross is an explorer of the littoral zones between those of the human and the worlds of animals and sea creatures. As a scavenger collector and beachcomber she gathers up the detritus washed up to her in Connemara and invests her finds with shamanic qualities.

She goes down to the seashore with the eye of an artist, scours and collects, and imbues the skins, carcasses, carapaces and skeletal remains to create re-assemblages with vivid new meanings.

Dorothy Cross Exhibition 14/3/2014Dorothy Cross Exhibition 14/3/2014An enormous suspended whale carcass assumes a totemic quality as its skull floats above a pail set on a marble base. The large centrepiece of the exhibition formed from an upturned currach has the sensation of being inside a small church. It is a shrine and evokes a submariner quality as you sit within it on old wooden benches sailing silently in the faint light. Looped films from inside sea caves and eerie shell encrusted rooms add to the sense of entering a water world.

Dorothy Cross Exhibition 14/3/2014

There is a constant call and response between the shapes of man and those of the sea and its creatures. So an upturned boat with the stretched skin of a basking shark mirrors the floating shape of an island on the horizon. The flexing shape of a shark is cast in perpetuity in bronze. The heart of a whale is bottled and secreted inside the sleek gold covered model of a modern submarine balanced on a 19th century artists easel.

Dorothy Cross Exhibition 14/3/2014Dorothy Cross Exhibition 14/3/2014

 

 

 

 

There is reverence in these exhibits for the life-force that inhabited all these creatures. The fatigued, rubber shoes and lost flippers from humans are presented as latter-day memento morii. There is an awareness of the essence of life in all the pieces and the need for protection of animal and human self.

This exhibition was first seen in Turner Contemporary Margate but the addition of the subdued lighting in the large space at the RHA adds an air of adventure and mystery.

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Take a walk on this imaginary shoreline and experience the wonder of beasts.

Dorothy Cross, Connemara, continues at the Royal Hibernian Academy, Dublin until April 27th.

All images courtesy of The Kerlin Gallery, Dublin.

RHA install photos by Bryan Meade.

The Horror

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Crimea, a place and name from a distant time is once again the cockpit for potential war. Russian troops have occupied that part of Ukraine and a larger conflict threatens to engulf the region. The infamous Crimean War of 1856 became synonymous with military ineptitude. But it was also the first war zone to provide daily newspaper reportage to the public back in Britain and to rely on extensive use of the new technology of photography.

Now two centuries later and in the saturated visual world of the early 21st century we have become increasingly inured to images of war. It seems that our attention is held less and less in direct proportion to the overwhelming torrent of mobile imagery now available to us. We have lost the ability to actually see what we are viewing. The horror of war is now lost in plain sight. Of course news outlets are deemed or consider themselves obliged to protect us from the true reality of war to save us from unnecessary consternation.

It seems, that as in past periods of conflict, it has fallen to artists such as Richard Mosse to re-boot our sensibilities to properly see and hear the realities of war. His current exhibition The Enclave at the RHA Gallery in Dublin is an immersive assault on the senses. It is no less an attempt to shake us physically out of our jaded torpor.

And shine a light on war he most certainly does. A lurid, Barbie-pink one, that tricks us at first. I have seen Mosse’s photographic work before. He utilises a discontinued military film technology designed to detect camouflage that produces a bizarre palette of colours in the resulting photographs. These are majestic, big bold pink views of verdant jungle, populated with macho, Kalashnikov-toting boy soldiers. They look great hung on white walls in London lofts.

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But this exhibition takes his techniques and ambitions to a whole other level. The anteroom of the current exhibition displays his signature magenta tinged landscape scenes of the Democratic Republic of Congo. They have a bucolic 18th century quality. Lush and verdant, they are views of Eden on earth. Here and there little Canaletto-like minute figures can be discerned dotted around volcanic lakes fishing. It is an idyll. But this is merely the precursor to the descent into Hades that awaits the viewer in the sensory depriving black box room.

Utilising steadicams, field recordings and a cinematic sensibility it is an all-consuming surround-sound assault depicting the largely ignored horrors of years of war in East Congo. A malevolent Son et Lumière ensues, of loud pounding soundscape and lurid palette depicting an increasingly brutalised people.

With the cleverly positioned multiple screens and staccato projections of film it is impossible as a visitor not to begin to feel like a witness or participant in these acts of genocide. The psychedelic scenography is reminiscent of Douglas Trumbull’s acid-tinged colourised effects used during the Star-Gate sequence of Kubrick’s 2001 A Space Odyssey.

The assault on the senses builds slowly. We hear a plaintive child’s song (apparently masking lyrics of a refugees suffering) which contrasts with the thumping sound of artillery. Troops posture and directly threaten the camera and thus the viewer. UN trucks trundle into the hills. Dead bodies line the ditches while a shack acts as a morgue for casualties and coffins mount up. The camera pans over entire valleys of refugees in makeshift huts. Whole populations are set adrift or are victimised. It is eerie, ominous and disturbing. Although lacking a narrative there is a slow unfolding sense of horror. A woman gives birth by caesarean to an apparent stillbirth that is miraculously spanked into spluttering life. The visceral nature of modern war and its consequences is impossible to avoid. You cannot flick the remote, tweet, swipe or switch YouTube channel, as you too are held captive in the chamber.

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Special note must be given to the sound design by the music collaborator Ben Frost, as it is crucial to the overall impact. Likewise the cinematography of Trevor Tweeten lends a heightened immediacy and visual impact to the events we are forced to witness. The careful construction presented by the RHA is to be highly commended.

The exhibition, which formed part of Ireland’s presence at the Venice Biennale 2013, will next travel to Limerick City of Culture before being seen in prestigious locations on the international art itinerary throughout 2014.

This is art as a pugilistic attack on our complacency to the horrors of modern war. This is art that must be seen and experienced. The exhibition continues until March 12th.

 

Photo credits from top:

Richard Mosse, Safe From Harm, North Kivu, Eastern Congo, 2012, Digital C-print, 71 x 89 cm, edition of 5, © Richard Mosse, courtesy Jack Shainman Gallery

Richard Mosse, Platon, North Kivu, Eastern Congo, 2012, Digital c-print, AP, 183 x 229 cm, © Richard Mosse, courtesy Jack Shainman Gallery

Richard Mosse, Suspicious Minds, North Kivu, Eastern Congo, 2012, Digital c-print, 122 x 152 cm, edition of 2, © Richard Mosse, courtesy Jack Shainman Gallery

A Cabinet of Delights

“Deadweight” Vera Klute at the RHA Gallery.

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Remember those thrilling feelings as a small child entering the slightly macabre Victorian setting of the Natural History Museum? Confronting perfectly preserved wild beasts in glass sarcophagi up close and personal, all in dimly lit marble halls. A frozen menagerie of animal kind. A visit to the latest works by the German born Irish resident artist Vera Klute evokes a similar frisson of emotions. It is thrilling, disturbing and alluring all at the same time. Nothing is quite what it seems on first viewing. It also has that childlike fascination with morbidity.

The immediate and arresting centrepiece is akin to entering a frozen scene from Hitchcock’s The Birds. A flock of suspended taxidermy birds appear to be all crashing into an imaginary pane of invisible glass. But Batman like comic speech bubbles adorn each bird’s broken impact – ‘Whumf!!!’ ‘Crack!!!’ The dead birds are in the artistic tradition of utilising found objects. They are road kill ready-mades but with a tragic quality. There are allusions here to a primitive form of animalism.

Untitled_jaws  deadlock1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cheekily subversive, there is humour and knowingness inherent in all the exhibits. Approaching a pedestal displaying cast bronze sets of human teeth a hidden motion sensor suddenly starts them chattering maniacally. This is a Surrealist’s sense of playfulness, and disruption, a pleasure in materials reminiscent of Meret Oppenheim’s 1936 fur-covered cup and saucer. Trickery, conundrums and unresolved conflicts resurface in the fused skeletal remains of two headless conjoined chickens (free range!) covered in lurid magenta enamel. They will struggle forever but never to resolution.

meatscape1

 

Visceral body-shock qualities have been present in Vera Klute’s previous work but she also displays a confidence to work in a variety of media to explore her body-centric art. This time her elegantly executed drawings have the observational exactitude of an Albrecht Dürer etching. But closer examination of the subject matter reveals disturbing realities. Look and then look again. See that illustration of some clasped hands – actually it shows each hand to have six fingers in some inexplicable Escher-like manner. Wide landscapes of rolling countryside are in fact cross-sections of great haunches of dead meat but beautifully rendered. Beauty and gore can it seems be present at the same time.

The remaining two scenes of featureless grey cloudscapes seem like a casual aside in comparison, lacking weight or substance. Perhaps that’s the point?

All the exhibits are in a small intimate space recalling a 19th Century collector. A taxonomy of the unusual and intriguing – a cabinet of delights.  This is the work of a developed and skilled practitioner. An artist with great clarity of vision and one to watch. Expect the unexpected from Vera Klute.

Deadweight continues at the RHA Gallery, Ely Place until the 23rd February.

Photos all courtesy of Vera Klute, from top:

Birds (mixed media); Jaws (bronze); Deadlock (chicken carcass, enamel paint) and Meatscape (pencil, ink and watercolour on paper).

Love/Hate Ireland

Micheal Farrell retrospective at the RHA Gallery. January-February 2014.

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Art was supposed to be simply art-for-art’s-sake since good old uncle Clem Greenberg told us so. The standard bearer of High Modernist painting insisted art must be devoid of context. But even Picasso couldn’t keep the real world out of his paintings forever. In Guernica painted in 1937 he capitulated as he realised he just had to face up to the horrors unfolding in his native war-torn Spain. The progenitor of Modernist painting Manet also felt himself obliged to record historic events as in his painting The Execution of the Emperor Maximilian of Mexico (1867-1868). From Goya’s El Tres de Mayo painted in 1814 right up to the recent incarceration of China’s most famous contemporary artist Ai Weiwei painters have felt compelled to comment on political events. Such was the case with the Irish artist Micheal Farrell.

The defining period of the Micheal Farrell retrospective running at the RHA Gallery in Dublin is his angered outburst at the political crises that engulfed Ireland in the early 1970s. Informed by events such as Bloody Sunday, the Dublin and Monaghan Bombings and numerous other atrocities he abandoned his intellectually abstracted and measured Celtic inspired graphic style. The violent political situation of his homeland began to bleed into his repeated motifs of a French citron pressé. But this wasn’t enough. Suddenly figures appear too. These are angry paintings. The large canvasses have a frantic and unfinished quality as he feverishly attempted to confront the brutal realities of modern Ireland.

The high point of the exhibition is the series of paintings Farrell based on the famous 18th century Rococo Odalisques by François Boucher. The nude portrait of Marie Louise O’Murphy, mistress to Louis XV has been widely parodied. It was even used on beermats to sell Irish stout a few years ago. In Madonna Irlanda Micheal Farrell reimagines the Odalisque setting in the Ireland of the 1970s. The naked woman becomes an abused figure by Church, State and the authorities. Vitruvian man is also disfigured whilst Farrell’s own portrait looks down in many of them observing what is unfolding.

Images of men immersed upside down in glasses and roughly applied paint are self-referential examinations of the masculinity of the artist.

Le Matin avant Noel a Cardet

 

Farrell departed for France in 1971 but he never left his roots behind. Images of Celtic interlacing consistently reappeared as well as repeated themes of imagined meetings between the high priests of Modernism, Proust, Picasso and Joyce. But there are also wonderful wintery views of Cardet and paintings of everyday life in this exhibition. Yet the political bile rises once more and re-emerges in a series of paintings depicting the bloody aftermath of the Omagh bombing in 1998.

Farrell exhibits a potent love/hate relationship with the country of his birth. But the image of Madonna Irlanda lying naked and prone on a chaise longue exposed to the mercies and vagaries of Europa is perhaps just as prescient to contemporary Ireland as it was in the 1970s. Farrell, like many Irish artists before him, died in exile in 2000 after a long struggle with cancer. His Ireland like that of his canvasses was still unfinished and a work in progress.

03_MichealFarrelSunday 1998(detail)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photos from top:

Micheal Farrell, Miss O’Murphy d’après Boucher – This Picture will be Finished when Ireland Once Again is One, (detail) 1978, Oil on canvas, 152.5 x 254cm, Private collection. RHA Gallery.

Micheal Farrell, Le Matin Avant Noel a Cardet, 1999, Oil on canvas, Courtesy of the Micheal Farrell Estate. RHA Gallery.

Micheal Farrell, Orange Pressé, 1972, Lithograph, 75 x 50cm, Courtesy of the Micheal Farrell Estate. RHA Gallery.

Micheal Farrell, Sunday, (detail), 1998, Oil on canvas, Courtesy of the Micheal Farrell Estate. RHA Gallery.

But would you put it on your wall?

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It is often said that children at Christmas can become bored, or are not as enamoured with some of the toys they receive, and end up playing with the toy’s packaging instead. I’m not sure that is entirely true, especially when the toys involved are Skylanders, Star Wars or the latest Vtech Switch and Go Dinos. However, we all have as children, at some time constructed entire imagined worlds from random objects at hand – including cardboard boxes.

Likewise in art a century ago Picasso and Kurt Schwitters used collage and assemblage from found items as a technique to create new views of the world. The American artist Robert Rauschenberg with his co-called ‘combines’ concocted 3D sculptural works from very disparate objects. It is against this background that the centenary retrospective exhibition ‘Constructions’ running at the RHA of the Irish artist Tony O’Malley focuses on his three-dimensional collaged work.

Made from fragments and scraps of found wood each work has been nailed, glued or wired together to form something new. Flotsam and jetsam that could be the remains of a great fire or shipwreck washed up on a shore. Now they are retooled and re-appropriated. Each has marks and paint applied to them – some seem careful and considered others rough and rapid. Their meaning is not always clear as though they are from an amnesiac attempting to reconfigure some remembered construct from the past.

There is a sense that they are just shards and scraps picked up by a post-apocalyptic beachcomber. It’s as though O’Malley has stumbled on the remnants of Cornelia Parker’s exploding timber hut Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View and has now retooled and re-appropriated them into something else.

(http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/parker-cold-dark-matter-an-exploded-view-t06949)

The constituent parts have been scraped, indented, gouged and distressed. Some have a black line or a roughly daubed red circle to delineate some half remembered figurative element. They are hung from wire or on picture hooks.

O’Malley’s constructs are topographical views – like maps of half remembered landscapes, landmarks or shorelines as seen from above. Many have nails hammered into boards to with thread wound round these nails to define a possible outline. The pieces are often assembled along an axis or hanging along a plumb line.

The exhibition curators assert there is diversity to these constructions. I would argue the opposite. There is a cohesion seeing them displayed together. Some are small scale, some quite large. Yet there is an obsession or compulsive strain by the artist to reinvestigate the same themes repeatedly in each work.

Would you put one on your wall as an object of beauty? If like the RHA you had a large enough white room to show several works all at once then the repetitive impact of an artist working and obsessively reworking to get at some forgotten truth then the answer is yes. They work best as an array. Their power comes from seeing the same questions approached and posed over and over again.

Continues until the 20th December.