Daily Archives: November 2, 2015

VAN September/October 2015: Experimental Decade; James Merrigan Reflects on 10 Years of The LAB, Dublin

Website alan phelan

Alan Phelan, ‘Bio Bits’ photomontage, photo by Michael Durand, 2006

It is all the more remarkable then that an experimental project like The LAB should find the oxygen to survive in the city, and from the city.

Mick Wilson, The LAB 2006 – 2008

Dublin’s art scene was greatly affected by the seesaw growth and recession of the Irish economy in the last decade. On the one hand artists had to deal with the inflated value of ‘space’ during the housing bubble, and then funding cuts during the economic recession on the other. The aspirations of establishing a space, an art publication or a career as an artist seemed fugitive in an environment that was in continual economic flux. No one was safe, especially the establishment: Temple Bar Gallery + Studios (TBG+S) was inactive during the height of the summer in 2010, and Circa Art Magazine ceased production in 2011 due to successive funding cuts.

Somehow, innovative and brave artists and curators, with the support of Dublin City Council Arts Office and the Arts Council of Ireland, formed collectives and shared resources, managing to transform the remaining nooks and crannies of the property market into alternative art spaces. Alongside the artist-run studio / gallery model, some enigmatic and independent art spaces like Pallas Projects, FOUR and thisisnotashop supplied further alternative spaces and hope for artists.

In this 10-year period the Dublin art scene intensified and expanded. Emergent alternative and commercial spaces established themselves within the psyche of the local art community, and we also saw the development of ‘the curator’ and a growing intellectualism promoted by such academic arts research programmes as MAVIS (IADT), Art in the Contemporary World (NCAD) and PhD arts research through GradCAM. (more…)

VAN Critique September/October 2015: Ruth E. Lyons at the Mermaid Arts Centre, Co Wicklow

paul tierney

Ruth E Lyons, ‘The Sea, The Sea’ 2015 exhibition view, image courtesy of Paul Tierney

Ruth E. Lyons
The Sea, The Sea
31 July – 5 September
Mermaid Arts Centre, Main Street, Bray, Co Wicklow

I first encountered the great chunks of rock salt that appear in this exhibition at the artist’s rural Co Offaly studio, a former hay loft located in a soft and yielding bog land landscape far from the ancient sea where these salty boulders originated. The rock salt is a remnant of the long lost Zechstein Sea, a landlocked body of water that once stretched from North West Europe to the East. Mined in Carrickfergus, Co. Antrim, it is now commonly used for de-icing roads.

Historian Mark Kurlansky has written extensively about the immense historical and social importance of salt (Salt A World History 2002), associated with everything from human sexuality to trade, wealth and power. The search for salt has had an impact on landscapes across the globe, from the development of salt mines to the otherworldly appearance of salt refineries. Salt has been a highly valuable commodity for thousands of years. (more…)

VAN Critique September/October 2015: Laura Gannon Silver House Uillinn, West Cork Arts Centre

Crit Laura Gannon

Laura Gannon, ‘Silver House’, nine-panel screen, oil on linen with cut-outs, aluminium and oak frame, 214 x 1017cm, photo by Johnny Savage

Laura Gannon
Silver House
Uillinn, West Cork Arts Centre
18 July – 12 August 2015
Commissioned for Uillinn, Gannon’s exhibition comprises a new body of experimental large-scale architectural drawings and a new film work, Silver House. The film was shot locally in Goleen, West Cork, during the Spring of 2015. The work is a collaboration with the sound composer Susan Stenger and features Eilish Lavelle and her home as the subject and the site of the film.

Lavelle has spent the last 40 years designing her home and garden in line with the ideals of high modernism, transporting the early-twentieth century avant-garde to the coast of rural West Cork. The house was once a horse stable, transformed by Lavelle in the 1970s with floor-to-ceiling windows, glass and chrome furniture, and bathroom walls covered in mirrored silver paper. However, the passage of time has softened the clean modernist lines.
The audience are seated on a white fur bench – a reference to the fur bedroom created by Adolf Loos in 1903 – which provides a tactile but also comfortable vantage point. The fur suggests the intimacy of being invited into the comfort of someone’s home before the film even begins. Silver House opens with the specific – a deadpan close up of the intricate organic design of the rich red wallpaper – before cutting to the exterior of the property where the ancient trees sweep down to the Atlantic Sea.
This cutting continues throughout the film, shifting between interior and exterior, the inanimate and intimate portrait of Lavelle, the purely visual and Lavelle’s personal stories about her home. Like the house, the film borrows techniques from early avant-garde film, using montage to juxtapose fast and slow paced shots in a way that compresses and fractures space, time and information. (more…)

VAN Critique September/October 2015: El Lissitzky: The Artist and the State at IMMA

Klinom krasnym bej belych

El Lissitzky, Klinom krasnym bej belych, Beat the Whites with the Red Wedge. (1919 – 1920), reprint 1966, offset on paper 48.8 x 69.2cm, Collection Van Abbemuseum, photo by Peter Cox, Eindhoven, The Netherlands

El Lissitzky: The Artist and the State, with Rosella Biscotti, Maud Gonne, Nuria Guell, Alice Milligan, Sarah Pierce and Hito Steyerl
Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin Garden Galleries
30 July – 18 October 2015

Curatorial practices require imaginative conceits, while considerations of funding and timing require pragmatic ones to boot. All of these appear activated in an exhibition that finds unexpected but stimulating connections between the co-development of abstraction and political ideology in post revolutionary Russia, and a desire for national sovereignty enacted on Irish bohereen in the years before 1916. The show is co-curated by Director of IMMA, Sarah Glennie, and Annie Fletcher, Chief Curator at the Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, from where the El Lissitzky material comes. The work of four contemporary artists, reflecting on “the position of the artist within our society now” adds fresh fuel to these retrospective fires.

In Room 1 three computer monitors, vertical and side-by-side on the white wall, glow a uniform red. They sit in an alcove built into a false wall angled within the room’s normal dimensions. This wedge-like ingress alludes to another work in the show, but that’s not apparent at first; for now it’s just peculiar but nice. Red Alert (2007), by German artist Hito Steyerl, refers to Homeland Security Red, the red of imminent danger, the colour of fear. Deceptively serene, the softly glowing monitors also refer to Russian Constructivism and in particular to Aleksandr Rodchenko’s ‘end of painting’ icon Pure Yellow, Pure Red, Pure Blue (1921). Rodchenko’s triptych is boiled down to a single colour and slogan, a uniform ‘red or dead’. (more…)

VAN Critique September/October 2015: Jan McCullough at Belfast Exposed

Crit Jan McCullough

Jan McCullough, ‘Home Instruction Manual’ installation view, Belfast Exposed Futures, 3 July – 22 Aug 2015

Jan McCullough
Home Instruction Manual
Belfast Exposed
3 July – 22 August 2015

Jan McCullough’s project ‘Home Instruction Manual’ developed from the artist’s interest in traditional instruction manuals. Typing “how to make a home” into Google, she soon found an online chat forum where the participants gave instructions on how to transform a ‘house’ into a ‘home’. McCullough subsequently rented an empty property in Belfast for two months, putting into practice the advice she had gathered online. The photographs and objects on show at the exhibition ‘Living Room’ – presented in the Belfast Exchange gallery space at Belfast Exposed – document various elements of this project. (1)

A large, white plastic rug lies diagonally across the exhibition space. Printed onto the rug is the text from a series of online conversations, including the quote “not too clean but not super cluttered – just ‘lived in’ I guess!” (Molly Bdenum, 12.53, 7 August 2014). The rug dominates the room, but other two-dimensional domestic elements – a light switch, a window, a sofa and a fireplace – form part of the work’s narrative. McCullough uses black plastic tape to render these as flat life-size pictures. The tape is applied intermittently, which creates a rhythmical pattern. These stark, monotonous, graphic configurations are analogous to the binary code of the digital realm. (more…)