Category: Articles

selected from our publications


VAN November/December 2015: Alberto Flores Discusses the Curatorial Residency he Undertook at Fire Station Artists’ Studios, Dublin, July 2015

Francisco López

Francisco López performing at Museo Vostell Malpartida, 24 September 2010

Residency Profile

‘SOUNDSCAPE IRELAND’
ALBERTO FLORES DISCUSSES THE CURATORIAL RESIDENCY HE UNDERTOOK AT FIRE STATION ARTISTS’ STUDIOS, DUBLIN, IN JULY 2015.

“Why Ireland?” was the recurring question I heard from almost every artist I met last July. I was selected for the Fire Station Artists’ Studios International Curator Residency Award and I researched Irish sound art and experimental music for two weeks, interviewing and conducting studio visits with sound artists based in Cork, Limerick, Kells and Dublin. (1) The outcome of this residency will be a sort of presentation of Irish exploratory music (which will definitely manifest as a publication and hopefully some live acts as well) at the sound art event I have been co-curating since 2007 at Museo Vostell Malpartida, a museum founded in 1976 by German Fluxus artist and video-art pioneer Wolf Vostell, located at Los Barruecos natural monument in Malpartida de Cáceres (Extremadura, western Spain). (more…)


VAN November/December 2015: ‘Humour was the Key’ Alan Phelan Talks To Caroline McCarthy About Her Career

Career Development:
HUMOUR WAS THE KEY
ALAN PHELAN TALKS TO CAROLINE MCCARTHY ABOUT HER CAREER.

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Caroline McCarthy, detail of work from the Humbrol series, 2002 – 2008, found packaging, humbrol enamel paint, shelving , 495 x 137 x 38cm

Alan Phelan: You studied in NCAD but soon moved to London for a Masters at Goldsmiths. What made you remain in London?
Caroline McCarthy: It wasn’t a conscious decision. Studying in London, I had made a lot of new friends and everyone was organising shows, so it kept me busy. The next thing you know two decades have whizzed by. To be honest, these days you can be based anywhere.

AP: You have always had a footing in Ireland through exhibiting here regularly and with Green on Red Gallery. Why does this matter to you?
CM: My formative years as an artist were in Dublin. It’s where I established friendships and working relationships that have continued, and which I value very much.

AP: You have worked with many international galleries. Have any of these represented you or were they just for exhibitions (I am thinking here of Parker’s Box, Hoet Bakaert or Bugdahn and Kaimer)?
CM: Parker’s Box and Hoet Bekaert represented me for 10 years and 8 years respectively. They both had a very experimental approach to things. Shows were always a place where new things could happen, rather than the work being shipped in and out again. This model is extremely difficult to sustain, given the increasing dominance of art fairs and the pressure placed on galleries to go there and sell in order to survive. Some galleries just don’t want to play ball, and rightly so. (more…)


VAN November/December 2015: Tribute to Jason Oakley

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Jason Oakley in Smock

TRIBUTE: JASON OAKLEY
VAI STAFF AND BOARD MEMBERS, PAST AND PRESENT, CELEBRATE JASON OAKLEY, EDITOR OF THE NEWS SHEET FOR ALMOST 20 YEARS, WHO PASSED AWAY ON FRIDAY 2 OCTOBER 2015. THE TRIBUTE BEGINS WITH A PIECE WRITTEN BY JASON’S BROTHER MARCUS;

A Mellifluous Oak
Wordsmith Wonderboy
Perfect Procrastinator
Analogue Data Bank
Rad Dad
Broadland Horzions
Logical Acorn
Oaty Tones
Daydream Driver
Fabric Junkie
Soulful Seaside Sunshine
Bass In Your Face
Deconstruct and Decompress
Cosmic Carlow
Echo On
Brave Brother
Overload
Another Green World
Marcus Oakley

 

Jason at Venice

Jason launching Printed Project in Venice 2009

I have put off writing this small tribute for so long. How is it possible to put into words the respect, love, gentle soul and intellect that was our friend Jason Oakley? How is it possible to put in writing the unutterable grief felt with Jason’s death? Jason worked with us for over 20 years. In that time he developed VAI’s publications, guided us through the creation and delivery of respected journals such as Printed Project, our Critical Writing Award with Dublin City Council, and was the heart and soul of the Visual Artists’ News Sheet. But Jason was much more than that. His unique sense of dedication, humour and professionalism provided us all with the inspiration to do even more.

The days following his death were some of the most difficult for us. A new reality hit us: Jason would no longer be there to avoid making tea; to introduce us to new music forms that even the most radical bearded hipster would envy; to debate the merits of regional work clothing; to ensure that the sudden interventions of humour were available to defuse moments of stress; to make sure that the voice of the writer would be heard in all of its glory. We know that we are not alone in our love and respect for Jason. The many tributes that we have received have meant so much to us and to Cora, Marcus and his parents. Harry had a tremendous dad that he can continue being proud of throughout his life. We hope to do a book of memories for him so that he will know Jason as we knew him … as our friend.
Noel Kelly, CEO, Visual Artists Ireland

I cant remember when I first met Jason. It was probably at some exhibition opening in the 90s, I don’t know, but he would leave enough of an impression to remember him the next time we met. He was just that perfect blend of friendly polite English man, appropriately quirky, mischievously humorous, impressively erudite and kind of spirit. Somehow he ended up here and we all had the great pleasure of getting to know him.

Knowing Jason led me to join the board of the Sculptors Society. I had known of his work for the organisation but when I joined the board, I grew to understand the role he played, how he and a few others had kept the lights on in dark days and how his life’s work was communicating to the members and the broader artistic community on behalf of the SSI/VAI. He was a consistent and persistent cultivator of ideas who gathered words to sate our curiosity. Jason never stopped working and never let the hard days become manifest in his mood.

On a bright sunny day just before Jason got married we climbed the Sugar Loaf. It was clear enough to see across the sea to Wales. In the frivolity of the moment we joked that he was leaving old England behind. But Jason was always his own man, himself, happy to be here and happy to be from there. I never thought I would be thinking of that occasion knowing that he is gone. It is hard to believe. But he had a great life, one worthy of celebration, so I will raise a glass and think of him, sporting some fine gentleman’s attire and laughing contagiously among his friends, numerous as they are.
Liam Sharkey, former Chair of the Board, Visual Artists Ireland

 

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‘Dancitecture’ copyright Jason Oakley

I knew Jason in two roles, that of tutor and colleague. In each of these roles he displayed an encyclopaedic knowledge and passion for the art-world, both local and international, and also a tremendous understanding of the trends and movements in critical thinking. Bright and logical, his vision and strategic thinking saw the development of the publications department in Visual Artists Ireland over the 21 years he worked here. He was a gentle, calm, intelligent man who will be greatly missed by all his colleagues, perhaps most especially on dark, dismal January mornings when Jason’s humorous anecdotes made life a lot more bright and cheerful. Love to Cora and Harry, rest in peace Jason; how you lived your life deserves to be celebrated.
Bernadette Beecher, Office Manager, Visual Artists Ireland

 

Jason was the first person to greet me when I joined the VAI Board, upstairs in the Fruitmarket over 13 years ago. Friendly, approachable and open, always in good form, he could (and did) hold forth about almost any topic, in particular the subject of libel and slander in print media (an area in which he developed no small amount of expertise as editor of the VAI newsletter!).

More recently, when Jason and Cora bought their house not too far from my own home, we talked about how best to approach the necessary repairs. All the work was being done by Jason and his family and friends. Jason’s dad was very keen to come over from England to spend time at the hard graft. Jason needed little guidance from me and had lots of ideas and plans for his new home. It was all ahead of him, a lovely wife, young family, new house, lots to do, all ahead full speed.

I was shocked and saddened to hear news of his illness, only to see him back in the VAI offices two board meetings later, laughing and joking as if nothing had happened. He was never ill to me on my intermittent VAI visits. Therefore, the news of his passing seems unreal. We all thought and hoped that he had beaten the odds.

Jason was a self-effacing, quietly confident person; intelligent, witty and not shy of voicing his opinions on any topic. After meeting him you were left with the impression that things weren’t quite as bad as they seemed. A wry smile and witty side-swipe would leave you with the lingering impression that there was no problem that couldn’t be sorted. I passed by the offices yesterday and looked up at the windows, expecting to see him inside talking and laughing. That’s how I remember Jason. We are all made lesser by his absence.
Mel Reynolds, former VAI Board Member

 

Any time spent in Jason’s company left you feeling better about the world. He was so warm and welcoming, always interesting and interested, and he had a deliciously deadpan sense of humour. He was a brilliant writer and editor. He had an extraordinarily broad and deep knowledge of the art world, and of so much else besides.

My warmest sympathy to Jason’s family, especially his beloved Cora and Harry. And to his colleagues and friends in VAI; to have lost Valerie and Jason from such a tight-knit team seems terribly cruel.
Roger Bennet, former VAI Board Member

 

I’ve been trying to recall when I first met Jason and I honestly can’t remember. For as long as I have known VAI and previously the SSI, Jason has been around; his presence was so intrinsic to the fabric of these organisations. One of the first faces you’d see as you entered the VAI office, he was always welcoming and generous to a fault. With his deft knowledge of what VAN readers would respond to, he’s guided me through writing a number of texts and articles for VAN and I remember my overwhelming pride when he proclaimed he’d awarded me a “gold star” for one particular article, because Jason’s approval held currency. His wit and humour lightened many a stilted situation and his love and enthusiasm for his work was genuinely inspiring.

My heart breaks for the family Jason leaves behind. His son Harry and my daughter Ruby are at a similar age and I always enjoyed our sneaky chats about the madness that is parenting the under sixes.

His passing away has drawn deep emotional pain and anguish for everyone who knew him and his absence will be felt throughout the Irish visual arts world for a long time to come. Saying Jason will be missed is an understatement but this tribute, along with the others that have poured into the VAI office, comes from the places where his influence, intelligence and friendship were felt.
Linda Shevlin, Chair of the Board, Visual Artists Ireland

 

Jason worked at VAI for over 20 years. I sat beside him as both friend and colleague for 11 of those years. As publications manager his considerable knowledge of visual art permeated through the office and beyond. His years spent at VAI with his witty and easy going nature meant he effortlessly formed and nurtured hundreds of both professional and personal relationships with artists and others in the industry – many of whom would go on to become his friends.

Reading all the tributes that have poured in to the office and on social media it is particularly evident that Jason built up a vast network of people who truly respected and admired him as both an editor and writer, and many whose careers in the art world were influenced by him in some way.

As a colleague he was kind, enthusiastic, encouraging, funny and loveably bonkers.
Jason always lifted our spirits, even on the dreariest of days, with his witticisms, little anecdotes about crazy art-world goings on, by showing us funny things on YouTube or introducing us to madcap musical genres like ‘yacht rock’.

My only gripe in all the years, and that which I loved to slag him about, was that he never ever made the tea … even though he would always accept a cuppa.

I know I speak for all my colleagues when I say that we were more than friends, we were a little VAI family, and we will miss him so very much.
Niamh Looney, Communications Officer, Visual Artists Ireland

 

 


VAN September/October 2015: A Balanced Life, Mary Catherine Nolan Profiles Conor Walton and the Development of His Arts Career

Website Conor Walton

Conor Walton, Lego Mondrain, 2015, 25 x 35cm, oil on linen

Career Development
A BALANCED LIFE
MARY CATHERINE NOLAN PROFILES CONOR WALTON AND THE DEVELOPMENT OF HIS ART CAREER.

Up the hill behind the main street of Wicklow town, Conor Walton lives with his partner and their three children in a former convent. As a result of the building’s previous role, the house has an unconventional structure, albeit with a slightly conventual feel. You enter a wide foyer off which lead the reception rooms, while the bedrooms are organised linearly down a corridor. At the end there is an entrance to the annex, a large, two-storey-high box-like space created from four of the eight original bedrooms which Walton knocked together and now uses as a studio.
This is probably the dream of many artists: to have their studio not just close to home, but attached to it, so the daily ‘commute’ doesn’t even involve going outside. For Walton, this has the added benefit of allowing him to balance his professional and personal life to the optimum. Once he has brought the children to school, he can paint for as many hours as family commitments permit.
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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

Profile
EXPERIMENTAL DECADE; JAMES MERRIGAN REFLECTS ON 10 YEARS OF THE LAB, DUBLIN
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 July/August 2015: ‘Collective Imagining’ by Denis Roach

IMG_3705DENIS ROCHE DISCUSSES ‘PANCHAEA: IN SEARCH OF AN EQUAL UTOPIA AND A WILLING SUSPENSION OF DISBELIEF’, A SOCIALLY ENGAGED PROJECT MADE IN COLLABORATION WITH BRIAN MAGUIRE, EMMA FINUCANE AND PEOPLE USING THE MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES IN CO. CARLOW (2011 – 2013).

In 2011 I was commissioned by Carlow Arts Office to make a large-scale, socially-engaged art work with people using Carlow Local Authority’s mental health services. The commission’s aim was to bring a hither-to invisible group into relief in the community, so that they could enjoy the citizenship and participation that others take for granted. The commission was supported by an Arts Council Project Award.

In some ways the project developed out of another work of mine, Open Window / A Clinically Useful Artwork? where I engaged with a group of patients in an isolation ward at the National Bone Marrow Transplant Unit, St. James Hospital, Dublin. (1) The concerns of these patients centred on being isolated within the architecture that had been developed to support their treatment. They experienced isolation and trauma as a result of this architecture, an unfortunate but tolerated by-product of a system that only focused on the physical aspects of their disease.

Isolation connected these two projects. I am interested in how human relationships are transformed when they are systematised, particularly in the area of care. What happens when care goes from the one-to-one to the one-to-many, and when it is administered within specific architectural environments? Care can become pathologised, resulting in relationships that serve the system first and the person second. A hospital is an example of architecture that encapsulates a system of caring and modulates the behaviour of the people who inhabit it. (more…)


VAN July/August 2015: ‘Circulation & Exchange’ by Cliona Harmey

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Cliona Harmey, Dublin Ships, installed February 2015, North Wall Quay, Dublin, photo by Ros Kavanagh

CLIONA HARMEY OUTLINES HER PROJECT ‘DUBLIN SHIPS’, MADE FOR DUBLIN’S DOCKLANDS.

Installed during February this year, Dublin Ships is a temporary public artwork commissioned by Dublin City Council as part of the Dublin City Public Art Programme. The project was a response to an open call for public art under the theme ‘interaction and the city’. Dublin Ships was one of a series of commissions initiated by Dublin City Council Public Art Office under the Per Cent for Art scheme, with funding from the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government.

My initial proposal was shortlisted and recommended for a research and development period with an award of €5,000. The research and development contract was drawn up in discussion with Public Art Manager Ruairí Ó Cuív. It listed all the elements that needed clarification and required additional research. As the projected costs of the commission were over the maximum limit in the call for proposals, it was also necessary for us to source some external funding for the commission.

At the time of submitting the original proposal, I had a clear idea of the general format of the work. It was to be a generative systems-based work, which displayed the name of the most recent ship in and out of Dublin Port in real time on a pair of screens in a public space. I had suggested a few different locations but not one definite site. The work itself grew out of a much smaller work, Dublin Port, which used the timetable from the Dublin Port Company website and was as part of the exhibition ‘Unbuilding’ at Mermaid, Bray (23 August – 17 October 2010), curated by Cliodhna Shaffrey, Rosie Lynch and Eilis Lavelle. (more…)


VAN July/August 2015: ‘Making Metal Sing’ David Lilburn Interviews Jane Murtagh

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Jane Murtagh, Allium

DAVID LILBURN INTERVIEWS JANE MURTAGH ABOUT ‘A JOURNEY WITH METAL: CONTEMPORARY WORK’, HER EXHIBITION AT GLOR, ENNIS (3 – 30 APRIL).

David Lilburn: What is your attraction and fascination with metal as a material and when did it begin?
Jane Murtagh: The journey began when I was about 12 years old in Dublin. My father had an antique shop in Dawson Street and his love was Georgian silver. I was dispatched to collect the repairs from silversmithing workshops like Allwright & Marshall’s, where the beech benches were long and worn, full of containers of repousse and chasing tools, highly polished stakes and hammers. There was an engraver in a very old building off Georges street, three floors up; there was one light bulb, windows blacked out with brown paper, a radio with a coat hanger aerial and a crotchety old geezer behind the counter peering down at me. Never a smile! Fabulous.
Then there was Miss Zolkie who had a shop on Grafton Street where she re- strung pearls. She sat on a high stool behind the counter stringing pearls and chain smoking all day. These people fascinated me; their world was far more interesting than mine or school.
I loved growing up in Dublin, the moody slate greyness of it all, jet black iron railings around the squares, the municipal and national galleries, the forged gold in the National Museum and the Chester Beatty. At least once a month I skipped school and did a grand tour of the lot.
I studied fine art at Dun Laoghaire College of Art & Design from 1975 – 1979 and thought I would be a painter, but the moment I set foot into the metalwork room and smelt the metal and dust, that was it. The sculptor Niall O’Neill was my tutor. He got me to forge my own repousse tools, showed me how to make pitch and dragged me around to visit artists who were working in metal. One of these was John Behan and I think Edward Delaney was the other; they hadn’t a bean between them and looked like they survived on fags and tea. Niall was a very generous tutor, sharing knowledge with his infectious enthusiasm and wit. So too was Des Taaffe from the Dublin Silver Company. They are still there for me and I am very grateful having that support. (more…)


VAN July/August 2015: ‘If You Shout, No One Listens’ Jason Oakley Interviews Karla Black

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Karla Black, Likeness, 2015, polythene, powder paint, plaster powder, thread, 180 x 150 x 110cm, courtesy of the artist and Galerie Gisela Capitain, Cologne, photo by Denis Mortell

KARLA BLACK TALKS TO VAI ABOUT HER SITE-SPECIFIC SCULPTURES, NOW ON SHOW AT THE IRISH MUSUEM OF MODERN ART (1 MAY – 26 JULY 2015).

Jason Oakley: You’re well known for your use of unconventional, colourful and decorative materials in your sculpture – including cosmetics, craft and decorative materials. What were some of your initial motivations of working in this way?

Karla Black: I made a decision early on to make sure I do what I want to do, and to use the materials and the colours that I want to use. I love powders, pastes, oils, creams and gels. I work out of a desire for materials and colours. At one particular moment I might want to see a very large amount of powder in a certain colour, so I’ll lay that out so that I can see it.

When I’m making a work, even a large work in a gallery space, it’s just like someone making a painting in their studio. What’s different is that, because the materials and structures in the finished work are often retarded in states of potential – in that they remain structurally and materially abstract, or raw or somewhat unformed – people can see the trace of my hand or my body, or the energy of a gesture still within them.

JO: What has appealed to you most about making work for IMMA?

KB: The best word I can think of to describe the reasons why I decide to make a particular work for a particular space is ‘practical’. The practical realities of the room or space offered to me determine what sculpture it would be possible to make there. I respond to a site in a very physical way. All I’m thinking about is what shape it is, where the door is – because that determines how people will first see the work – how much light there is and whether there is daylight or artificial light.

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VAN May/June 2015: ‘Dialogue Between Spheres’ Sarah Pierce Interviews Curators Plastik

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Plastic Passion’ at IFI screening with view of Wilhelm Hein’s Material filme II, 1976

SARAH PIERCE INTERVIEWS THE CURATORS OF PLASTIK, AN INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL OF ARTISTS’ MOVING IMAGE HELD IN GALWAY (7 FEBRUARY, AN TAIBHDHEARC), CORK (13 – 15 FEBRUARY, CRAWFORD/TRISKEL) AND DUBLIN (20 – 22 FEBRUARY, IFI/TBG+S).

Sarah Pierce: How did Plastik come to be?
PLASTIK (1): Jenny Brady first got in touch with Ben Cook (Director of LUX) about the possibility of setting up a critical forum group in Dublin after attending a school led by Ian White at the LUX / ICA Biennial of Moving Images in 2012. Lux were interested and Cook visited Dublin in February 2013, in order to establish Critical Forum Dublin at Temple Bar Gallery and Studios (TBG+S). It was based on a model that had been running in both London and Glasgow. The curatorial board responsible for putting PLASTIK together were all drawn from that first year of Critical Forum.

Maeve Connolly was also involved from a very early stage and helped put together a conceptual framework that would inform the festival. Our intention was to set up a dialogue between the spheres of film and visual art and to have that conversation take place in ways that we might not be used to here. Key to this relationship was creating a dialogue between the festival’s two main partners: the Irish Film Institute (IFI) and TBG+S.

The history of artists’ moving image practice, in terms of work produced, but also access to materials, is still relatively new here. Of course things are changing rapidly, but it was our hope that, by bringing these aspects into conversation through a festival, we could also consider the ways in which cinema can function as a site for the visual arts. We also wanted to begin to address issues around access, to create a context through which audiences throughout the country could start to access this work, the full spectrum of which we now refer to as ‘artists’ moving image’. (more…)


VAN May/June 2015: ‘Watching Liquid Run’ Maolíosa Boyle and Mark Wallinger in Discussion

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Installation view ‘Horse’ Void, Derry 21 February – 18 April 2015 photo by Paola Bernardelli

MAOLÍOSA BOYLE AND MARK WALLINGER DISCUSS ‘HORSE’ (VOID, DERRY 21 FEBRUARY – 18 APRIL 2015).

The concept for the exhibition ‘Horse’ (21 February – 18 April 2015) came about during Mark Wallinger’s 2013 Void show ‘One’, curated by Elaine Forde (10 September – 25 October 2013). Myself and Wallinger spent an evening with his friend Juliette Cooper, a horse trainer / breeder. Over dinner I was introduced to the equine world: the rules surrounding horse naming, the design and colour of the jockey silks and the significance of lineage. I was completely captivated and the idea for the exhibition was born.

I’ve always had an interest in horses, having started horse riding at an early age. Wallinger has a life long fascination with horses – one that crosses his passion with his practice. ‘Horse’ the exhibition we curated together explored the representation and role of the horse in contemporary society, considering its profound relationship to man through countless generations .

Featuring twenty-eight artists, ‘Horse’ combined work from historical collections, an open submission call and invited artists. The exhibition featured a wide range of themes such as the suffragette movement, the traveler tradition and horse identification through a myriad of mediums including film, photography, sculpture and painting.

Maolíosa Boyle, Director, Void, Derry

Maolíosa Boyle: Where did your love of horses come from?
Mark Wallinger: It is one of those passions that happen at such an early age one can only figure out why later in life. I remember running home from infants’ school to see Arkle win the 1964 Cheltenham Gold Cup. So I was maybe six years old. I have always loved horses and racing and find them extraordinarily beautiful. Lester Piggott was a hero and the relationship of jockey to horse has magic for me as well. When Piggott was on a great horse like Nijinsky in the 1970 King George, it was as if the horse made its own serene progress to the winning post. I have a video of Piggott in slow motion, which demonstrates his otherworldly balance on a horse at full gallop – he is absolutely still. (more…)


VAN May/June 2015: ‘Capturing Passing Moments’ by Kevin Killen

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Kevin Killen ‘Certain Moments’ installation view, University Of Ulster Gallery Belfast (5 March – 2 April 2015)

KEVIN KILLEN DISCUSSES THE WORK HE MADE FOR THE EXHIBITON ‘CERTAIN MOMENTS’ AT UNIVERSITY OF ULSTER GALLERY (5 MARCH – 2 APRIL), WHICH TOOK PLACE DURING THE ULSTER UNIVERSITY FESTIVAL OF ART AND DESIGN.

My interest in working with neon started during my time at the Surrey Institute of Art and Design, University College (1996 –1999). I’d moved to a busy college town from the countryside, so I really noticed the continuous flow of traffic and especially the noise and lights that came into my student house at night. I experimented with ways to capture passing moments, by visualising the nocturnal sounds and lights that invaded my space. Neon seemed an ideal medium to do so. It processes an ability to encompass both speed and stillness. Likewise neon light can be either quietly seductive or loud and overwhelming – and it has strong links with pop culture, glamour and advertising.

During and after my studies I was reliant on getting neon pieces fabricated by industrial makers. As a consequence, I did feel I was missing out on a proper understanding of the full scope of the medium in both practical and theoretical terms. I’d found that when dealing with neon workshops, the available options were often both expensive and restricted. The commercial makers always came up with barriers to making the pieces I really wanted to make.

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VAN May/June 2015: ‘Shadow Carrier’ by Brendan Fox

Less Greater Equal, film still (3), Brendan Fox

Brendan Fox Less Greater Equal film still

BRENDAN FOX DISCUSSES HIS PROJECT ‘LESS GREATER EQUAL’, RECENTLY SHOWN AT THE NAG GALLERY, DUBLIN (6 – 20 MARCH 2015). 



I consider the gallery space a platform from which I converse with viewers. Both curatorially and from the perspective of a visual artist, I regard ‘Less Greater Equal’ as a personal conversation. This project is a departure from my previous work, as I found myself assuming the role of both subject and auteur. In 2014 my life changed irreparably. The year encompassed the breakdown of a 10-year relationship, losing my home, my father’s cancer diagnosis and my spiraling into depression. This was compounded when I experienced a homophobic attack. During this period there was also a constant barrage of wimbeldon-esque media coverage relating to the forthcoming marriage referendum. In the seemingly endless rounds of media discussions, it’s too often insinuated that LGBT people are ‘other’, peripheral or otherwise not quite part of the cogs of society.

I found myself questioning everything, embarking on an existential quest of sorts, searching for a personal context and a means of re-establishing my own identity. ‘Less Greater Equal’, although politically motivated, is also concerned with the idiosyncratic nature of sexual identity and the repercussions of growing and existing in a socio-political landscape where one is perceived as lesser. 

The tension between our inner and outer selves encourages artifice in our behaviours.
 Carl Jung refers to this facade as the persona: “… a kind of mask designed on the one hand to make a definite impression upon others, and on the other to conceal the true nature of the individual”. (1) We all struggle with identity. We are fragile. It is through the sharing of our narratives and vulnerabilities that we can truly understand both ourselves and the ‘other’. “Everyone carries a shadow,” Jung wrote, “and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is”. (2) (more…)


VAN March/April 2015: ‘Overlapping With Young Minds’ Anne Bradley Interviews Jennie Guy

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Performance installation during Rhona Byrne’s residency, ‘The Artist Stays’, St Catherine’s NS, Rush, Co. Dublin, photo by Presley Kgaflea, sixth class

OVERLAPPING WITH YOUNG MINDS
ANNE BRADLEY INTERVIEWS JENNIE GUY ABOUT MOBILE ART SCHOOL AND OTHER PROJECTS EXPLORING THE ROLE OF CONTEMPORARY ARTISTS AND CURATORS IN SCHOOLS.

Anne Bradley: How and why did you create the Mobile Art School?¹
Jennie Guy: I work in the art world and I’m also a parent. Another answer is that I’ve always been interested in – and critical of – education systems, since I was a teenager going through the system, up to when I was studying on my contemporary art MA and witnessing the ‘pedagogical turn’ in the contemporary art world. I think the overlap of artistic experience and younger minds is a winning combination. From the very beginning I could sense how substantial Mobile Art School might become, as education systems will always be in constant need of attention and reinvention, both from inside and outside the system.

AB: How do you approach schools and foster partnerships?
JG: Sometimes just cold calling. All it takes is one person – a principal or a teacher, for example – to provide a foothold for the project to be welcomed into a school. I’ve also been introduced to schools via arts festivals, other curators, arts practitioners and arts organisations. A project’s success can also generate momentum. Wicklow County Council have been incredibly supportive of the vision and we are now formalising plans for our partnership to move forward from one school into another later this year.

AB: You’ve described your approach as being ‘triadic’: based on relationships between curator, artist and student. How does this approach differ from the established artist-in-residence programmes within schools?
JG: My aim is to experiment with how the role of the curator can encourage a mutually beneficial conduit between students and artists. The goal is a sharing of processes that highlights vital links between artistic research and students’ potential as inventive learners. The way that I run my projects is based on my own professional interests in contemporary art practices, generally emphasising a sustained level of research and experimentation along with output. When the students engage – not only with an artist but an artist in relation to a curator (in an active working dynamic) – they begin to understand the real world of artistic production and all the relationships that make up our professional community. It dispels the notion of artists in the ivory tower.

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VAN March/April 2015: ‘New Monuments’ by Dorothy Hunter

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Dorothy Hunter, Wiki Loves Monuments 2014 – Palestine

DOROTHY HUNTER DESCRIBES HER EXPERIENCE OF THE VAI AND DIGITAL ART STUDIOS AWARD.

The VAI and Digital Arts Studios (DAS) residency award could not have been timelier for me. I was due to finish a two-year co-directorship at Belfast studio and gallery space Platform Arts just as my four-month stay at Digital Arts Studios was due to commence. With newfound time to commit to my practice and winter coming, what could be better than a fresh setting in which to work, with equipment, classes and support available, and the added bonus of central heating?

Upon commencement of the residency I would not have considered my practice to be especially ‘digital’, which was partly why I applied in the first place. While my installation work has included digital aspects (as it is often rooted in regeneration, political histories and gathered and compared information), I had never properly explored this side to my practice. In my proposal I stated how I’d like to spend my time at DAS exploring the use of digital media in my work in a more forthright way, using equipment and sources that have their own information-based subtext.

I also wished to use the time to consider a long-term archival project I have been making, called ‘Deconsecration’. I had been travelling around Northern Ireland to take photographs of former churches that were now employed as businesses or private homes, and having built a collection of images wished to find an appropriate platform for a not-quite-photography project.

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VAN March/April 2015: ‘A Beautiful, Evocative Place’ by Clea van der Grijn

Bang Bang filming me learning to paint a skull for Dia de lis Muertos. copy

Bang Bang Filming Van der Grijn learning to paint a skull for Dia De Lis Muertos

CLEA VAN DER GRIJN DISCUSSES A RECENT RESIDENCY IN MEXICO, WHERE SHE EXPLORED IRISH AND MEXICAN ATITUDES TO DEATH, MOURNING AD IDENTITY.

Sayulita is a small coastal village of 4000 inhabiants situated in the heart of thick jungle in Bahia de Banderas, Mexico, overlooking the Pacific Ocean. This is where, on 31 September 2014, I took up a 10-week residency with my family.

My aims for the residency were to explore rational, social and emotional constructs around death and loss, in order to make a body of work showing the disparities and similarities between Irish and Mexican cultural attitudes to death, focusing on Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) and Samhain.

I’d visited Sayulita back in February and become enchanted with its graveyard – a beautiful evocative place. It nestles amongst the thick of the jungle, balancing precariously on the hilltop that leads down to the small bay, Playa de los Muertos (Beach of the Dead). Each brightly painted grave has a candle that is lit every night.

Since the death of my brother Ruriko in 2008, I have been working extensively on the challenges and perceptions around the culture of death. I was artist in residence at the North West Hospice in Sligo (northwesthospice.ie) for nearly three years and my practice to date has investigated themes of loss and death.

Coming across the graveyard in Sayulita affected me so strongly that I knew somehow I must return. When I got back to Ireland in March I looked up the Mexican Ambassador to Ireland, Carlos de Alba, and we subsequently met a number of times to discuss my project and funding possibilities. I also contacted the Irish Ambassador to Mexico, Sonja Hyland. She too was interested in my work and informed me that Ireland and Mexico were celebrating 40 years of diplomatic relationships and that there could be funding for a cultural project such as mine.

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VAN March/April 2015: ‘Roads of Least Resistance: Irish Attitudes to Protest and Civil Disobedience’ by Treasa O’Brien

TREASA OBRIEN
ROADS OF LEAST RESISTANCE:
IRISH ATTITUDES TO PROTEST AND CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE

French new wave cinematographer Raoul Coutard shot Rocky Road to Dublin (directed by Peter Lennon, 1968) while he was in between shooting with Godard and Truffaut. A mix of journalistic essay film, visual anthropology and new wave expressionism, it asked the question ‘what do you do with your revolution once you have it?’ The answer for the Republic of Ireland, it seemed, was to sit in the seats of your former oppressors and become them yourselves. Ireland’s parochial and conservative attitude was put under attack and the Catholic Church more than implicated as the reason for its failure to imagine itself differently.

According to Peter Lennon, the Irish censor at the time said he couldn’t ban the film because there wasn’t any sex in it, but it was prevented from being shown by the government and through official channels in public places including on RTE, who said it was backed by ‘communist money’. According to Lennon, it was funded by an American friend of his.

It was selected for Cannes in 1968 but not screened – for that was the year that Godard and co. shut down Cannes Film Festival in solidarity with the students’ revolution. As a result Rocky Road to Dublin did get screened informally in the Paris student communes in 1968 as a warning about what not to do with your revolution. Soon after it was shown at Cork Film Festival and secured a seven-week run in a Dublin cinema. After that, apart from occasional screenings by the Irish Film Institute in Dublin, it was not shown in Ireland publicly until 2005 when, following restoration and production of a ‘making of’ complementary short by Loopline Films, it was finally broadcast by RTÉ.

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VAN Jan/Feb 2015: ‘History is Always Unfinished Business’, by Jonathan Carroll

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Jochen Gerz at ‘Jochen Gerz: Participation, Commemorative and Public Space’, 14 – 15 November, Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin, organised by the Goethe-Institut with IMMA, photo courtesy of IMMA

Art in Public

HISTORY IS ALWAYS UNFINISHED BUSINESS
Jonathan Carroll reports on an intense weekend (13 – 15 November) focusing on socially engaged / public art practices, which included a live streaming of the ‘Creative Time Summit’ 2014 from Stockholm at the Hugh Lane Gallery and Fire station Artists’ Studios, and the two-day symposium ‘Jochen Gerz: Participation, Commemoration and Public Space’ at IMMA.

Never mind creative time, what about getting the actual time to see a cluster of public art events all taking place in Dublin over a matter of days? It was as if all the institutions were beefing up their yearly outputs with end-of-year cramming. I put my bicycle in the boot of my car to allow me to zip between venues for the overlapping talks at the Hugh Lane and Fire Station, which related to a live streaming of the Creative Time Summit from Stockholm on (14 – 15 November). I also followed some of the Creative Time Summit on my laptop at home. This year, themes included “the challenges of migration, the growth of extreme nationalism and xenophobia, the uses of the public sphere, the fluid line between surveillance and our interpersonal selves, and, finally, how these challenges are met by artists who are re-imagining the public realm” creativetime.org. (more…)


VAN Jan/Feb 2015: ‘Attentive Festivalisation’ by Rebecca O’Dwyer

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Ingo-Giezendanner, GRRR, Eva International 2014, Kerry Group former Golden Vale Milk Plant, North Circular Road, Limerick, photo Eamonn O’Mahony

REBECCA O’ DWYER, WINNER OF THE 2014 VAI / DCC ARTS OFFICE CRITICAL ART WRITING AWARD PROPOSES THAT BY ASSERTING ‘PLACEBOUNDNESS’ TO THE PLANNING AND DEPLOYMENT OF LARGE-SCALE FESTIVAL-TYPE PRESENTATIONS OF VISUAL ART, OFFERS A MEANS TO NEGATE THE DRAWBACKS AND AUGMENT THE POSITIVES OF THESE NEAR UBIQUITOUS PHENOMENA OF OUR ‘CONTEMPORARY’ CULTURAL LIFE.

Festivalisation, insomuch as I understand it, involves a specific kind of process or set of tendencies: it outlines a movement whereby singular events become exploded into a multiplicity of forms and platforms. Certainly it bears some relation to the art critic Peter Schjeldahl’s pejorative term ‘festivalism,’ which he uses to evoke a contemporary tendency prioritising temporary spectacle – particularly installation art – within large-scale exhibition making (1). This, he describes as ‘festival art’: “environmental stuff that, existing only in exhibition, exalts curators over dealers and a hazily evoked public over dedicated art mavens” (2). Here, permanence is sidelined in favour of ambitious but temporary projects: artworks, which are always already on the point of leaving. (more…)


VAN Jan/Feb 2015: ‘Better to Come’ IMMA Director Sarah Glennie Interviews Turner Prize Winner Duncan Campbell

Career Development:
BETTER TO COME
IMMA DIRECTOR SARAH GLENNIE INTERVIEWS TURNER PRIZE WINNER DUNCAN CAMPBELL.

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Still from ‘It for Others’ 2013, 16mm film and analogue video transferred to digital video 54, courtesy of the artist and Rodeo, Istanbul / London

Duncan Campbell (born Dublin, 1972), a graduate of Glasgow School of Art (MFA) and the University of Ulster (BA) is the winner the 2014
Turner Prize – for his contribution to Scotland’s pavilion at the Venice Biennale 2014, the film It For Others. He was announced as the winner on December 1st. Actor Chiwetel Ejiofor presented the £25,000 prize to him at a ceremony at Tate Britain in central London. (more…)