Neil Carroll’s work in the RHA space punches us with scale. We are not used to such scale in Irish art. With one work 5m long and 3m high this artist is ambitiously rising to the challenge of the immense space of the Gallagher Gallery. Which to be clear is quite ordinary when compared with its international counterparts. To “make” such large works Carroll had to procure a suitable studio and did so by adapting an open cowshed in the Wicklow countryside and working through the winter, that’s determination.
These artworks rest uncomfortably with the term painting. Though they sit on the wall, are rectilinear, their making has little to do with the conventional notion of what constitutes painting. Collage and appliqué, added to the techniques of building and construction, are the strategies deployed to build these artworks. If they are the verbs in the grammar of this work the nouns, adjectives and adverbs are plaster, wood, household paint, metal, plastic and webbing.
The antecedents of these works can be found in the innovations of American painting of the mid-20th century, artists like, Jasper John, Robert Rauschenberg and Frank Stella. And in the more recent epic painting of Anselm Kiefer.
Carroll’s works engage us by their ability to be large and forceful in aspect and delicate and inventive in detail. There is a melancholy here, a paean to sometime lost. The Brocken Spectre referred to in the artist’s titling of this show is an atmospheric occurrence experienced on high mountain tops where the sun casts an enlarged prismed human shadow across the clouds below the summit. This phenomenon is eerie and elusive and perhaps the desire to chase and capture such spectre provides the emotional drive that pervades this work. Patrick T Murphy, RHA Director, March 2020
The RHA Gallery reopens Thursday 23 – Sunday 26 July and Thursday 30 July – Sunday 2 August.
For booking a visit, see here.