Placeholder | Niamh O’Malley at mother’s tankstation, Dublin


Date(s) - 02/07/2020 - 01/08/2020

mother's tankstation





mother’s tankstation Dublin and London galleries will be reopening to the public from Thursday, 2 July 2020 by appointment only. Both Dublin and London exhibitions Placeholder by Niamh O’Malley and The Moon is kinder than the Sun by Noel McKenna will be extended through to Saturday 1 August.

I see no Spanish ships…

‘P’ for placeholder: Once again we find ourselves in the interesting position of writing an exhibition text without specific knowledge of the exact works, of how they will look or configure in the show. So in essence, not only is ‘placeholder’ the title of the show, but it is technically the purpose of this short essay. This of course does not mean that it is an inferior surrogate, rather language floated into a parallel space. Bear with me, I will develop… In an earlier life as a gallery technician I was working on an extensive museum installation, and number of works; a Picasso, Léger and a Mondrian etc., were all indicated in their place within the hang by postcard reproductions. Thirty years later, I find that I vividly remember the visual of the small card reproductions taped to the wall, and curiously not-so-much the actual paintings. There goes Greenberg’s theory of auratic presence, and one up for Walter Benjamin on reprographics, I guess it just depends what situates first in the muscle memory of experience.

In linguistics, a placeholder is “a person or thing that occupies the position of another person or thing” [i]. Notionally; an ‘element’ in a sentence that is required by syntactic constraint, yet carries little-or-no semantic information or evidenciation, and thus serves as a purposeful deflection of intent. For example, the word ‘it’ becomes a subject in the hypothetical sentence; it is a pity that they left, whereas the underlying subject/agenda is; that they left at all from ‘wherever’, for whatever, unspecified but apparently disappointing reason. The strategic employment of the placeholder thus creates space into which to dream or project, dematerialising otherness; an imagined landscape of immanence, or equally, negation. Everything and nothing. I see no Spanish ships.

We, Finola Jones and (‘I’ – ghost writer) first became aware of Niamh O’Malley and her work, as a placeholder in absentia, some years ago while on a ‘scholarship’ (residency) at the British School at Rome, similarly by reported, narratised experience. Our home for three months was to be a large, open and bright room, formerly a marble-carving studio, in the simple Edwin Lutyens’ cloister beyond it’s deceptively grand façade (itself a surrogate, homage, pastiche, of the lower section of Christopher Wren’s St Paul’s Cathedral) [ii], facing out to the top end of the Borghese Gardens – and a placeholder in multiple movies. The all-white space concluded in large frosted-out window that, if ‘it’ could look out, looked out to nowhere in particular; a narrow lane and shallow car park beyond. Rather ‘it’ (the window) had been sadly reduced to a mute light box. Getting to know the institute’s staff and other resident ‘scholars’, we quickly established that the previous occupant of our studio remained more vividly in the collective imagination than we were likely to pull-off. She had held her place. As also ‘Irish’ scholars, we were evidently her (re-)place(ment)holder, and the work that had last been made and seen in ‘our’ studio, was firmly cemented in the perpetuated imagination of the staff and fellows – no mean feat for those pejoratively invested in the art of the long dead ‘ancients’. It seems that for the vaunted summer Mostra, Niamh O’Malley had meticulously painted an absent(entia) garden onto our blank backlit window panes. It’s a pity the garden left… (for whatever reason), yet glass, space, light, clarity, transparency, opacity, obfuscation and a conceptual vs. empirical exploration of ‘landscape’; nature and human symbiosis have remained core constituents within O’Malley’s practice.

In order to ensure a safe environment for staff and visitors, each appointment slot will be limited to two people only, known to each other and admitted together. We request all visitors to adhere to social distancing and hand hygiene guidelines and where possible, to wear their own face covering when visiting the gallery. If this is not possible, the gallery has a small supply available onsite.

Admission to the gallery can only be facilitated on the above terms.

To schedule your appointment, please click on the links below:




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