Tuesday, July 25, 1995

REVIEW: Summer Group Show (Kerlin Gallery, Dublin)

Summer group shows can have a frighteningly predictable texture. There is sometimes a sense that the exhibition is made up of leftover, or out of context, works whose significance is completely muddied. This tends to throw the emphasis excessively on the exhibits as objects, coins of art currency rather than paints of interest, giving the overall impression that there is little or nothing at stake. This summer, the Kerlin Gallery has made an effort to assemble a show that is uncharacteristically demanding and consistent in its concerns. Rather than rounding up samples of work by their regular artists, such as Willie Doherty, Dorothy Cross or Kathy Predergast by now, the usual suspects of Irish art - the gallery has put together a show of younger artists. All those exhibiting were barn in the 1960s, and most currently work in Dublin, although two are London based.

The show is by turns fascinating, perplexing, infuriating, and even, in the case of the painters, bewilderingly dull. Indeed, of all the media here, painting is perhaps the most pedestrianly represented. Damien Meade, an Irish barn painter based in London, shows some white canvases onto which classical figures cling, surrounded, by grim, blank space, while Willie McKeown's two untitled pictures are covered in drowsy, watery, featureless colour. Perhaps the most striking aspect of these paintings is the way in which their concerns seem at such a remove from the work in other media, most of which bears the imprint of intellectual urgency.

One of the most, conspicuous links between contributors working in sound, video, installation and sculpture is a shared interest in the organisation of information, whether in catalogues, questionnaires, communications or galleries and museums.

The first work the visitor comes upon, Ronan McCrea's Corpus, sets the scene in this respect. Last year, McCrea slipped into, the Praise Museum at St. Eada's to create an installation that picked at some at the more glaring inconsistencies in the Pearsean project, to create an avenue for exploring the way ideas of nature and landscape are constructed.

For his dense, intriguing installation, McCrea has covered the Kerlin's white painted stairwell on one side with, the names at Irish lighthouses in blue letters, while on the other breeds at birds are printed in reel, giving he area the colours of the Union Jack. A small notice informs us that the birds form part of a collection at those killed striking lighthouses between 1911 and 1918 - a period in Irish and European history, when attention was perhaps not most focused an the late at sea birds. The light houses which had been intended to provide warning of hazards for ships, themselves became a hazard far birds. Information, of course, is only useful for those equipped to interpret it otherwise it is pointless, even dangerous.

But of course, in a similar fashion, those entering the Kerlin's strange museum of marble lambs, water filled orbs and stuffed animals, may find the experience, of contemporary art rather like striking a sheer, adamantine wall which rises unexpectedly from the sea.

Maurice O'Connell takes up the theme of misdirected information in 'Never mind "Kangaroo" Just answer the question', in which a series of doctored standard analysis question forms are watched over by a stuffed wallaby, his mummified corpse another uncomprehending victim of the pursuit of knowledge.

The title refers to a possibly apocryphal incident in which European settlers in Australia quizzed natives as to the name at the strange animal hopping about the countryside. Their reply, "kangaroo", which meant simply "I don't understand" came, of course, to represent a corrupt process which bare all the appearances of lawfulness.

MELANIE Jackson's casting pearls, is an installation involving a mirror, a monitor and museum style glass case housing a collection of water filled glass spheres, lying, apparently casually on a section at leather couch. The seeming casualness of the arrangement of sphere is underlined primarily by the museum style cabinet, but also by the irregular condensation which has farmed in the interior of the baubles. The minute, almost inconsequential droplets are not, it transpires, caused by the ambient temperature in the gallery (as they were in Hans Haacke's Condensation Cube, which may be a point of reference) but by a hidden heating element. The autonomy of this system is illusionary.

For their contribution, Kippure, Phelan and McLaughlin (the gallery is adamant that first names are redundant for collaborative work) have set up a "local" radio station and provided same portable FM receivers, with which visitors can tune in to same bleak, windy static while looking at a large colour photograph of a radio antenna. Jammed in between the sound and photographic elements at the work, visitors are forced into contemplating the various senses of words such as channel, and "bandwidth" as well as their own position in processing the artists material.

Walker and Walker (surnames only again!) have produced a number at kitschy, cute sculptures, dripping with Kooasian cynicism. Little marble figures of cartoony lambs find themselves at uncomfortable angles, or, in what might be an evocation of the put upon artist in the world of galleries, there are some marble ducks on the brink of getting crushed the poor wet things beneath white cubes. These hard marble ducks, however, have more than enough resilience to survive the pressure exerted by the white cube; hopefully this generation of artists will exhibit similar resolve.


Blogger Sean said...

I went to school in rathmines with a damian mead...if you know him can ya post me his MAil address

Sean o'hara

3:41 AM  

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