Monday, June 24, 1996

REVIEW:Tom Molloy (Rubicon Gallery, Dubiln)

Is this a joke? Or is this for real? Is Tom Molloy's collection of careful, allegorical even, still lives on the labours of Heracles, designed to draw gasps of admiration for their realism and their sophisticated engagement with classical literature?

Or is there another point dwelling in the painter's smooth, attentive style?
If it is the former, there are no hints given in Peter Cherry's po faced catalogue essay. As the essay points out to anyone whose familiarity with the story of the strongest man on earth is modest, there are vast numbers of complex nods and whispers towards various episodes in his life.

Some of these references are, like much in Molloy's art, cryptic. Two cans of Brasso, we learn, refer to King Diomedes, while some Airfix models suggest "ex voto images of the birds which hung from the roof of the ancient temple of Stymphalian Artemis".

Molloy's creation of this idiosyncratic iconography, mixing pop and classicism, melodrama and irony, is only part of the action here. Nearly everything depicted in these paintings exists in some ambiguous state, already at one remove from "reality".
Objects are frequently rerenderings or schematic representations of the world paintings of drawings, photographs, maps, diagrams, Macintosh print outs, model planes and boats are offered instead of paintings of the "originals" of these items, directing attention towards the notion of representation and realism.

Despite all this spry duplicity - the painter plays trompe l'oeil and trompe le critique with equal panache - there is still something formulaic about Molloy's images. This is related, perhaps, to the way his vision homogenises the whole world into a set of smooth tones.

It all becomes a little like the films of Peter Greenaway: we are never less than convinced that he has done his homework but sometimes we wish he had let the dog chew his copybook just a little.