Wednesday, 21 August 2019

Rathfarnham Castle - nagOffsite installation

In June I had gone to a food festival in Rathfarnham and also to have a look at nearby Rathfarnham Castle - an Office of Public Works restored fortified house from the 16th century. While in the "castle" an art exhibition was being set up. I was able to see some of the works and my interest in the group exhibition was piqued enough to return recently, before the exhibition closed. The exhibition was curated by Mark St John Ellis of NAG Gallery, as one of nagOffsite installations, where the work complements and is complimentary to the historic space in which it is situated.

In the first room there is a curious archival box, by artist Kristina Huxley, which has tags and numbers and envelopes and poetry perhaps. I was told, on my June visit, that Huxley has catalogued dust from the building. This is a labour of love piece of work and I was able to extrapolate meanings from the process related to me as well as from the form of the work. On my return recent visit I was also glad that there was some information on the artists, the work, and the curator of the exhibition (Mark St John Ellis) and nagOffsite as a creative presentation entity. This room also included some ceramic ware and boxes by Masashi Suzuki that present the epitome of shibui aesthetic (modesty, naturalness, texture, spontaneity). The framed photographs displayed with Suzuki's work, show ceramics as items of contemplation.

Moving along into the larger "dining room" works by Kristina Huxley and Helena Gorey were placed on walls/faux walls and juxtaposed beautifully with the painterly deterioration of Rathfarnham Castle's actual walls.

There was also a table cabinet in this room which had Japanese Edo Period wrapping paper displayed next to one of Gorey's subtle watercolours. I do not agree with the assumption of worth by proximity, and I did not think Gorey's work fared well in this display, where the Japanese paper and calligraphy were far more interesting visually.

The next room had several table cabinets also, as well as an ambient sound piece by Elijah's Mantle and digital prints by Roseanne Lynch. I was most curious about Huxley's "Citizens of Dust" rolled paper drawings and balls that made me think of watching men in the south of France playing bowls on a hot day. I found out later that the spheres were made of wax and soot and were the same size as musket balls excavated from Rathfarnham Castle.

A nearby display table held more Japanese wrapping paper with calligraphy and a small sculpture of a Buddhist figure from the personal collection of John Hutchinson. The overall effect of these items within an exhibition of contemporary artists is to stress temporality - items of everyday use (wrapping paper) become items of art with time. There is an overall mood of contemplation and timelessness within the exhibition in its entirety.

In the last room encountered, the intimacy of the space is palpable. One is almost encircled by Jane Proctor's drawings (like being on a stage of an amphitheatre and being encircled by an audience) and their subtleties beg for closer inspection. The grid drawings resemble woven cloth, and one's eyes follow the meticulous warp and weft. This is contemplation at its finest, as one is virtually transported while looking at this work.

Also in this small room, is a table cabinet with another of Kristina Huxley's "Dustopia" boxes and a furoshiki package, the blue of its cloth highlighting the bit of colour in Huxley's box and
complementing the colour of Proctor's surrounding drawings.

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