Wednesday 30 June 2021

Ceramics Ireland 2021 exhibition

 In a further exploration of reopening places, I visited the gorgeous Rathfarnham Castle a few weeks ago in order to see the annual selected members of Ceramics Ireland group exhibition. As with other larger indoor public spaces (Rathfarnham Castle is managed by the OPW) I booked my viewing time and had a leisurely stroll through the exhibition.

I forgot to take down the names of specific exhibitors! The prices and names were on small labels next to each piece. There was such a huge variety of work, and it was wonderful to see such creativity in the ceramics. I was quite taken with this person's work - they had several pieces that employed wire and other attachments (before or after firing?) to create vessels that exuded ephemerality.

There was a lot of work in the exhibition but each piece had space around it to allow contemplation.

The grand, deteriorated rooms of Rathfarnham Castle provided a sumptuous backdrop for the work laid out on uniformly sparse tables.

This small, delicate, sculptural piece of paper-thin porcelain seemed to whisper elegance into the room.

Another view of the work in the largest room - the dining room of the Elizabethan fortified home.

I thought the matte glazing on these three cylindrical vessels very lovely and understated, and here is another of the ceramic and wire pieces that I was really drawn to.

I enjoyed the way this ceramic artist use the forms of these vessels as a surface on which to paint the human form.

The glazing techniques used on these urns placed them in my mind along with ancient amphorae.

I am not sure if this was done by the same ceramic artist who created the two urns above (shame on me for not noting artist names!) but the seemingly random squiggles in the glazing is gorgeous! The exhibition has finished for this year, but it is one to watch out for as it is an annual event at Rathfarnham Castle.

Wednesday 23 June 2021

Dublin gallery day - part 3 of 3

More than two weeks have passed since I made my big excursion in to Dublin for a "gallery day", but it was impossible to blog about it all in one blog day, so I divided up chronologically to suit how my day went. I blogged about the first two stops (The Molesworth Gallery and The National Gallery) last week, and you can find that blog here and I continued on to see Damien Flood's new exhibition, Tilt, at the RHA, which I blogged about here. The RHA is so huge that there was another big exhibition going on across the hall: Sean Scully's "Eleuthera", recent paintings titled after the Caribbean island where his family holidayed a few years ago.

It was a huge coincidence that I had seen an earlier, small abstract piece of Scully's at The National Gallery exhibition, Living with Art: from Picasso to Celmins. The accompanying didactic specifically said that Scully had worked figuratively before becoming reknowned for his totally non-objective large paintings. Both my husband and I looked at each other doubtfully - neither of us had ever seen any figurative work by Sean Scully. Then we walked across the hall to be met by these huge, vibrant figurative Scully works! I absolutely love them!

The huge paintings were done on aluminum and this picture gives an idea of their size! 

All the work in the exhibition focusses on Scully's 8 year old son playing in the sand with bucket and spade. The secondary figure that appears in many works is most likely the child's mother. This simple idyll has a multitude of variations where drawing as well as painting has a role to play in the final composition.

There was a large framed display of research photographs in the first part of the exhibition and in the second part small works were displayed, probably part of Scully's colour decision process.

The smallest works, at the end of the exhibition, were all black and white sketch drawings. Possibly these drawings were created from the photos, but they had the exuberance and immediacy of in situ sketches. Though Scully is a reknowned master of contemporary non-objective painting, this vibrant exhibition spoke directly to my sensibilities and I hope to see more work like this from him in the future.

Wednesday 16 June 2021

Dublin gallery day - part 2 of 3

It seems ages away now, but it was less than two weeks ago that I had my big excursion in to Dublin for a "gallery day". I blogged about the first two stops (The Molesworth Gallery and The National Gallery) last week, and you can find that blog here. But the catalyst that got me venturing into Dublin in the first place was desire to see Damien Flood's new exhibition, Tilt, at the RHA. I met Flood (always Damo to me) many years ago when he was a teenager and a friend to several of my nieces. For many years now, he has been quite an accomplished artist and I am always curious to see the development of his work. I was aware of his (relatively) new excursion into ceramic figurative work and wondered how it would fare in juxtaposition with his paintings.

The RHA is a fairly large and open space so the figures can fully inhabit their area grouping but at the same time complement the 2D work. Having chatted with Damo about this exhibition (before it was installed) I knew that he had designed the plinths specifically for each sculpture group. The beautiful, careful, and appropriate plinths extended the ceramic figures giving them height and weight as sculptures. The figures themselves expressed angst and humour simultaneously and the use of gold leaf undeniably spoke of their emotional importance.

It was most surprising and delightful to see this tiny figure sitting steadfastly on the corner of a painting.

The figure seems resigned or glum in his position. As the only figure in the exibition that is directly situated on a canvas, without the company of other figures and the only 3D figure without added gold leaf, he is very much alone.

The paintings provide a steady evolution from earlier work. I, for one, am delighted at the lack of the colour brown in the paintings (since I abhor brown) and am glad to see Flood using a more colourful palette than in earlier work. There is a definitely surreal, dream-like quality to the work as images are within a floating world of their own. One is never sure whether it is a specific object or just the paint itself that is being depicted.

In one corner of the adjacent large gallery, another group of figures beckoned to me, again on beautiful, bespoke plinths.

These grinning figures had gold leaf applied to specific areas (brain, teeth) and the crackle glazing was both elegant and spoke of age. Two of the figures were on plinth cushions that related directly to the paintings. The use of gold leaf and cement echoed the figures and plinths in the previous gallery space.

In another corner there were ceramic vessels on their own special plinths, several appearing so precarious that I was beckoned closer just to see how the impossible was possible, but also fearing to go closer...

With these vessels I was brought directly to the imagery of the paintings. I could see them as a culmination of the painting and 3D figure work. Flood was able to express a unity in the materials - clay vessels, paint, glazes, rusted plinths - that made the entire exhibition have a satisfying wholeness to it. Where will he go from here?

Wednesday 9 June 2021

Dublin gallery day - part 1 of 3

During lockdown this year, I have been enjoying Graphic Studio Dublin's series of artist zoom presentations, Artists Beyond the Studio. A few weeks ago the final presentation was made by Cian McLoughlin, sixteenth in the series, in advance of lockdown being gradually eased and cultural venues reopening. Though he has done printmaking, McLoughlin is primarily a painter and his presentation and work shown was amazing; a recording of his presentation can be seen here, and many of the other artist talks are on GSD's youtube channel. In talking about his newest work McLoughlin made me aware of his upcoming exhibition at The Molesworth Gallery in Dublin, and this is where I started my "gallery day" in Dublin last week. 

The Molesworth Gallery is a private gallery in a refurbished Georgian building, not far from The National Gallery and the RHA Gallery, which were on my list for exhibition-viewing that day. Unlike the two larger galleries, The Molesworth did not require advance booking of free entry tickets (I enquired to be sure), so after parking the car a short walk took me to the gallery.

It was so lovely to actually be in a gallery after all this time of lockdown and it was wonderful to be able to see these paintings in person.

While these paintings may appear totally abstract, they are actually abstracted figures in crowds and this becomes apparent with longer looking.

I thought it was very interesting that McLoughlin had started this crowd-themed body of work before the very notion of crowds became an impossibility due to the pandemic. McLoughlin was especially interested in the positive herd euphoria of special events; during his GSD talk he spoke of feeling at one with a crowd during a music concert. His work begs to be looked at both up close (the details are marvellous) and from further away. In many ways it was no surprise to see that this was a sold out show. For me, the catalogue is a welcome addition to my bookshelf.

The National Gallery is about a five minute walk from The Molesworth, and that was my next stop. I had booked entry in advance through their website and the ticket was for the day. I arrived around noon specifically wanting to see the works on paper exhibition, which was touring from the British Museum. Living with Art: Picasso to Celmins is an exhibition of the bequest from journalist-collector Alexander Walker. He bought works that he enjoyed and, most interestingly, recognised instinctively when artists were on the cusp of a new direction in their work.


I was delighted to see many works, drawings and prints, by various masters of their art, It is always a delight to see something by David Hockney - the descriptions ("the hairy man he was staying with at the time"), title, and everything about the work showing off both his skill and sense of humour.

My timed ticket for the RHA only gave me an hour so I headed there - another short walk away - to see two big shows that I will talk about next week and the week after.

Wednesday 2 June 2021

carnage for foragers!

 A couple of weeks ago I heard this loud squawking from a large number of birds. I was indoors, but the sound was cacophonous and I wondered what was going on. On my morning walk I saw that workmen from the Council were on the edge of the estate with some power tools. I thought they were just planning to do the usual trim, which in itself was always an expected disappointment - they had a habit of annually cutting back the blackberry bushes just as the berries were near to ripening. I had grown accustomed to not foraging for blackberries in my own neighbourhood. Usually, however, that culling was done later in the season,. All this bird protest was probably in a justified panic as I imagine nests were being destroyed. 

I could never really see the point of trimming the blackberries either: the bushes were on a small green in the neighbourhood which was used for no purpose other than as an entranceway to the park and as an area for a Hallowe'en bonfire. That wilful destruction of bird habitat was taking place was disturbing to say the least.

Then earlier this week the destruction continued as some bureaucrat with too much time on their hands (covid make-work project?) ordered the cutting down of the elderflower trees in this same area.

As well as being appalled by this recklessness, I was personally disappointed to see this as a done deed. Every year my husband picks elderflowers in early June and makes a beautiful summer cordial and wonderful wine. He has also made elderberry wine from berries picked in the autumn. Again, this culling took place on the edge of a small green separating the estate from the public park. This is a closer look at the stumps of elderflower trees that were left.

And all the branches and cuttings were simply flung in a big pile on the green.