Wednesday 24 November 2021

Mary-Ruth Walsh at Rathfarnham Castle

I wanted to make sure I got to Mary-Ruth Walsh's exhibition at Rathfarnham Castle exhibition, Strangely Familiar Shades of Gray II, before it closed. Especially as I've been seeing information about Walsh's sister exhibition, Skin Deep, which was in Highlanes Gallery,  Drogheda, Limerick City Gallery of Art, and most recently at Wexford Arts Centre.The gorgeous accompanying book of the same name was created through collaboration between Walsh and Folded Leaf (aka Eílís Murphy). In the Entrance Hall there is an overview concept video where Walsh speaks about this body of work (including Skin Deep) and its relation to Eileen Gray's architectural work. Walsh made plaster casts from various packaging materials and then created the haunting cyanotype prints.

Imagine my delight when I saw all the images in cyanotype (my current obsession) in the Salon!

While I know these images are directly related to the plaster casts, they become more like architectural blueprints in both size and quality. The process gives the images a reflective, luminous quality which is ghostly.

This is another view of Salon. There are cyanotype prints on the walls and plaster castings on the pristine, specialty light-box display tables. The entire exhibition makes one extremely aware of light and space - perfect for its setting within the architecture of Rathfarnham Castle.

One cast shared a light table with a clear sphere that reflected the surrounding cyanotypes in miniature.

This is another image of that sphere from a different angle - reflecting the room's windows as well as some of the prints on surrounding walls. In the Pistol Room an ethereal video by Walsh compared Eileen Gray's designed house in France (known as E1027) to the inside of a camera. For me the reflective sphere and this video corresponded through time and space. And light, perhaps.

Although I glimpsed this piece in the Dining Room from the Entrance Hall when I came in, Covid guidelines necessitated following the arrow directions and seeing the work in the Salon first. However, for me, this was a wonderful way to end the show (there was one more cyanotype with matching pink paint on it, but the glass frame made it impossible to photograph adequately). This screen, entitled Aprés Eileen Gray, is a scaled replica of one of Gray's screens. I first came across Gray on an art school trip to NYC, where an exhibition of her designs, including several screens, were on display at The Met. I have been enamoured by her work since, so it was wonderful to see Walsh's homage. I thought this particular piece, which had a strong influence on the design of the book Skin Deep, was in the sister exhibition, so I was excited to see it from the corner of my eye on arrival and then to see it commanding the room at the end of the exhibition.

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