Wednesday, 18 May 2022

BAEC exhibition at Signal Arts Centre

I was at the launch of the Bray Adult Education (BAEC) exhibition of student work (from final years of both 2022 and 2021) at Signal Arts Centre last Friday evening.  The show’s title The Art Within was complemented by BAEC's Director Ray Finucane’s opening speech regarding the journey of each individual on the road to developing their art and the unquantifiability of the art. 

The exhibition is a fine showcase of the varied art and craft processes that the students learn at BAEC, each piece showing an individual creative response to a process. 

As well as the numerous crafted work on display - felted 2D & 3D works, ceramics, leathercraft, mosaics and pyrography - 

the walls were full of paintings and drawings, showcasing the developing skills of the students, many of whom had never formally explored art forms before.

The age old tradition of student artists copying from the Masters is visible on this wall!

The exhibition consists of work by this 2022's second (final) year students and last year's second year students since, due to covid restrictions, did not get to have an end-of-course exhibition.

So it was a big show to organise and hang!

Much appreciation went to the staff at Signal who basically curated as well as hung the show on the Monday beforehand in order to show each work at its best.

Wednesday, 11 May 2022

A return to live events!

Towards the end of April I was so excited (but still cautious) about going to the National Concert Hall in Dublin to see a live event. I had bought tickets to see Laurie Anderson before the pandemic, and then of course, everything in the world went topsy-turvy and the event was cancelled. As things started to reopen Anderson had started touring again, and so the anticipated event took place with me in the audience! I had happily been accessing (online) Ms Anderson's output over the past two years (6 Harvard "lectures", the "Party in the Bardo" radio show, and various Hirshorn Museum events)

However, familiarity with Ms Anderson's recent work is no replacement for the live event! The evening was exciting and delightful! Anderson was accompanied by the wild improvising cellist, Rubin Kodheli. What a wonderful experience!

A few days later, Bray Jazz Festival - an annual May bank holiday event - returned to live events. For many years I have been following amazing musician brothers, Conor Guilfoyle (drums) and Ronan Guilfoyle (bass), and their various jazz projects.

This year The Conor Guilfoyle Octet was set to appear at The Mermaid Arts Centre celebrating the birth of "cool jazz" about 75 years ago. The music was totally fresh - what a joy to be there!

Looking at the Festival programme, I found out that Tudo Bem, Ronan Guilfoyle's Brazilian jazz outfit was playing at The Harbour Bar the next evening.  It was certainly strange for me to be out and about at three live events in the space of a week after several years of livestreaming and zoom events only, but it felt good and right!

Wednesday, 4 May 2022

Five Years at Rathfarnham Castle

A couple of weeks ago I had great delight in attending the launch of both The Dublin Bowie Festival 2022 and the affiliated exhibition Five Years, by graphic designer Cartoon Bowie, at the gorgeous Rathfarnham Castle. For me it was especially interesting to see how the space was transformed after my recent exhibition of paintings and prints there. For a look at my work, Memory Is My Homeland, installed at this venue see my blogs here, here and here.

While technically The Dining Room is the last exhibition room one is likely to enter, The Entrance Hall offers a lovely portal view of a large animation, setting a great mood for the evening.

The Saloon was full of graphic images of Bowie, grouped thematically. I spoke to Cartoon Bowie on the launch night and he talked of the more recent images in blue and yellow, which he created after the Russian invasion and subsequent war in Ukraine. Specifically he confirmed, as with Bowie himself, that each time he thought he was done with this body of work, some new theme would present itself. 

Among my favourite images in the exhibition were the most minimal ones.

But on the other hand, I also adored the use of Japanese calligraphic characters in the group of works that celebrated the work of costume designer and Bowie image collaborator, Kansai Yamamoto.

On the end wall in this room were a series of works which emulated, through a Bowie point of view, the work of other artists - one can certainly see an homage to The Beatles Sgt Pepper album, and I recognised immediately the vintage cruise ship travel poster look to illustrate the song Fantastic Voyage.

I really enjoyed that the works were all designed squarely as faux but very plausible album covers.

Cartoon Bowie also showed his wit throughout the exhibition - a wit that I am sure the great Bowie woulld have approved of wholeheartedly.

During the Bowie Festival and for the duration of this exhibition, limited edition prints are available for purchase with all proceeds going to humanitarian aid in Ukraine.

The works in The Pistol Loop room continued with the theme of an ever-stunning, ever-changing consideration of Bowie's profile.

Throughout the exhibition each grouping had it's own didactic, which located the works in Bowie lore and offered a personal commentary from Cartoon Bowie.

The Starman wall was a stark reminder that Bowie is no longer on the earth, having returned to the cosmos in January 2016, shortly after the release of his final album Blackstar. The joy, though, is evident especially in the lower images (outlining a black star) and a reminder also that David Bowie has left a huge legacy to the music, art, fashion and film industries as well as to humanity in general! Cartoon Bowie used his skills as graphic designer to pay an amazing tribute to this amazing man.

Wednesday, 27 April 2022

incognito 2022

Annually, for quite awhile now, I've participated in the annual fundraiser for The Jack and Jill Children's Foundation. I first got involved with the fundraisers for this charity in 2013 with The Big Egg Hunt Dublin. I blogged about the creation of my egg here, here, here, here, here, here and here. From the number of weeks it took to do that piece, it's understandable that artists could not make an annual committment, so it is with some relief that "incognito" took over. The premise is simple: the artist turn three cards into any type of art they choose and sign only on the back of the card, the artworks are all photographed and put on display for a uniform price, buyers are not aware of who made which piece until they've bought a piece and turned it over! All funds go directly to the charity and it continues to be able to do its good work. The artists are happy to donate their time and talent, the purchasers are happy to receive a piece of art for their monetary donation, and Jack and Jill is happy at the success of these fundraisers. It is a win-win situation for all involved!

Once again this year was a huge success! All works cost the uniform price of €65 and there were over 3000 works in total. Due to covid, the sale was online both this year and last year. This year the work was sold out in one day! Now that the sale has happened, my three collage cards are winging their ways to their new owners and I can show the work that I submitted. 

Last summer I was purging some shelves, including my magazine collection. However, before I recycled, I went through each magazine to save interesting pictures (colour, texture, etc) for use in future collages. During my residency at Signal Arts Centre last fall I made a number of collage cards for future use and created the small artworks, using the collage method, for my contribution to incognito 2022. I decided to use floral imagery and this is my collage representation of a section of my xmas cactus. I thought the background desert (from a magazine) was appropriate for this subject.

Again from a magazine, the background colour decided that I would make an image of an iris.

I liked the contrasting colours of the cave as a background for this wild rose.

I blogged about previous incognito fundraisers here and here (2021), here (2020), here (2019) and here (2017). I don't know why I didn't blog about 2018 but I did participate!

Wednesday, 20 April 2022

A Growing Enquiry at the RHA Gallagher Gallery, part 2

In last week's post I did an overview of this exhibition and spoke specifically about a few of the artists. As it is a large exhibition I thought I would mention a couple more of the artists.

On entry to the gallery I could see Laura Fitzgerald's 2D works on the wall across the room and from that distance thought they were embroidered works - they seemed so fine and precise. But no these were not embroidery (though no less painstaking); they are certainly fine and precise, but these are witty drawings done with Sharpie pens! I looked at the accompanying didactics for this group and indeed the titles also are full of good humour: (clockwise from upper left) Restless Tractors, More Weather, but I do still care, Powerful People Promises and The Ark.

Here's a closeup of Restless Tractors.The back and forth drawing of the field with the Sharpie mimics plowing field and draws the viewer into both the making and the meaning of the work.

The panoramic landscape scroll A Mountain for Venice also has a witty didactic in which Fitzgerald details each item used in the work's creation - not just the material but where it was purchased and how (and in the case of the specific paper, how long it spent in customs before she finally received it!).

Jane Locke's Consumer Farmer (which could only be seen once one was fully in the gallery) is also a witty work with an eye to the future. I was especially looking forward to her contribution to the exhibition as I have experienced her work on several occasions in the past (and wrote about one in CIRCA Online here). Locke's installation comprises of a futuristic geodesic dome greenhouse where the plants are sparse but alive and well, a worksuit, which again seems futuristic as it has a farmer's patch on it very similar to what one might expect on a NASA spacesuit, and the product catalogue for the spring of 2123 full of Locke's beautiful drawings and surreal product descriptions.

The exhibition A Growing Enquiry - Art and Agriculture, Reconciling Values continues till April 24, 2022.

Wednesday, 13 April 2022

A Growing Enquiry at the RHA Gallagher Gallery, part 1

I was delighted to see, in person, the large group exhibiton, A Growing Enquiry - Art & Agriculture, Reconciling Values at the RHA Gallagher Gallery in Dublin recently.

The exhibition consisted of new installations by seven women artists - Miriam O'Connor, Laura Fitzgerald, Orla Barry, Katie Watchorn, Jane Locke, Maria McKinney and Anna Rackard. Two of these women (Barry and O'Connor) are farmers as well as artists, and Rackard's large photographs, portraits of women farmers, are scattered throughout the exhibition, certainly reminding the viewers that agriculture is NOT an exclusively male environment.

The exhibition, curated by Patrick T Murphy, responds to questions about how does one create value systems around art and agriculture.

The exhibition is impressive with its wit, artistic response and sheer scale. The didactics were a pleasure to read, giving insight into each artist's personal response to the enquiry and allowing the audience to enter into the dialogue.

The gallery is huge, which allows one to wander the space and engage with each installation (except Rackard's which appear throughout the space) as a separate entity.

There was also some overlap as I could hear the song/chant, which was part of Orla Barry's installation that was not immediately visible until one turned a corner in the gallery.

Barry's installation also included raw sheep wool and a large printout of an Aran knit sweater. Barry's work spoke of commodity, hierarchy, production and language as both the printout and cane crooks were embedded with words. The song itself was evocative.

The song, which was a collaboration with composer Paul Bradley, could be heard throughout the gallery, and the lyrics were written on rough wood - a mirror split of a tree adjoined to resemble the shape of a Celtic cross.

I'll talk about a few more of the artists and their work in next week's blog. A Growing Enquiry - Art & Agriculture, Reconciling Values runs till April 24.

Wednesday, 6 April 2022


 I was walking around a neighbourhood in Dublin one day last week and was delighted to see a number of magnolia trees in bloom. It's definitely springtime. I had never actually seen magnolia trees until I moved to Ireland, though I was familiar with their existence from Billie Holiday's amazing song "Strange Fruit" (and I also enjoyed the Siouxsie and the Banshees post-punk cover in my youth). Since my move to this side of the world I have often seen these trees at this time of year and just love them.

What really surprised me in that neighbourhood though, was a magnolia hedge - something I had never encountered before.

In front of another house I saw a hedge that I almost identified as magnolia but then dubbed it an imposter as I thought the open blossoms were definitely not correct. I was wrong! When I got home I did a google search and discovered that this is simply a different species of magnolia with which I was unfamiliar. You really do learn something new every day!

I fully admit that I love magnolias and find them inspirational. There is a fabulous magnolia tree in the middle of town, in Bray, just down the street from where I lived for a few years. I did sketches of the tree and in 1999 my acrylic painting Magnolia (3' x4'//91.5 cm x 122 cm) was included in my exhibition Blessings. The painting was bought by my husband's uncle in the USA and is beautifully framed and residing in Iowa City.

Wednesday, 30 March 2022

The Map - exhibition at Rua Red Gallery, Tallaght

A couple of weeks ago I went to see The Map at Rua Red Gallery before it closed at the end of that week. The work was an enormous collaborative commission by Alice Maher and Rachel Fallon, in response to the "history and legacy of Mary Magdalen".

In Ireland any response can only be nuanced -- not only as the name of the female disciple of Jesus, but as a concept attached to the systemic abuse and incarceration of women, with the collusion of the church, since the founding of the State some hundred years ago. 

Thus Maher's and Fallon's response is politically, historically, as well as artistically charged. Using traditional concepts of "women's work" - needlework of all kinds (appliqué, embroidery, crochet, sewing skills) -- as well as paint and print, they created a huge work of art, a textile sculpture, using the language of cartography. 

There are islands, winds, constellations, flora and fauna in abundance throughout The Map and the details are exquisite.

There was a documentary video outside the gallery in which Fallon and Maher spoke of their collaboration as having its starting point in the banners they created a few years ago for the "Repeal the 8th" marches prior to the referendum regarding the 8th amendment (whereby a fetus had the same rights as a living being, making abortion criminal under any circumstances).

As with maps of old, various sea monsters roamed and Maher and Fallon used these as both witty and pointed decorative devices.

Each detail in The Map is important, so I found myself examining portions and trying to get a handle on it, while stepping back periodically to take in the whole view of this work full of wonder and awe!

As I am not tall, I couldn't quite see all the details at the top of the work. The only other way I could imagine it being displayed is on a huge table that I could walk around.

I agree with Maher's description of the work as one of "material culture" and I hope there is the opportunity to view it again.  I do think it belongs in one of the State collections - at the National Museum, National Gallery or the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA). I hope someone has the foresight to see the importance of this work, both artistically and historically.

In gallery two was the accompanying aural work We Are The Map, an ekphrastic poem by Sinéad Gleeson with music composition by Stephen Shannon. It was both pleasant and enlightening to hear the writing wander through The Map after having seen it. In a darkened room, the aural hopping from island to island became a meditative experience as I was able to gain a fuller understanding of the imagery within the artwork. Of course, I appreciated the beautiful writing of Gleeson with whose work I am already familiar.