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.


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