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.

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