Wednesday 9 November 2022

Bones in the Attic

I made an excursion into Dublin's Hugh Lane Gallery before the end of October in order to see the group exhibition “Bones in the Attic”.This was a fabulous exhibition, curated by Victoria Evans, showcasing  works by women artists in the permanent collection in feminist dialogue with recent work by invited women artists. 

The first piece visible to the viewer (after reading Evans's wall didactic exhibition statement) was what appeared to be a mohair couch. Closer inspection of Sofa, the 1997 artwork by Rita Duffy, showed that in fact the couch was upholstered with hair pins. In this upholstery setting the common, feminine item rendered the couch uncomfortable and combined with the blood colour could only be seen as a threat. Definitely not an invitation to sit and relax...

I was drawn into the next work by the sound and what seemed, at first, to be a playful sculptural installation. The forms were mostly painted colourfully but there was also something ominous. While some forms were colourful and almost whimsical, they seemed to writhe in a way I found disturbing and the dark piece that hovered in the background (centre of this photograph) seemed a threat of some sort. The seemingly haphazard placement of painted sheets on clotheslines said something about domesticity gone awry. Learning to smell the smoke by Eleanor McCaughey is full of foreboding and angst and I could feel the tenseness inherent in this work without foreknowledge of her personal situation.  In later reading of her biography I could understand and appreciate that she was able to imbue her work with personal suffering while making it appear playful. 

It is always a delight to see the work of Jesse Jones, and visit again her 2017 work Tremble, Tremble through the various objects associated with this multi-media work that are in the Hugh Lane collection.
I wrote about that exhibition here and an associated artist conversation/event here. I wrote about her most recent work, The Towerhere.

Sarah Jayne Booth's (for) All Our Grievous Doings, 2022 is an installation response to misogyny and the historic demonisation of women. What has a whimsical appearance packs quite the punch when deconstructed - a living room where each item carries a variety of meanings.

Ruby Wallis's large photographs, A Woman Walks Alone at Night, With a Camera, is an ongoing performative work reclaiming traditionally male times in urban spaces (ie, the night).

I was happy to see Kathy Prendergast's work, Waiting 1980, taken out of storage for this exhibition. I remember it being displayed in the foyer of Hugh Lane for many years and noticed when suddenly it wasn't there.

Over the past few years of the pandemic I have become aware of the collective Na Cailleacha so was was glad of the chance to see some of their work in person (as opposed to online). The "witches" are a group of aging women artists, some of whom I had been aware of already as individual artists.

The collective still work individually but engage with more force as a group. The group consists of Helen Comerford, Barbara Freeman, Patricia Hurl, Catherine Marshall, Carole Nelson, Rachel Perry, Gerda Teljeur and Therry Rudin. Most of these women are visual artists but Marshall is a writer/curator and Nelson is a musician and composer. I imagine this group has fabulous conversations about art, life, women's issues and just about anything -- I would love to be a fly on the wall at one of their get togethers!

Other artists whose work is included in this exhibition, which I have not had a chance to discuss here, are Amanda Doran, Myrid Carten, Dorothy Cross and Alice Maher. All of the work is deserving of further dialogue, which to me was the point of this fabulous exhibition!

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