OORLAGH GEORGE:OFFSIDES, 18/4 -25/5 2019, Golden Thread Gallery, Belfast



Offsides is superb video art, an exception these days.  The gallery notes say that Oorlagh George is an Oscar-winning filmmaker and artist. I watched the installation without knowing this. Consequently, I did not need to mull over that statement: filmmaker and artist.  Not all filmmakers are artists, not all artists are filmmakers. Oorlagh George is the artist that workes with video installation.  The quality, aesthetics, constellation of values, are comparable to that of Nam June Paik, namely his homage to Joseph Beuys at Documenta 1990 (Beuys Voice) as and how it offers a complete immersion.

Oorlagh George is working the lens based medium of video with flair, visual intelligence, and strong power to transform similarity into a difference.  In the next quote that process is referred to as “recreation”.

The notes state

The project is a recreation of mobile phone footage of an incident outside the Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton in San Diego, California in 2014… the man’s anger is so frenzied…  that psychologists cited the incident  as a case of a severe type of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, called Intermittent Explosive Disorder.”



It is a multiscreen projection of the same scene described in the gallery notes thus:  “Each is a vertical video of a young man violently attacking a car, as seen from inside of the car, where an older man sits in the driver seat, expressionless. As variations of the lengths are compounded, the silent videos grow out-of-synch and become a single, ever-evolving narrative of an attack on one’s self. The piece is an exploration of generational trauma and communal silence in Northern Ireland. A  strange recursive loop of simultaneously trying to confront and escape the past. Peace agreements don’t end violence, they move it indoors… Offsides is about when the violence reappears in the street, disconnected from any meaning it once had”


The out-of-synch parts of the installation felt at first as different parts of the longer story, not as out -of -synchrony repeats.  Picasso thought about art being a convincing lie is quite an apt association.  As the eye gradually, increasingly, recognised similarity, it still joyfully avoided the fatigue of a repeat.  Each view commanded a freshness as if it were a  part of a visual fugue.  The surprising impact of seeing the same as different was indeed the vital value. There is more.

Reading later about the inspiration makes my admiration for this work even stronger. I felt sympathy with both – the violent attacker’s obvious suffering and the stoic patience of the attacked.  The thin skin of the glass between them is a tactile and visible presence of the ease with which peace can grow into conflict. When I turned to leave, there was a screen on the wall with the sequence startingly new: the window of the car was partly down. That increased the vulnerability of the man inside – while it also indicated some trust between the opposing sides.

The installation as a whole manages to present, to make visible, the paradox of an end of an event turning into a continuation.   In this case, the reason for the conflict was a traffic incident and state of mind of both persons involved. If applied to the Northern Ireland Troubles, Good Friday Agreement and paralysis of normal democracy in NI now, the theme renews itself uncontrollably.

The similarities subside to the dynamics of the fresh evolved connections made by each viewer.

Moreover, the “document” gets transformed by emptying it of some data into an aesthetic experience the range of which wiggles out of any particular story but includes all similar ones.   The transparency of the installation embraces each viewer’s particular memories, the case of an almost subconscious application of affirmative “perspectivism” that treats every point of view on the world as a source of meaning ( see Small R: Nietzsche and a Platonist tradition of Cosmos, JHI, Jan-Mar, v 44.no:1: 89-104).

Affirmative perspectivism unchains art from a unique centre, it treats every work of art as a likely story about the world.  Each point of view as a source of meaning. This artist not only knows it but masters it with the elegance of spirit.

I cannot resist the thought on the “individual universe” of those things in the world that “slip away and do not wait to be described” (Plato, Timaeus, 49E) as a coda to Oorlagh George magnificent fugue on a fragment of being in the world (anywhere)

Images courtesy GTG







Richard Canning: The Space Between, 01-26/04/ 2019, Atypical Gallery, Belfast —

Richard Canning graduated from the Belfast School of Art, Ulster University, in 2018 with a series of A1 size rectangles carrying line drawings. The current exhibition still flirts with that mute agent of the change, accepting the artist’s intention to make large scale line drawings this time. Drawing is a glorious chapter of humanity’s leaving […]

via Richard Canning: The Space Between, 01-26/04/ 2019, Atypical Gallery, Belfast —

Richard Canning: The Space Between, 01-26/04/ 2019, Atypical Gallery, Belfast

Richard Canning graduated from the  Belfast School of Art, Ulster University, in 2018 with a series of  A1 size rectangles carrying line drawings.

The current exhibition still flirts with that mute agent of the change, accepting the artist’s intention to make large scale line drawings this time.

Drawing is a glorious chapter of humanity’s leaving marks.  Not always to describe the ownership of a territory, Canning stresses the difference between in and out. Belonging and not.


Canning situates the drawn motif in an empty abstract space evoking simultaneous being and nothingness in the world, in the perception, in any intention.

( 1943: Jean-Paul Sartre:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Being_and_Nothingness)

To become one, both the full and empty present themselves with the conviction of the bird’s song, the song, and the pause… echoed in the title of this exhibition: The Space Between

Cut out of the whole, the detail below makes visible the sensibility of the drawn line, stretched or waved or pulsating,  as well as its mimetic force, namely in the open door.

Trace of transitory being

The gallery handout introduces the thought of “intimacy” made visible through the empty spaces and unfinished lines.  I sense an approximation of going down the stairs and through that open door. Its lower vertical edge is equidistant, on a midpoint, between two other points:  the lowest loop of the left balustrade and the top end on the right one.   With the rest of the wall  (glass rectangles ?), it forges a right-angled triangle.

I perceive that as a kind of intimacy between the full and empty, between the mark and its ground.  Canning photographed the Student Union building opposite the Queens University in Belfast in the process of abandonment and demolition.

One of the exhibits in The Space Between translates this view into a line drawing.

Comparing the photography and drawing exposes Cannings process.

In addition, the absences and presences in the drawing remove some haptic weight of the material.  Instead, the drawn objects insist on forging something entirely different – visual discourse between what is visible.

The corner made by a row of many and the separate single invites thoughts on hierarchy and exclusion. The easy chair dominates and prevents the single chair to join the many, like a class barrier may do.  The size of the single chair on the right is wrong in relation to its position.  So are the last stacked chairs on the left of the easy chair.  That perception animates the composition and nudges it to obtain the symbolic meaning of inequality and division of power among people. I can almost “hear” the inflated ego of a person who might have sat in it.  This interpretation is validated by the switch in the scale of the identical chairs, the same design, and manufacture, yet, some are different, smaller.

Canning’s visual intelligence manages to be fresh and measured at the same time.  A good value.  He invents representational minimalism rooted in the prestige of technical drawing, of architectural drawings, but slipping away from the expected “correctness”.

Actually, the drawing dances away from the correctness in another exhibit.   Reminiscent of the freedom of the medieval marginalia, the drawings prefer the subtlety of privacy in visual art –  so rarely presented on this scale.

The viewer is offered a mute proposition inspired by compositional rules, angles, distances, lines, scale,  which Canning made visible. It is a loftier part of the imagination that these drawings activate.

Italo Calvino distinguishes between two types of imagination: the one that starts with a word and ends in an image, the other starts at the image and ends in words. (Six Memos…:83) Canning started with a word and a photograph (“Upon hearing of the imminent demise… as stated in the gallery handout paragraph 3) and ended with a drawing not afraid of absences.


Images courtesy Paula LARKIN.


STEIN HENNINGSEN:CITIZENGAGE, 23 February 2019, Ulster Museum, Belfast

Henningsen has worked with huge blocks of ice almost for a decade.

In  Helsinki 2012 he included running water in a bottle – which signals the particular characteristic of molecules that can be liquid, mass and vapour. That’s his scientific interest, that inserts mathematics and physics into his performances.

Bbeyond co-operated with NI Science Festival and Ulster Museum in Belfast to present a performance by a resident of a distant Svalbard,  the artist Stein Henningsen.  

Its title was given optical play with the meaning by setting the third syllable  ZEN in red colour.   A reference to the particular way of life and knowledge,  I suspect, it is more a playful pointer and less a solution to all the ills in the world today. 

In reading the title as two words, citizen +gage, the last two syllables gage open a Pandora box of meanings.  The Roget’s Thesaurus lists guarantee, bail, bond, collateral, deposit, earnest guaranty, pawn, security, surety, token, and a warrant.

The dictionary entry for gage connects it to the ethics: as a noun, it means a valued object deposited as a guarantee of good faith, as a verb, it is an offer of an object or one’s life as a guarantee of good faith.

I settle on the artist as a citizen to pledge a valued object to the audience: water as a condition for life, its trinity present here in man, flower and ice.  And as the grey clouds.

I do not, however, expect the performance to be an illustration of that intention, although Henningsen writes this: ” I believe it is extremely important at this moment in time to eschew isolationism and develop cultural networks in the current climate of international capitalist hegemony.”  

As a coincidence the Guardian today  (https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/mar/15/capitalism-destroying-earth-human-right-climate-strike-children?… ) published an article by George Monbiot which contains this:

“What just principle equates the numbers in your bank account with a right to own the fabric of the Earth?”

The fabric of the Earth … is that valued object Henningsen foregrounds in this performance.

Biology, physics, mathematics guide the background for the Citizengage first few minutes. Cut fresh red roses are placed in equidistant intervals on the terrace of the museum between two invisible parallels. That is a careful geometry in practice.  Although executed at flying speed the pathway marked by roses looks engineered to follow a straight line.

courtesy Bbeyond and the artist
courtesy Dominic Dillon

The roses will have no time to wilt for the lack of water, the ice block will grind them, one by one, out of life.

Photo Kasia Pagel unless otherwise stated)

The second part of this performance, pushing the ice block from one end of the terrace to the stairs is the slowest, consisting of progress and frustration, like the continuous play of plus and minus, move and stop.

Physics, geometry, and arithmetic were evoked to produce the optimal weight and shape, but could not predict the duration of the whole and each part/phrase.

He had to turn the block from its dry to surface lubricated by a thaw.

Changing position to focus the force of the whole body to shift the ice.

Pushing with his forehead, his shoulders, his back – and slipping.

The polarity of body and ice block prompts different encounters. The meaning depends on each viewer zeroing on some part that is made visible. The crushed roses signify impermanence of something treasured. The success or failure of the man to move the ice block wiggle out of the same fate, by slipping into a trust that the artist takes care not to harm himself.  The ice block is then delegated into submission as a silent victim (just a mute object).

However, Henningsen gets soaked, tired, exasperated, expelling brief noises born from a strain.

The authority of the art does not allow helpers to support him, even if there were any, even if it were a part of the intention.  He is condemned, like Sysiphus to be alone. Albert Camus ends his essay with””The struggle itself … is enough to fill a man’s heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy”. Henningsen evokes a desire for cognitive closure.

courtesy Bbeyond and the artist
courtesy Bbeyond and the artist

Moreover, he proposes that humanity must moderate its current intellectual myopia and increase bio-centric awareness.

He presents a flow in which a work of art meets the ‘world’. Not only because the ice cracks and the rose wilts.  He reduces his own existence to “bare life”, deprived of any other right then to continue pushing the ice block in one direction.  (If this appears like a loan from  Giorgio Agamben’s Il potere sovrano e la nuda vita, it is) 

The interconnectedness of environment and Brexit focuses onto the third, split second, part – pushing the ice block down the stairs, crashing it.  The crossover, intentional or not, reverberates between the visible and audible, the words about the cliff, crash, no deal…  insist on the similarity with crashing a block of ice.

courtesy Bbeyond and the artist

This interpretation is not compulsory – only possible, moreover it would fall under the Deleuze’s warning of inadequacy.  Given the long chain of Henningsen’s performances using a block of ice, sheets of ice, water etc, the significance of water as a subject is not in dispute. This performance draws attention to the need to recognize the true place of mankind in the universe. Starting with nature, here and now.  This performance converged on being-in-the-world, where art and nature are co-dependent. Its meaning may be arbitrary, culture-specific. For me, the meaning of this performance is what  E Panofsky somewhere called ” natural meaning of art” as a challenge to habitual thought.


Images courtesy Dominic Dillon, Bbeyond, Kasia Pagel, Stein Henningsen


09/04/2019 – I came across this:

Francis Alÿs, Paradox of Praxis I (Sometimes Doing Something Leads to Nothing), 1997. © Francis Alÿs. Courtesy the artist and David Zwirner.

pushes ice unnamed


Oh, the lure of nothingness!


Karl Hagan + Aimee Melaugh: Alternate Perspective, Platform, Belfast, Feb 7-28 2019 -Part 2 Karl Hagan




Adam, 2019, oil on canvas,25x29cm

The first look at Adam registers eruption of intense opposition of hues aiming at unease via spacial disorder.

Recognisable eyes, nose, open mouth  – would invite the meaning indicated by this small painting title. The macabre dissolution of the shape dismembered from the rest of the cranium and neck, as well as bizarre flat surface drip-dropped with diluted hues while the background top is treated with precision near bona fide Ellsworth Kelly.  Hagan invades the painting with elements of the nightmare, the cranium explodes in roughly defined coloured particles as if denying to ever be parts of the head.

The question who is Adam is left without answer. A friend? The biblical Adam? Or both at once? The insecure transience of meaning appears as a deliberate part of Hagan’s practice.

The macabre roughly modulated hue (yellow) allows the living eyes to look believable but denies it to the rest.  In that sense,  Adam  is reminiscent of Goya’s Saturn devouring his son, of its ability to render the body both living and dead.

The unexpected facial disorder signals unease of the theme as well as that of the painter who revisits the morbid, menacing elements in his largest canvas, After Goya,

After Goya, 2019, oil on canvas, 250×305 cm

The drama of light and dark achieves ferocious intensity in reds and tiny speckles of white. Hagan’s trust in geometry to hold the menacing macabre elements is not misplaced.  The rectangular planes allow reading the falling bodies as paintings  inside the painting, dislodged from the innocence of the vertical wall by  falling into  a surreal surrounding: cloud in front of a grid, dark triangle like a sail on water  on the left, fat block at the top that  appears to continue outside the frame, two blind spots placed on a diagonal corners of the rectangle,  illogical deep space on  left top – all contribute to a possible judgment that the painting is confused.  My reading disagrees.  The whole crystalises into transient perceptions of each different motif as falling into the hot cauldron of sameness.  It is about trauma, dislocation, turbulence, to invade mind in the way Goya did in Enterrar y callar ( Disasters of War,1810 -14), Bury them and keep quiet.  Hagan gives the opposite advice.

Karl Hagan is dedicated to and serious about painting’s power to invade mind.  The six paintings exhibited at the Platform have nothing to do with “ego importance” and all with the ability to apply what he learns from and values in significant paintings of the past. He constructs his own history of painting rooted in affinity of feeling and morality, rationality and its opposite.  He studies the chosen art carefully to learn. The After Goya appears painted a la prima, however, a study of the cloud recently exhibited at Engine Room betrays a careful preparation.

The soft modeling of tones of the hue in this study are like Goya’s fresco in the San Antonio de la Florida where he used no brush but a sponge, yet managed to render the final version in crispy high tones.

A history painting used to be the top Europen academic category of visual art after replacing the hegemony of biblical stories. Modernism flirted not only with abandoning the narrative painting but also with rejecting the history of art and any remnants of mimicking the observable reality. The inner image took over.  The current generation of young painters are building up the courage to restore some of the most intriguing power of brushes and paints, that which Robert  Ryman called “seeing of painting”, and which Leonardo da Vinci called “mute poetry”. Hagan tests the proposition on contemporary scenes, accessible via printed photographs.

Lacrymogène2019, oil on canvas, 33x36cm

Lacrymogène = Tear Gas connects to the Gilets Jaunes protests in France in 2018.  The painting rehearses newspaper photographs like this one and abstracts it out of time and place.

Telegraph.co.uk accessed online.

The painting deprives the edifice of stability and clarity seen through the lens while dissolving the transition from matter to experience through chromatically smooth vapours.

Containment, 2019, oil and silkscreen on canvas, 160x190cm

Right angles, vapours, darkness, and exact descriptions (eg: yellow fence – gate) are mobilised to match some indelible strangeness of tactile experiences. The image mines the spatial uncertainty of abstraction by confident geometry paired to high keys (yellow, orange) while the rest is dark and smoky, suggestive of  no escape.  The image is transparent to allow various associations, however, it locks them into the material character of details, eg rectangles (banners? buildings?)

How You Fall Doesn’t Matter, 2019, oil on Canvas, 160x200cm

War image, transparent to apply to any conflict,  thus marshaling deep distress that humanity keeps failing to do without killing each other.  While it is a “window” into history,  the spacial disorder wrestles it out of a particular historical event, sounding a profound J’accuse. The light peppers the composition like shrapnels might, like automatic guns do. It aims to access that quiet part of our mind where the distaste collaborates with hope.

Its noise, its polluted air, its destruction removes any signs of heroism (so loved by socialist realism for ex), letting in the sense that the man operating the gun is a victim.  Hence, this image wears black.



Bela Lugosi, 2019, oil and silkscreen on canvas, 170x200cm

I am not familiar with this actor and his life story.  The painting’s title gives the clue to its subject  – and there are also visual clues to his playing the Count Dracula: the trio of threatening hands.   For those in the know, this would be a transparent image.  It gives me visual access to some boundaries between real and pretended, known and guessed…

This complex composition is nevertheless centreless. I find that telling.


Images courtesy Karl Hagan and Platform.




Karl Hagan + Aimee Melaugh: Alternate Perspective, Platform, Belfast, Feb 7-28 2019 -Part 1 AIMEE MELAUGH




Bhopal 168 x 200 cm aimee melaugh
BHOPAL, 2019, oil on canvas, 168x200cm

I do not need to know the data, the exact time and place.  The arms and hands are those who work with them and who are undernourished. They come to the foreground through green wilting vegetation. The blue tonality replaces the normal skin tone.  The yellow and pink explode above the people’s heads in front of smoky grey tones.  The diagonal composition divides the cause from its impact as an indication of the sequence that caused the demise of life.

In her notes, Melaugh refers to  “theory of affect” by Baruch Spinoza.  I do not know that passage.  In relation to his statements in The Ethics, I sense that it may be near to his thinking about “mode”.

“ID5: By mode, I understand the affections of a substance or that which is in another through which it is also conceived. A mode is what exists in another and is conceived through another. Specifically, it exists as a modification or an affection of a substance and cannot be conceived apart from it. In contrast to substances, modes are ontologically and conceptually dependent.” (Book One, Ethics accessed on  https://www.iep.utm.edu/spinoza/)

Spinoza makes it central to his theory of knowledge that to know a thing adequately is to know it in its necessity, as it has been fully determined by its causes. In the  Bhopal painting, the need to work and the need to use volatile materials are present in the careful identification of hands and industrial barrels, both ontologically necessary and sufficient.  The descriptive mode ends in the diagonal of wilted plants with a partly hidden warning that reads “hazard” on the yellow ground.  The surrealist element of hands growing out of one barrel and of deadly vapours escaping from another indicate the connection to the explosion rendered in buoyant energy of wilful abstraction.

Both painterly modes are cherished for their singularity and conceptual dependency on the subject.  No doubt where the meaning has its cause.

Aside ,2019. oil on canvas, 163 x 200 cm
Aside, 2019, oil on canvas, 163x200cm

The decision to evaporate the figure and not the three hands as if still engaged in some normal activity is an image unimaginable outside some disaster. The collapse is not yet complete, the perfect seat for no one to sit on screams visual ” j’accuse”.  It does not address a particular perpetrator thus making its reason somewhat commonplace for humanity.  The price? Everything else disintegrates, evaporates, changes its substance. Apocalypse now?

The paintings on a smaller scale invite methods of surrealism and of the informel to forge strong compositions capable of holding together accidental occurrences of negligence.  And of different time and speed.

Blood-shod 28 x 32 aimee melaugh
Blood-shod, 2019, oil on canvas, 28x32cm


Green sea 36 x 31 cm aimee melaugh
Green sea, 2019, oil on canvas, 36 x 32

Green is slower than the red.

Gun position 160 x 190 cm aimee melaugh
Gun Position, 2019, oil on canvas, 160×190

In reference to her grandfather experience during the WW2  this painting exchanges the human fragility for the destruction of the seats for the gunners. See-through seats are reminiscent of sheets of papers on which the various decrees, calls to arm, and agreements may have been written. While the (still)  living naked male appears both safe (the modulation of the muscles) and evaporating (the ever-receding tonality turns his volume into a ghostly plane). The female leg shooting out of some roofs on the horizon  – could be just a wooden model for selling stockings. Or not. Seats and houses are crumbling. And so is the control of our destiny in any war. The case for peace is ever present.

Tuam 210 x 195 cm aimee melaugh
Tuam,2019, oil on canvas, 210x195cm


Icarus? A sexless nude body as if calling in distress moves away from a tiny religious sculpture detailed in the lower region. That headless statuette is silent and as if protected from the troublesome accusation by the purple body.  The tone is ordered to be between life and death forever… akin to the belief in Purgatory? Or eternal life in hell?  The red ground above could suggest that precipice.  A pale variant of the gesture appears on the right-hand side, in front of the two columns lit up by the light from outside.  Behind it something like a bookshelf, volumes of documents? A revelatory moment?

The right-hand side of the Tuam describes some earthly conditions: the power of the architectural order preferred in churches, thus power of the church.  And the flowing habit invites association with nunnery.  Or with actual evidence:

7 Mar 2017 – The Tuam mother and baby home, where human remains have been discovered, was “a chamber of horrors”, the Irish PM has said. (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-39192744)

7 Jun 2014 – Catherine Corless’s research revealed that 796 children died at St Mary’s. …


The painting – mute and timeless- accesses our innermost conscious responses directly, not subject to logic or grammar or correctness.  Perhaps that is what Melaugh had in mind when she recalled Spinoza.


Images courtesy the artist.




Tony Hill and Susan Hughes, Pollen Studios Gallery, Belfast January 17 -19,2019 —

My essay on Tony Hill‘s art exhibited at this three days event is on https://slavkasverakova.blogspot.com. Here I wish to focus on Susan Hughes. I shall fail to make justice to her multiple talents. On the last afternoon, she played the violin, the performance I missed. A sample from another concert given at her 2018 exhibition at […]

via Tony Hill and Susan Hughes, Pollen Studios Gallery, Belfast January 17 -19,2019 —