PXVIII,Platform Arts Members Show, 2018, 6-29 December 2018, Platform Gallery, Belfast

Installation view – from L: G Carson, Damian Magee

If you think that the installation looks like many other exhibitions in Europe over the last two decades,  you may be acutely aware of the spirit of the age,  borrowed from the German language as  Zeitgeist.  Philosophers associated with that idea include Herder and Spencer and Voltaire. It counters the Great Man theory popularized by Thomas Carlyle which sees history as the result of the actions of heroes and geniuses.

For compariosn I selected an image available online from the 2018 exhibition by two Slovak artists

 

Roman Ondak (b 1966) and Štefan Papčo (b 1983), from their exhibition titled Sky Gravity (19 Jan – 16 March, 2018, Zahorian and Van Espen Gallery Bratislava) Ondak called his  exhibition in  South London Gallery (2026/17)   “The Source of Art is in the Life of a People” – a claim easily adapted to Platform members, e.g. Aoife Earley: Street Series 1-3 (Digital photo on c-type photo paper), 2018 taken by iPhone7; “I enjoy the convenience and connectivity of my phone camera” (gallery handout) 

Earley also explores the chance mobile phone photography harvests while the photographer is mobile, i.e. driving or driven.  It may appear obvious for now and here. The implication is that the viewer’s mind drives the aesthetic experience.

Let me digress to test that.

In 1966, the philosopher Karl Popper conducted an informal experiment:  During a lecture at the University of Oxford, he turned to his audience and said: ‘My experiment consists of asking you to observe, here and now. I hope you are all cooperating and observing! However, I feel that at least some of you, instead of observing, will feel a strong urge to ask: “What do you want me to observe?”’

Then Popper delivered his insight into observation:

‘For what I am trying to illustrate is that, in order to observe, we must have in mind a definite question, which we might be able to decide by observation.’

The question for Earley appears to be the value and power of spontaneity. Of a flow which she arrests.

Andrew Glen(b1981) makes the “curious relationship between object, experience and artist”  into a locus that facilitates the choice of a found object.   Yes, it nods towards the Arte Povera, yet, it has an up-to-date root: Glen’s personal collection he started in 2015. On the far wall  the blue-green  Bute wool&found objects is a part of the ongoing series  ATOMICA.   

The cabinet and attached objects carry the title  “E. Gomme”, enigmatic for those of us who do not know the history of the G Plan furniture.  (https://www.gracesguide.co.uk/E._Gomme)

Andrew Glenn is recycling a useful object into a free art by canceling its usability, not miles away from Duchamp a century ago.

When a person visits an art exhibition they carry in their mind both “closed” and “open” questions.

Installation view: D Magee, G Carson, video Alex Brunt.

The closed questions are “a priori” thoughts, likely to be connected to their previous experiences with and memories of art. They refer to similarities and differences. The open ones are those formed by dynamics of curiosity and creativity of the viewer on one hand and the power of the work of art (the artist).

Hayley Gault

It is not a straightforward process –  ‘All observation must be for or against a point of view,’ is how Charles Darwin put it in 1861. Hayley Gault included two long paragraphs in the gallery handout to explain how her curatorial practice which focused on environment and landscape was supposed to champion “ the value of exchange and types of transparency”.  She printed a stack of sheets listing similarities between her father, a farmer, and herself: an artist, curator, activist, researcher, writer.  She named this installation Things me and my father have in common. 

H Gault

Its roots are in installation art, in conceptual art, in early modernism minus Dada,  in the art and language tradition of the 1950s. It also echoes, perhaps unwillingly, the not so glittering removal of specific talent as the indispensable protector of visibility. (I have in mind those periods when we see the hegemony of ideology). Her exhibit confirms Ondak’s statement that “The Source of Art is in the Life of a People”. That includes the visual artist’s ingenuity in crafting questions, expectations, hypotheses, and theories to make sense of their subject – visibly.

This exhibition strips the objects of flattering their makers’ importance.  Instead, it matters what is vitally located in each exhibit.

Christopher McCambridge revives the conviction of William Morris that so-called lesser arts are equal to the rest because they are life supporting. Except, he moves in the other direction – towards the removal of the original practical use see http://www.chrismccambridge.wordpress.com/

 

Alteration, 2018, found fabric, dress, embroidery thread, an embroidery ring

Hand stitching the fabric aims to remember the hand weaving of the cloth before it was more often machine – made.  Both processes (sewn by machine and by hand) are legibly there, so it is not a case of canceling one and replacing it. It is a method of a metamorphosis of one object becoming another. Remember Ovidius Naso? He seduced even  P Picasso to illustrate metamorphoses…

Here, it occurs by replacing the very value of use championed by W Morris.  Yet, McCambridge entertains a similar aim:  to make an object recognized as an aesthetic object by replacing the machine with a hand.

Something similar to a replacement appears on the surfaces of  Dreaddgerm, which Gerard Carson describes/defines as ” a manifestation of stratified oily techno objects, dredged from antediluvian sludge territories morphed into objects that speculate on the dark forces of techno-capitalist time”.  (Gallery handout)

Quite! I give up, but do not deny the link to the 1918 manifesto by Tristan Tzara quoted below.

To impose your ABC is a natural thing—
hence deplorable. Everybody does it in the form of crystalbluffmadonna, monetary system,
pharmaceutical product, or a bare leg advertising the ardent sterile spring. The love of
novelty is the cross of sympathy, demonstrates a naive je m’enfoutisme, it is a transitory,
positive sign without a cause.
But this need itself is obsolete.

(see http://writing.upenn.edu/library/Tzara_Dada-Manifesto_1918.pdf)

Gerard Carson may agree with some of Tzara nonsense as nonsense, but in visual terms, he is a dead serious player for tacit communication between optic, haptic, and illusionary.

Dreddgerm, 2018, wood, thermoplastic, epoxy resin, silicone, borax crystals, PVA glue, chain, spraypaint

Consider his Statement

Stretched like elastic, it’s untethered from hermetica, blooming from conjunctions.

A speculation on futures via a tenuous materiality that is constantly on the verge of dissipating.

(Re)Mixing  from the mutating jungle of matter, feeding through a viscous interstitial mesh.

(http://gerardcarson.tumblr.com/Statement)

I see the chain and I read a sculpture, a rough immobile silent sibling to the chatting mobiles by Alexander Calder.  Its prettiness gives way to terrorizing sadness of broken lives,  broken by those dark forces, he mentioned.  In between the cascading down and never reaching the ground, it seems to stutter J’accuse (thinking of Emile Zola). And then it wiggles out and pretends that nothing matters, whispering: I am a construct.

Rachael Campbell Palmer 

exhibits installation with sculpture and print. It may be thought of as three objects not connected, but the way they are placed is softly considered to signal togetherness.

She gives it all one title: “Untitled (Inventory), 2018 (polyester casting resin, concrete, plaster, digital print). Maybe she entertains the thought of a chain, and not just of grouping. After all -she prefers traditional techniques – a kind of a chain, a thread,  between now and before. In her statement on the gallery handout she singles out the connections to locations and memory and preference for multiples, both an association with time. The supreme chain.

Image result for https://rachael-campbellpalmer.squarespace.com

Her trees(or magnified weeds)  are like personages  – meeting in a meadow … I hesitate to rule out conflict, or an accident.

Moving away from the back wall, the visible space is dominated by Damian Magee. 

Theta Waves”,2018, Graphite on paper, brass eyelets, paracord

Its dorso is empty.

He suggests that it is a “depiction”  of Gigantomachy from the Pergamon Altar, based on a low resolution digital image.  (Gallery notes, image downloaded from Wikipedia))

It would appear that the drawing selects a perceived rhythm of the volumes as a wave of subjective attention.  Magee makes another claim for his drawing: ” This treatment of a fragment …seeks to explore the ways in which time has informed phenomenological shifts in the experience of cultural objects.”   As I understand it in relation to Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit published in 1807 and based on a precious philosophical intuition: consciousness is not a completed institution, it is constructed, transformed to become other than itself.  As if the selected wave is how the sculptural fragments appeared to Magee’s consciousness when he aimed to capture the essence of what he observed.  That subjectivity is one of many possible.

Iolanda Rocha  lets her subjectivity move on and on, claiming equivalence for each state of what she saw, recalled or imagined.  Those rich pickings are downsized by the summary title “Schema”. 

The seven small paintings/prints (cyanotype and gesso on wood (all 2018)  do not tell a story that has one beginning and one end.    Each stands confidently alone and together as if there were identity between the two states of being.

 

However the absence of nature – beyond signaling the atmosphere – become a significant sign of anthropocentrism and anthropomorphism.

 

Hannah Casey-Brogan aims at the intimacy of seeing, viewing, by altering the expected, normal,  when observing a small format image.  Her “Untitled” (oil on aluminium, 2018) does not fully escape into abstraction, allowing the red become an arch above a melee of either a very distanced crowd or some insect, or just a multitude of dark traces.

Another small-scale object is made with several materials: text, paper, vinyl, glass and frame. Jane Butler ‘s School of Thought #4,2017.

  

Reminiscent of the preoccupations by the Art and Language of 1967 -70  – it seems to be re-visiting the group’s early conceptual concerns as shown in the example below.

Map to Not Indicate 1967 Art & Language (Terry Atkinson; Michael Baldwin) born 1942, born 1945 Presented by the Institute of Contemporary Prints 1975 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/P01357
 Alex Brunt installed a digital video, 19 mins, 2018 titled  Spit and Honey,
both those materials descending onto a head of a willing person.
Reminiscent of cinema verite it exposes the visceral, the setup, the observed, fragmenting the whole, perhaps in a hope of lessening the chance of absence of any subversion of the intention, by sympathy or its opposite.
The exhibition felt like a sanctuary of vanishing ideals.  Subdued.
Images courtesy Platform, and Simon Mills.
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Graphic Editions, Oriel Gallery, Antrim, 6 Nov 2018-4 Jan 2019

 

In a simple thoughtful display in both rooms, the art of print manifests itself through forty-nine images by as many artists, 24 from Belfast Print workshop, 25 from PRISM Print International.

A digital catalogue is available at

http://www.issuu.bpwbt1/docs/catalogue  3

or http://www.bpw.org.uk.

It contains a brief history of both  BPW and Prism, and their international network, list of artists,  and images with captions.

Printmaking’s power to embody free labour artist, inventor of techniques and skill and publisher, secures its attraction to many; a value often described as “democratic”  as opposed to elitist “Beaux Arts”.  K Marx issued a distinction between a piano pianist as an artist and a maker of pianos as a worker. Printmaking embraces both.

While the MFA and Ph.D. degrees in fine art over the last few decades focus on the verbally describable idea as well as on the application of scholarly methods,  this exhibition is “twice-born”  through its focus on the chosen single image, the visible,  and the development of ways to make its multiples.

A reminder of the thoughts of F  Nietzsche (The Birth of Tragedy, 1872) on “primordial unity” of Apollonian and Dionysian principles he observed in the classical Greek tragedies. In classical Greece, in fourth- and fifth-century Athens, the major artistic prize of the era, for drama, was given under the auspices of Dionysus, a god of wine and ecstasy. a curious proto-patron saint of the arts, given the story of his birth.

Hera, Zeus’ wife and the goddess of heaven, tired of her husband’s philandering,  convinced Semele, Zeus’s latest conquest to ask Zeus to reveal his true form — lightning — a sight Hera knew would kill her: No mortal can bear a god in full.  Semele died. Zeus tucked their unborn son into his thigh, carrying him to term, earning the child the epithet “twice-born”.

This exhibition contains both mining of the history of art and inventive responses to here and now.

Recently commentators recognized that the rebirth of realism in visual art echoes that “twice-born” story. Modernism argued that realism is a conservative, commercial mode for a visual image.  Whereas at present, it contains a thread of radicalism: the demand that we encounter in a work of art the particular depth of another person’s consciousness. Not a belief.

Michael Branson made me aware of a rare objection to the dominant  (conceptual) mode of the majority of the visual art, seduced by multimedia and time-based processes. He translated Avelina Lesper’s argument:

 

“We need art, not beliefs. But just as atrocious crimes have been committed in the name of faith, we see how, in the name of the belief that everything is art, art itself is being demolished. The change of substance that turned any object into art is a phenomenon of language, it focuses on the conceptualization of the work, on the meaning, on the intention of the artist, on the curatorial discourse, on an aligned and complacent critical explanation, that is, on a rhetorical exercise. The constant of this rhetoric, of this concept, is that it contradicts the very nature of the object.”

(El fraude del arte contemporáneo* [The Fraud of Contemporary Art] (Bogotá: Panamerica Formas e Impresos, 2016: 16-17:)

I have not read her book – I have no idea what she means precisely by “the very nature of the object”. However, I share her defense of tacit visual thought,  the what and how is made visible. The tacit direct link between what I see and how and when it becomes my aesthetic experience.  Often it is instant, direct.

The deepest significance of the “Graphic Editions”  is the autonomy of the visible.

The very first exhibit on entering the exhibition sets expectations high. Apology  – the image is too small to make the drama of people in evening attire with faces of the skeletons, visible.

Min Jie Zhang, Untitled Series No 10, Five Colour Silkscreen

 

MIN JIE ZHANG offers a dynamic revival of social critique as an apocalyptic story. It echoes the paintings and prints of Dance of Death, e.g. Hans Holbein or Bernt Notke(Totentanz, Luebeck,  end of 15thC, below, courtesy Wikipedia)

The freedom to connect across time and space is not only a precious avantgarde idea, but it is also deeply moving admission of similarity of fears and concerns our species have across differences in time and place.

The practice of selling artist’s prints in medieval markets on stalls next to vegetables,  which  Albrecht Duerer encouraged his wife Agnes to do in Nuernberg, just opposite the window of the room with his press, established print as “more democratic” than singular painting.

While the public (patrons, art market, galleries, auctioneers) makes a value difference between the aura of originality and aesthetic experience the artists did not, do not. Joseph Beuys even looked for terminology that would distance his printmaking from the commercial one, calling his prints on blocks of wood, or felt,  “multiples”.

Visual artists today are like magpies, picking up new techniques, processes – mixing them up in unexpected measures.  This exhibition offers excellent examples of the virtuosity with single techniques as well as combinations of several.

Take the exquisite drypoint by Mikael Kihlman, its details, and the rhythm of light and dark recall the softness of brush or charcoal.  Adorable is the craft of balancing the rational observation with feeling through a gradation of light.

Market in Cracow, 1994Printed images often served politics, ideology, and news.  The story of Agnes, Duerer’s wife, points to their supporting role for the painter and the (hand-printed then)  books.

Visual artists developed group exhibition ever since Le Figaro (I think Albert Wolf 1876))  compared the First Impressionist exhibition to the disaster on the par with the  Paris Opera being damaged by fire.  Soon – Europe’s printmakers joined across boundaries (like in Prism) and entered the galleries as equals.

Art dealers, auctioneers etc turn visual art into a commodity but tell nothing about the aesthetic value of a work of art.  Multiples attempt to shift the value judgment away from the business and close to the viewer’s experience. Making visual art is still free labour – as it was in paleolithic cave paintings and prints.

Printmakers often focus on moral issues.  Think Honore Daumier.

John Read wrote: The new series of ‘Songs of the Earth – Masques’ explores the vision of an underworld of chthonic forces masked behind elaborate metal ‘faces’ composited from metal drain covers I photographed on my recent travels in Japan, Poland, Italy and the UK. The frightening face of what we repress! (www.john-read.co.uk)

Songs of the Earth - Out of the Woods - VI' 2018, (Intaglio and planographic roll on BFK Rives, Ed. 12, 51 x 40cm) Proofed and editioned at the Nigel Oxley Studio
Songs of the Earth – Out of the Woods – VI, 2018, Intaglio and planographic roll on BFK

His series renews a call for people to act as good ancestors, while younger generation prefers attacking habitual thought,e.g. the- white- on- white photo etching by  Fiona Ni Mhaoillir. When clarity is the same as confusion, and a chance is like an order.

The glory of observation and economy of means do not disable poetry of a considered still life by Lisa Murray. Her photo-intaglio is also an enchanting refrain of naturalist’s catalog and  Dutch 17th C still lifes – minus pyramidal composition.

It is reminiscent of playful Hellenistic mosaic.

Whereas a keen photographer brings forth the acuity of vision as beauty. The system is optional.
Norman McBeath, As Night Follows Day, Photogravure
This exhibition trusts togetherness as a creative force, not just across the globe but also across history.  In that, it echoes Diane Henshaw’s Drawing Box of few years ago as it traveled all over the world adding artists as it went… And different motives and different styles.
Dora McCavera, Garden Leaves, Etching with aquatint
Jim Monson, Harlequin,Woodcut

 

The fluency of mastering the technique is a part of the viewer’s aesthetic experience –  I suppose Monson got it during the years with  Stanley William Hayton who furiously protected the work standards in his Parisian studio. Yes, furiously – on my visit decades ago.

Rebecca Jewell prints on real feathers. The image titled Fragmentation I(Blue and Orange) is surprisingly whole, together, in the way First Nations in USA and Canada manage/compose their wearable art.  It feels both dead and alive, a trophy and a loss.

 

The technical mastery is not necessarily detracting from the unfathomable aesthetic experience of the image of nature, in this case, the blue sea. It is removed from a precise observation while it effortlessly engages memories of salty and fishy scent and cool of the sea on a hot day. Sensual riches are feather light in relation to the laborious process.

Ian Brown, Seven Seas Mediteranian, 20 colour Screenprint

Print making is also a friendly helper to verbal art, this time with a portrait of the writer/filmmaker, rather than an illustration of the poem by Coleridge.

 

James Miller, Orson Welles, Xanadu, Etching/Aquatint

The black gnarled tree reminds me of Altdorfer and Danube School of the landscape, their departure from Middle Ages.  This image of an abandoned man-made construction in a powerful landscape is similar to the late medieval statement about the death of something man-made.  Here that verse resonates for me again.

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
(Coleridge)
Dolores De Sade, Sri Poon Road, 2018, etching

 

Consequently, a dose of constructivism in jolly light colours offers a balancing act. With a smile.

Pauline Clancy, Synthesis I, Screenprint

Masahiro Kawara’s sensitive observation and steady hand mastering the chosen tool and technique cherish the unimportant, neglected, yet significant sign of privacy, whereas it allows that powerful edifice on the left to evaporate.     It feels that both entrances are out of use.  The elegant drawing carries a message about us that is not at all elegant.

Visual pleonasm? Not quite.

A word is a bud attempting to become a twig. How can one not dream while writing? It is the pen which dreams. The blank page gives the right to dream.

Adapt Bachelard to visual art and you get: the particular depth of another person’s consciousness.

Masahiro Kawara, Structure XIV, Lithograph
On Kawara Masahiro’s Facebook page there are several dozens of images from the vernissage at Oriel Gallery.
It is a rich picking.
From the left:
Anushiya Sundaralingam: Entwine, Drypoint, Collograpah; Jim Monson: Harlequin, Woodcut; Ritsuko Ozeki:Landscape and pond, Etching, Aquatint; Vladimiro Elvieri:Frammenti IV, Engraving on Forex; John Read: Songs of the Earth, Intaglia;  Toshihiko Ikeda: The Old man Q – comfortable polka dots,Etching.
 (Downloaded from Masahiro Kawara’s facebook page
)
The images courtesy Belfast Print Workshop, except where stated otherwise.

DAVID CRONE at Fenderesky gallery, Belfast, 8 Nov – 7 Dec 2018

Jamshid Mirfenderesky and David Crone (on the right) at the opening Courtesy Fenderesky Gallery

Ten paintings in the ground floor and eight in the first-floor gallery range in dates from 1998 (CACTUS) to 2018. It is not a considered a survey, nor is it a disposable indulgence.  At some point, each painting gets impenetrable and poignant without becoming bathetic.

The images faithfully present this painter’s idiosyncratic mix of representation and abstraction, whether in the mixed media on paper or oil on canvas.

Field Objects, 2018, oil on canvas, 115×92 cm

There is a marked similarity of style, palette, and marks among the exhibits.

Mostly composed in a  classical Albertian “window”, they avoid verism and optical illusion by calling for a close viewing, instilling and insisting on a private encounter

Image may contain: one or more people, people standing and indoor
Each detail stands on its own – as notes do in music, similarly progressing, not into melody, but into a resonant call for a close attention.
That endeavor reminds me of another painter,   Armen Eloyan, who flipped recently that a good painting is like a good joke, the pieces have to come together.  Crone’s paintings insist that the search for truth or beauty are siblings, at times in competition, at times in harmonious sharing.
Ballymacarn IV,2014, mixed media on paper, 38x28cm
 The Ballymacarn series aims to capture real changes in light (a focus Claude Monet was partial to)
The paintings reveal a dystopian world.
 Brusquely shattering already dissolving forms are  thrown out of balance,  the paintings confront the viewer with existential questions, the conditions in which the painter lived and worked.  The Troubles, the divided people, the absence of and hope for -togetherness.

These paintings call for a closer attention to how it is rather than what it is. Not the look, but rather the energy of life under the oppressive forces when people are unable to move away from habitual thinking.

The Ballymacarn series, I -IV  (2014, mixed media on paper, 38×28 cm)  illustrates what others recognized as dominant characteristics of Crone’s art: namely ” a slow accumulation ” ( Aidan Dunne on https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/art-and-design/visual-art/david-crone-and-the-art-of-slow-accumulation-1.2880880).

A slow accumulation may be applied to a viewer’s experience too. At first -the impact of the multitude of different marks evokes something near the primeval beginning, chaos. Only when the eye discerns the light as its ally – the fragmented landscape becomes one – albeit more mysterious than descriptive.

 

It is rather, a kind of existential uncertainty so well understood by  F Kafka, even if Crone reads more often the delightfully daring fantasies of  Italo Calvino.

Akin a twist in a  Calvino’s story,  at times one hue carry the uncertainty.  For ex. he includes a high light of a yellow which partnering with real light saturates into an illusion of gold. In a small oil called  Objects (2009, oil on canvas 35x25cm)  that task is taken care of by a green hue.

The paintings are both abstract and representational, a duality akin the lived uncertainty in a society.

Wilhelm Worringer  in his Abstraction and Empathy(1908)  classified two stylistic polar opposite views as abstraction and empathy. He proposed that when we are comfortable in the world —e.g. in ancient Greece and Rome and during the Renaissance—we tend to want to empathize with the world: to idealize it, to make objects that objectify our delight.  And when we feel uncomfortable, uncertain, and anxious in the world—e.g. in ancient Egypt, during the European Middle Ages, or during the Modernist era—we tend to create abstraction, artworks that suppress the look and space of our surroundings.

In recent paintings, e.g. Field Objects (2018, oil on canvas, 115×92 cm)  Crone moved the whole palette towards greens and blues, hues observed in nature around him. The subject’s outlines dissolve in a quest for a different way of being.

A sort of osmosis with nature, embodied awareness, one that is open to whatever makes itself present before us.  In an age of fast-paced technologies and instant hits, the unadorned act of standing in the field, experiencing its sounds and smells may have a reviving power.

Images courtesy Fenderesky Gallery.

 

Gerard Carson and Drydan Wilson at Platform, Belfast, 1-30 November 2018

On the day of his death (1931-2018), I recall that Robert Morris’s writings and art is thinking about the nature of perception.

“Notes on Sculpture Part III: Notes and Nonsequiturs,” the third in a series of essays he published in Artforum in 1967, begins:

“Seeing an object in real space may not be a very immediate experience. Aspects are experienced; the whole is assembled or constructed.”

As Michael Fried observed, Morris includes the viewer/observer.  Both sculptural installations at Platform, in a different way, do that too. Drydan Wilson wrote in the gallery handout that he was interested in “play”, in “extreme forms of play” – something akin his experience with “skateboarding”.  On the other hand, he claims an interest in the influences of social structures like barriers, systems, regulations.

from the left: Cut the Line, 2018, wood, paper, ink, string, scissors; Untitled (Movement line) 2018, wood, ratchet straps; Earth,2016, wood, acrylic paint

Role of paper, scissors and black line drawn in the middle. The visitor is invited to cut a piece of the line to take away.   It is more than experiencing an aspect and less than a free play.  Rather, it is a polite seduction to obey the artist’s intention. The experience is narrowed down to, in my case to hesitancy and curiosity,  before cutting a small piece of the line clumsily, and somehow liberating the scissors from the string. I made a new safety knot to keep it hanging where it should.  I did not experience it as a play, only as a response, a participatory act.  Dry and mysterious.  Without an answer to a why question.

The performative elements appear in the stasis of the wooden constructions too.  They do not obey any predictable tectonics.  I marvelled at the rhythmical cuts in the arched wood – it appeared poetic, in gently evoking touch and smell experienced when working with wood.

In this image, what looks like short lines, are cuts, each has a depth,  just enough to make their depths secret.

The black cube is constructed in the way one would draw a Necker cube- however, the material frustrates the illusion, the shift from one reading to the other.

The sculptures support Wilson’s claim that his work is often site-specific. I sense a visualized struggle in this particular place – as if the wooden arch was condemned to be tethered to the white column that supports the roof.

 

All wood structures are Untitled (Movement lines)

They appear as if  remembering the  “personages” installed in David Smith’s field

Three  other pieces seem from another theme: Dot,dot,dot, 2018,paper;   and Gesture Line, 2018, graphite on the wall;  and the Infinity Light

 

Infinity Light,(dodecahedron),2018, wood, mirror, light, tripod

and complete the display.

 

 

Gerard Carson wholeheartedly zooms on strange mutations of materials “…feeding the anthropocentric desire of infinite accumulation”.

The four exhibits shared a summary title of “Submersible Extractions”,   given first to the video.

It tells about the concerns any good ancestor shares, standing up against the ” feeding the anthropocentric desire of infinite accumulation”.  Yet – waiting for alternatives makes us all responsible as we rely on inherited infrastructures,e.g. electricity from fossil fuels. In that sense, Carson makes subtle political art that includes hints on current research in the depth of the ocean and growing awareness of polluted air.

A part of the story is given in the twin channel digital video &animation, 2018.

 

On one remote, I thought of it as a soft warning against unbridled exploitation of the environment, specifically that deep in the Earth crust.

A similar theme of unease with humanity exploiting resources  is evoked in the print “Glyphic Spectre”, AO injekt print, 2018.”   The visualised shape disintegrated into spikes and voids.

In the photograph on the right above a blue light touched the paper and the top of the column. It also casts a blue shadow, all of which adds up to the “lived” visual experience. As I move, the reflection of the light intensifies and fades- as if breathing in the rhythm of my moves.

 

Somewhat by chance, somewhat by intention, the blue light of the video is pretending to escape into space and engage in a visual “dance”  with the  “Petronic 1” (wood, concrete, wire, silicone, 3D print, 2017). 

It looks onto the fourth member of the quartet “Aqua Armature” (wood, epoxy resin, fluorescent light, tape, aluminium, silicone, spray paint, 2018).  It appears to me as an elegant duette of metal and its shadow, as a fugue.  It is a mute visual poetics.

(Aluminium takes 400 years to break down naturally)

The exhibits appear to fight against their fate (related to the environmental issues)  by a collective dependence/ intoxication by light – an ancient symbol of truth.

Both artists evoke the viewer’s sensitivity not so much to a story, as to that proverbial mute poetry. And, from my point of view,  that is a success of the visual thought, that visibility, which Italo Calvino requested to be preserved for this century.

 

Images courtesy Simon Mills and Platform.

 

Patrick Conyngham:The first Spark, The last Spark, ArtisAnn Gallery Belfast, 31 Oct – 1 Dec 2018

There are three different “looks” and one just in nascendi.  The difference is not in the theme, motive, association, composition,  but in the tonality and marks. Reminiscent of Immanuel Kant admiration for an absence of meaning in a wallpaper ( something classed by William Morris as “Lesser Art” in need of a rescue). The very fact that the mind doesn’t really know what to do with the shapes or how to categorize them means that we can appreciate them on their own terms( re Critique of Judgement). In some cases Conyngham allows shapes and forms coalesce into a specific and identifiable object, a figure.  Where the brushstrokes do not coalesce they instead feed what Kant called the “play of the imagination. There is a twist to this. Pablo Picasso is reported as stating that ”Painting isn’t an aesthetic operation”, rather it is something akin a magic.  Jan Mukarovsky offered a brilliant solution to a possible debate: in his essay Aesthetic Function, Norm and Value as Social Facts (1936)  he harvested  …”Max Dessoir line in aesthetic theory, taken to its logical conclusion by Emil Utitz, a theory to be credited, after [Jean Marie] Guyau’s intervention” as well as theoretical formulations springing from Oscar  Wilde, who, in connection with the Symbolist conception of art, developed a fine sense for its semiotic nature. One conclusion grows from his admission that many people do not have frequent contacts with art:” … the aesthetic function is effective over a far greater area than art alone. Any object and any activity (whether natural or human) may become a vehicle of the aesthetic function.”  It also means that an aesthetic function can change according to the perceiver.

That perhaps liberated  Conynghan from a narrative as given before the brush mark. As if reminding us of Barnet Newman’s cry: “We have lost contact with man’s natural desire for the exalted” these paintings do not describe a given. Instead, hues, tones, brushstrokes create a visual melee of different energies, shapes, and associations. One canvas contains all his different marks, brush or pen…

 

 

Full Speed Ahead Mixed Media on Canvas 101 x 81 cms

He signed it twice.  I think deliberately, both signatures are too near each other on the left low down.  When the “narrative” appears, it prefers a narrow range of marks and – intriguingly less light.

Sparks are hard to map, mixed media on canvas, 79x101cm

The marks used to help to ascertain an autorship when a signatures was missing.  Just one pro toto:

Donato Creti’s drawing could be authenticated due to the characteristic ending of a line.  The way the artist uses the mark – is often instinctive.

However, Conyngham uses very different marks in this exhibition – yet – there is a recognizable similarity. There are three groups each one preferring different palette.

The sparks series, with the exception of Inspirational Spark(40x50cm),

are dark, earthy, airless, yet, they introduce outline of human body, dark, earthy, huddled together. In the Life Spark (45x61cm)  

the crowd heads and occasional torso fill the plane of the painting all over, mostly with oval heads some echoing  Edward Munch’s Scream.

In the Early Spark (36.5 x 42cm)  the figures are more defined as individuals.

The figures appear as full scale standing almost all the height of the painting in a larger format of Sparking Over the Vastness of Time (64 x 76.5 cm) 

Earthy, powerful squeezing out the light from clumsy lightening.

Seeing the careful and sensitive installation invites a thought about this painter’s relationship to light.  In that, it is reminiscent of 16th and 17th C  western paintings, transposed to the time after abstraction of the 20thC – e;g; Jean Dubuffett (1901 -1985), eg. airless L’Hourloupe, 1966.

 

In the series of 25 x 35.5.m horizontal format, Conyngham favours high key palette.

Carrying the Shine, 25×35.5cm

One carries a title that admits the role of light: Protecting the Light

The positioning of the dark hues vis a vis yellow-green, yellow and light blue is reminiscent of   El Lisitzky’s Beat the Whites with the Red Wedge, 1919.

The obvious differences in the marks place Conyngham safely away from the propaganda of any sort.

Surprisingly, some titles are substantially narrative and connected to a  shared imagined reality, e.g. And Dreams of Angels

At the window, in the kind of optical solitude is a  painting, that does not belong to the dictionary, to the dark or  high key  images: The Feeling the Mountain Cave (37x 44cm)

 

Both light and depth are squeezed out, the rhythm of the parallels layers just slightly adorned by the twig of the yellow light that joins the two darkest areas.

It is strangely decorative, oriental, echoing aboriginal Dreaming from a distance.

 

The gallery catalog claims that Conyngham, a poet, a writer, and an artist  “paints in as free and loose way as he can manage. This involves using charcoal, oil, acrylics, felt tip, pencil, inks pastels, gouache, tea, and sprays…” hence all the exhibits are mixed media on canvas. Not easily visible are marks made by taking the paint off with newsprint, reapplying it back onto the surface, smudging paint with fingers, flicking and fribbling of paint an ink.

One paragraph –  not clear whose authorship – offers a summary:  “One hopes that this is not too lofty an aspiration but has a mooring in actuality with a door to the spirit of what the light from a spark brings: hope, warmth and above all light.”

In the European thought, light rhymes with truth  – see Plato Myth of the Cave.

 

The Dance of Light (18x 24cm)

I do not mind that the shape is somewhat comical, given the demise of trust across humanity.

Images courtesy ArtisAnn Gallery.

 

 

Vernon Carter, Plantations, Engine Room Gallery, Belfast, October 2018

Tumult,n.s.,n.d.

Tumult  is one of 42  exhibited items intended to  “…deal with man’s seemingly relentless path to the annihilation of the planet by whatever means: by a destruction of the environment through human need/human greed, or by one nation supplanting another” ( Vernon Carter: Plantations?)

The key terms are ” seemingly relentless path to the annihilation”… and as such Vernon  aligns his thinking with current philosophy, e.g. “To be a good human being,” philosopher Martha Nussbaum observed, “is to have a kind of openness to the world, an ability to trust uncertain things beyond your own control”

she goes on

The condition of being good is that it should always be possible for you to be morally destroyed by something you couldn’t prevent. To be a good human being is to have a kind of openness to the world, an ability to trust uncertain things beyond your own control, that can lead you to be shattered in very extreme circumstances for which you were not to blame. That says something very important about the human condition of the ethical life: that it is based on a trust in the uncertain and on a willingness to be exposed; it’s based on being more like a plant than like a jewel, something rather fragile, but whose very particular beauty is inseparable from its fragility. (The Fragility of Goodness: Luck and Ethics in Greek Tragedy and Philosophy.

Carter often leaves the found shape without fully submitting it to transforming details. Consequently, a hand appears at the end of an unbelievably long arm. He is willing to let the natural shape to win, to control where the man-made bit appears.

Partly painted part low relief the Tumult represents a group of figures running away from an undefined chaotic horizon towards the lower corners of the rectangle.  The eye quickly notes repeats of postures and gestures.  That indicates a use of some kind of stencil.  I perceive it as a sign of a substantial similarity among people and as a doubt that a difference is always visible. Yet, a difference is what breaks the society, in which Vernon Carter makes his objects and music, apart. In that context, the peaceful co-existence of many (if not all), is just a hope.  Perhaps more easily imagined in communities toiling on plantations – which gives the title to the group of small sculptures standing in the same groud. Their verticality seems to me like a frozen scream- or a song.  They look towards different directions as if lost, waiting.

Plantation, n.s.,n.d.

Carter’s musical talent, at times, saturates found shapes, in the manner of symbols made visible.  In the Fecundity the small branches contain just enough of emerging detail to engage the meaning of its title. It also appears like a relationship of a melody and the supporting harmony, one for right hand, the other for the left – on a piano.

Fecundity

The indeterminacy controlled by the found shapes is preserved while detailing at the twigs ends returns the meaning to anthropomorphism. The outcome is both raw and poetic.

 

Flight

Working in two-dimensions is disturbed by violent cuts, a sort of a metonymy of lightning, clearly perceivable in  Clamour.

Carter allows the symmetry on the inner circle to stay open to the irregular additions. In his own words, he perceives structure and chaos as “…inseparable identities, one of the fundamental laws of nature” ( ibidem)

No wonder that the image of a primeval beginning is a chaotic multitude discarding one central meaning.

 

Figures in  Life Force (below)are rendered in different scales. It may indicate that the bigger ones are replacing the smaller ones as being optically stronger. However, they may also stand for the status quo being challenged by the continuous growth of new generations, represented by the smaller figures.

The well-known metaphor of the butterfly wing resonates with this composition.  The big hand is both signaling a power and a defeat of the falling figure at the top right. It is an almost audible scream.

 

Life Force

Carter concludes:” Plantation is a metaphor for survival or perhaps extinction. All living organisms are interdependent on one another and the loss of just one of these diminishes each of us”

He aligns his intentions with the prevailing concern about climate change as well as the killing power of human greed, of greedy humanity. As he states above – one nation supplanting the other is the story of humanity.

I hasten to add – that he does not narrow down the aesthetic experience to art’s instrumental function.  His art appears to fit Antoin Artaud’s maxim – it infects the viewer before he or she knows it.

 

Images courtesy John McMacken and Engine Room Gallery

NOTE: After publishing,  this arrived in my inbox on 7th Nov.   This UK artist also collects roots and branches to fashion art objects. More narrative and less sublime than those by Vernon Carter.

https://www.thisiscolossal.com/2018/10/fantastical-creatures-carved-by-tach-pollard/

I stepped out and she stepped in again, 13/09 -26/10 2018, Belfast, Atypical Gallery

Curated by Hugh O’Donnell this is a display of video, photography, embroidery,  painting and “poured bitumen relief”

Elaine McGinn, Permeate, 2017, Bitumen and mixed media

a la Lynda Benglis  (see  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lynda_Benglis ).

Then, two days after the opening, the five artists came for a 2 hours durational performance, leaving its traces.

Schizophrenic exhibition?  Or overconfident?  Neither. It revives the memory of Situationists and Bruce Naumann, inter alia. If Ludist art was a fundamental method of critique of the consumerist culture  – what is this display a critique of?

One clue is already in its title. Habitually artists work as individuals, or in pairs, e.g. Gilbert &George. Over the last decade, the Belfast based performance group  Bbeyond developed a tradition of monthly group performances harnessing exchange and free co-operation between individual artist, making the aura of authorship to become an unnamed multiple.  The five exhibitors appeared in some of the Bbeyond Monthly.  The decision to keep the individual autorship on one hand and to give it up on the other may be strange.  Strangeness, estrangement, is a value that permeated Modernism  – as witnessed by the early essays by Victor Shklovsky. And it seems to be coming back.

 

Svetlana Boym writes, in Architecture of the Off-Modern:

By making things strange, the artist does not simply displace them from an everyday context into an artistic framework; he also helps to “return sensation” to life itself, to reinvent the world, to experience it anew. Estrangement is what makes art artistic; but, by the same token, it makes life lively, or worth living.

( Buell Center/FORUM Project & Princeton Architectural Press 2008, p. 18–19.)

This is different from the Marxist alienation of the worker from the product, but similar to Bertold Brecht’s concept of estrangement as a method of enhancing criticality and an awareness of the levels of fiction. It is also similar to Shklovsky’s foregrounding – drawing attention to.

Elaine Ginn, Waft, 2018, mixed media

The plastic has become a ubiquitous threat to life, a knowledge borne out of current research, made accessible in TV documentaries.  Ginn lets the material to become a poetic mover, seemingly innocent but dependent on electricity, which in turn is still far too dependent on fossil fuels. The use of energy other than the maker’s own is prevalent in this display of machine embroidery,  video, and photography.

Jane Cherry, You told me I deserved it 12 times, 2010 – 2018, bamboo cotton fabric, watercolour, embroidery floss, glass beads

It is latently there in all the materials used: bamboo cotton fabric, glass beads, bitumen, wooden sticks, roses  … all recycled away from the original function.

 

That foregrounds our significant challenges, existential issues.

 

 

 

 

Elvira Santamaria Torres  used her signature motif of flowers and a photography. I do not know who left the residue of that installation on the floor.

It is, unintentionally,  reminiscent of mosaic still lifes found in Roman villas by foregrounding chance and disorder as an aesthetic function.  The charm of leftovers resonates with this exhibition.

Next to the roses is a photographic still of a  bare foot with sticks between toes, as if to rectify a degenerative change.

Elvira Santamaria, The steps of memory, from Parable VI -I: Suspended process. Art Process and Gestures, 2015, El Mozote, Mozaran, El Salvador. Image Eduardo del Corral

It reminds me of “calculative image”  by Luke Evans:

accessed on http://www.wren.agency/luke-evans.html

Through an intentional arrangement, both images evoke play as a resource.  That, in turn, invites reminders of surrealism’s equivalence between observed and imagined, harvested with panache in the video by Katrina Sheena Smyth.

Katrina Sheena Smyth, Residue, 2016, video, 3 minutes

 

She exhibited also a still from a more recent video Providence, 2018.

Videographer : Jordan Hutchings

The strangeness of this image lies in not telling what experience became its source.  It may be a play or sorrow.  Thus it foregrounds the observation that a strength of a belief is not a strength of evidence.  Something very apt in relation to the conditions for life in Northern Ireland.

That became intensified in a video Dislocating the origin, 2002, 2018  by Siobhan Mullen

I may be wrong, but I assumed that the mixed media display on the floor near it  treats the same subject.

Those words  “dislocating the origin”  resonate deeply with a critique of focusing only on differences.  They allow accepting differences and similarities together, rejecting the submission of one to the other. Evoking the current theories of the beginning of life in our universe that observe the similarities and differences as equivalent forces are harnessed to increase awareness that our most significant challenges like clean air, water, and soil are not tethered to one gender, one belief system, one tradition.

This exhibition by minimizing the artist’s aura and by installing anonymous co-operation  makes meaning of what is made visible to depend on lived life.

As Jan Mukarovsky observed, the aesthetic function of art is transparent.  Dissolving ego, taking risks,  perhaps enhance the cognitive dissonance between need and want.

Elaine McGinn, 2017

Paul Klee warned that art does not reproduce the visible it makes visible. This exhibition, like several others recently,  makes visible at least two conditions for truth and change: freedom of thought and courage to dislocate the origin.

 

Images courtesy Atypical Gallery.