Saturday, June 27, 2009


Can anybody recommend an inexpensive place to stay in Berlin?


Thursday, June 25, 2009

Its a long flight from Louisiana to Galway

"Grass, reeds and Circus freaks" D. Carpenter, A, Revill, A. Regan

So what do you get when you mix equal parts Louisiana Master students and a local Irish art collective? Probably a lot of drinking. But as far as an exhibition goes? Well, you can probably expect a good one, and that is just what you get. The Galway Arts Centre is showing a large group collaborative show of artists from Galway and Louisiana. Titled 003D and curated by Gina Ruane. Unfortunately its a very quick show and ends this weekend. Here is a brief snippet about the show from the GAC.

The two groups were initially brought together by Expanded Draught member Allison Regan who moved to Louisiana in August 08 to start a three year Masters degree in sculpture. The idea for the collaboration was triggered after the collective were forced to figure out a new way of working with the founder member who was now based overseas. Although it is a collaboration of two groups the artists have chosen to work in pairs. Taking the concept of people and ideas being placed and displaced in and out of contexts and environments, each collaborative pairing has applied this as the starting point from which to develop their interpretations.

I am glad I swung by yesterday as I didn't know it was up for such a short period of time. The exhibit is a feast. You are confronted right away by a wall of masks created by David Carpenter, Alwyn Revill and Allison Regan. Its interesting the effect masks have. Phantasmal otherworldly notions creep into the dialogue that one has when standing in front of this tribalistic trophy wall. I am not sure of their "practicality" as mentioned in the artists write up but they do evoke a slight sense of wonder with a hint of intimidation. Masks tell stories, but they also hide and impose. These mask have an end of the world feel to them. Are they from tribes that have risen from the cast off of a failed society or are they tools of the trade from some strange traveling carnival ? What ever they are, they succeed in pulling the viewer down new paths, new narratives.

On the opposite wall we are asked to take a more intimate look at Breege Hynes and Tyler Mackie's collaboration. I liked the idea behind this work. Creating small works and exchanging them only to be erased, covered up or reworked by the other artist. A mix of faith and curiosity is needed for these types of joint ventures. I enjoyed some of the pieces but not all and I'm not sure how the work as a whole holds up. It was a tough spot opposite the visually commanding display of the masks. But the way they mounted the small works was engaging I almost missed hidden pieces mounted to the ceilings of the alcoves. The middle room was the location for an eye catching sculptural display, a strange combination of found material. The write up by the artists explains that they started with a series of themes and collected materials from around Galway in response. I couldn't read the relation of the final piece with the themes but didn't care really. I was drawn into the works structure and physical impact, the relation it had to the room. I wish I had a better shot of the piece. As I am writing this I have just realised that there was a second component to this work, I suspect. A small framed image on the opposite wall. I have to admit that I did not associate the two parts as one. I didn't see the connection or relation. I have to ask if this was a situation due to the layout of the room or a short-coming of the work itself.

The back room found two projects. Kit French and Dave Callan's playful colour paper creations and Lindsey Maestri and Joanne Dolan's "25 Random Facts" collaboration. I found a bit of a disconnect with the combination of reproduced actual items (tape player and cassette tape) with random forms. It was a bit confusing but didn't really detract from the whimsical nature of the work.

Over all a strong show that really should have been up for longer.

Detail from "Drawing partners: Draw, Erase & Draw again" T. Mackie, B. Hynes

Coln O'Brien and Cody Arnall

Detail from "25 Random Facts" L. Maestri, J. Dolan

"SWNT: Sync, Wink, Nod and Tongue" D. Callan, K. French

"SWNT: Sync, Wink, Nod and Tongue" D. Callan, K. French


Sunday, June 14, 2009

Of Fathers and Mothers

Just a quick note. I came across this blog Secret Forts. It is a wonderful,  image based blog. What caught my eye though was the photographs collected of artists at work or in their studio. There is something almost mythical about these images. A certain romantic nostalgia found in the old pictures of our art-world mothers and fathers.  I find these images fascinating, for me they tug at the imagination. Anyway, I am not going to re-post them here (well maybe 1 or 2). But you should go and check out the blog your self. 




Friday, June 12, 2009

A Sportsbar and the Search for Utopia

The Dutch invasion!

Opening night of the Frank Koolen SPORTSBAR exhibit.

126 is currently showing Dutch artist Frank Koolen, guest curated by Maaike Gouwenberg an independent curator also based in the Netherlands. The show is titled SPORTSBAR, a tongue-in-cheek take on sports culture. Primarily that noblest of establishments the sportsbar. Nothing is missed in this installation. From the big screen TV to the almost mandatory parade of garish team jerseys. The show features various mock ups of tables and patrons, trophies to even video pieces of curious sporting events televised on a couple small wall mounted monitors. The show is playful and timely, with the Volvo Ocean Race having just passed through Galway. With the title of the show prominently displayed on the front window of the gallery it has lured unsuspecting passers by into the space thinking it was an actual sportsbar. Once in, smiles start to break on faces and whispers of "what is this" can be heard. The show runs till the 27th of June.

Trophy Penants

Patrons at Koolen's Sportbar

Installation view

Maaike (Curator) & Frank (artist) holding the no smile pose. This was a participatory aspect of the opening night of the show. Polaroids of opening night attendees were taken and then posted on a wall in the gallery. Participants were also told not to smile.

At the Nun's Island Theatre the Galway Arts Centre is presenting "In Search of Utopia" a group exhibition of video artists. Now I have to admit I don't give video enough time. Ironically as I say that I am currently working on showing 2 of Kelly Richardson's video works here at this years Film Fleadh in Galway (at 126). So yes, I confess to not giving video enough time but not to a failing of appreciation. The Nun's Island show is a good example. I admit to a very quick visual evaluation of video work, which by its often time-based requirements of the viewer is exactly the worst possible initial assessment of any video piece. The first piece I stop at is Cao Fei's piece titled "Whose Utopia" (I tried to link to his page but it seems not to be working at the moment) Apparently this work is a part of a larger body of work titled "Utopia Factory"
Initially I wasn't drawn in. It felt like I was watching a promo video for a random factory. Production lines, conveyor belts, employees at work etc. I can hear the readers groans already. To make matters worse after 5 minutes maybe 10 I chose to go and view the other works in the show. I had lost interest. I did come back though. The point of my return was for me more engaging and I cursed myself for leaving. Yes I am my own worst enemy. I left the piece in the end thinking though, about the inclusion of music in video works. I couldn't help but think where is the line between an everyday music video found on television and this work that had a song added to it. Why cant you have music in Video art? Why would you want music? I was surprised by how much the mood of the video changed with its inclusion. This may have also been a little biased, as the viewer was now being directly engaged by the people in the video, where as before the employees were filmed working. I think the inclusion of music in video works is confusing. One starts to read into the lyrics, the tempo or beat, the correlation of song to video etc. There is a change of focus from video to song. Adding a song to a video is almost a cop-out and easy led by the hand-this is what I want to say crutch. But then again I am not a video artist, I dont have the referential background. Maybe some one could argue the case for music/song in art based video. (Note: I am not talking about added sound/s in the video just music)
The piece that I was drawn to was by Ailbhe Ni Bhriain . A stunningly beautiful and melancholy work. I am keen to track down more of her work now that I have seen this one. The video is subtle in its motions and visually rich in earthy tones. Anchored in the foreground by what appears to be a fallen sheep or just the wool itself? A stream like current plays slowly across (or maybe below is the better word) the scenes surface. The piece holds you. I did take a couple photos of the work but they didn't turn out at all or at least not enough to do it justice. Its the nature of the video itself that foiled my camera (or maybe I need a new and better one).



Its funny how much artists need refueling. Well I do. I think I have a shallow creative well that needs topping up a lot. I feel like I spend a lot of my time running around with a bucket looking for the water to keep the well full. I always have extended projects, various constructions that I am playing with. Ideas that need feeling out and that I can work on over a longer period of time, leave for a bit then come back to. but its the stuff on canvas and paper and what-not that I burn out on (quite frequently it seems) or over work or too easily get frustrated with. I get to the all too familiar point where I want to trash the whole lot and start over. To compound this problem, I am a rather slow painter and if I kept tossing my unfinished work into the bin I would be left with very little.
So, I find myself occasionally needing to see the work of other artists. This is two fold, firstly and obviously it is the love of art in general. The desire to see the results of the creative process of other artists. To keep abreast of what is going on in your field. Secondly as an artist one needs to immerse one self in the product and results of this practice we have found ourselves in. This immersing, works to inspire and motivate (read: refuel), to help me push through my own pieces. As primarily a painter this entails looking at the work of other painters. Unfortunately Galway is a bit thin on galleries, let alone galleries that show primarily painters. Obviously one can troll the web but we all know looking at art on a computer screen is a poor compromise and almost akin to a visual crime. Something like a black & white reproduction of a colourful painting in a book (well maybe not that bad). So maybe a trip up to Dublin is needed.


Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Galway Arts Centre and Christ the Redeemer

A pretty busy couple of weeks for the Galway Art scene. We wrapped up the Fergus Byrne's show titled Dog Skipping Pegasus. I like Byrne's work that he had for this show for both the end product and the method of creation. The final product is visually strong and heavy. All the skipping pieces being weighted from the top by either a black or red/ochre rich pigment. The bottom half of each piece the viewer finds a testament to the action of creating the work. (the artist skips on these pieces. The skipping rope picks up the pigment from one end and transfers it to the end where he is jumping) The show also included a video piece and some smaller works as well a performance on the opening night (which I regretfully missed). I was undecided on the video though. On the one hand I found it a good addition to the show as it gave some insight to the process as well as having an almost mesmerising effect with its rhythmic visual and audio components. The only issue I found with the video was a relational disconnect in the textual aspect of the video.

Skip IV, mixed media on paper,
176 x 98 cm, 2009.

Image taken from the Visual Arts Centre website

On Thursday the 28th Galway had a number of openings. I made it to two of them, the first being the Galway Arts Centre's exhibit The World Shrinks For Those Who Own It. Featuring
Frankfurt based artist Oliver Heinzenberger and Galway's own Jim Ricks.
I will insert the Art Centre's own write up here for the show

The exhibition explores the differences in peoples’ movement; for some travel
is a luxury and recreational, where for others it marks a dangerous and often
illegal crossing of borders in search of a better life elsewhere.

The space is broken up into three rooms so I'll walk you through each. As you enter the first space you come upon a sculptural floor piece. A row of cactus that has done a great job of collecting shopping bags. Meant to be a loose recreation of a common cacti yard-wall found through out the middle east as well as many equatorial locals. I really liked this work on so many levels. It had a wonderful duality to it. On the one hand I thought it was a playful piece, vibrant and interactive with colourful loose bags blowing around the floor with the help of a centrally located fan on the floor. On the other, it acted as a signifier for mass consumerism, western deculturization, and disposable utility. An excellent piece.
On the far wall we have a PLO-like throw-up of a Kalashnikov rifle and red star. Images like these always have a commanding visual impact, and this is no exception.

Picture of the artist Jim Ricks.

The cactus wall. (not the actual title, just a descriptive) Jim Ricks

In the mid room is Oliver Heinzenberger with pieces on either side of the room. The one that stood out for me was a small shelf with 4 photos on it. The photos showed people/tourists standing atop an outdoor staircase with arms out-stretched. The staircase is situated well above the coast line which can be made out in the distance. Anybody familiar with Rio De Janeiro's Christ the Redeemer statue picks up on whats going on here. The strength of these little photos is their ability to convey regional information and narrative through allegory. The spectacle that is tourism and ritual pilgrimage found at this location, the recording of the same event over and over again. That's a lot to convey and the photos relay it in a very clever way.
We move onto the back room. The room has been blackened (painted) and has a number of pieces in it. The strongest piece for me being the post card stand with only one card to select. A replica of a Berlin Wall postcard, soldiers in a jeep driving by a rather indistinct section of wall (by the Potsdamer Platz which is near the Brandenburg gate) and outpost tower in the background.

Post Card Stand: Jim Ricks

Oliver Heinzenberger

Over all I thought the exhibit was really engaging and well worth dropping by the centre to check out. Spend some time with the show, you need to let it convey its stories both weighty and whimsical.

Up next: A Sportsbar and the Search for Utopia