Irish Museum of Modern Art
February 26 – May 23, 2010
The exhibition comprising a series of 111 small-scale paintings by the Belgian-born artist Francis Alÿs, one of the most original artists working today. Francis Alÿs: Le temps du sommeil has been described as a storyboard or archive of Alÿs’s highly imaginative oeuvre, much of which takes as its starting point simple actions performed by the artist and documented in photographs, film or by other means such as postcards. These actions, involving strange objects and fruitless exercises, frequently suggest the dreamlike state of the exhibition’s title, which could translate as “sleep time”. They are also incorporated into the exhibition in the form of accompanying texts, many derived from the artist’s postcards.
Le temps du sommeil was begun in 1995 and continues today as an ongoing body of work. The technique is consistent throughout. The figures or other images in the paintings begin as drawings on tracing paper, which are then transferred onto a miniature oval landscape with golden green grass and a darkened, olive green sky. In each case this scene is surrounded by a rich Venetian red ground, built up in layers with the whole measuring no more than 11.5 by 15 cms. Alÿs compares the oval with the veduta of early Italian Renaissance paintings, a special distant scene inserted into a larger landscape. Each painting is dated with a rubber stamp, underlining the narrative aspect of the series and providing a kind of diary of the artist’s fantasies and obsessions.
Several of the paintings have an obvious connection with Alÿs’s recorded actions. The man walking along carrying a leaking can of paint, echoes the artist’s 1995 action The Leak, in which he roamed the streets of Ghent with a punctured paint can leaving a trail back to the gallery, where he mounted the empty can on the wall. Another painting calls to mind Alÿs’s epic 2002 project, When Faith Moves Mountains, which took place near the Peruvian capital Lima. This involved 500 volunteers who, armed only with shovels, moved a 1,600-foot sand dune just four inches from its original location. The change in the landscape was minute, but Alÿs ‘s concern was with its relationship to the prevailing social and political situation at once “futile and heroic, absurd and urgent”.
In 2004 the artist described the place of painting in his work: “What justifies my recourse to painting is that it’s the shortest way – or the only way – to translate certain scenarios or situations that cannot be said, that cannot be filmed or performed. It’s about entering a situation that could not exist elsewhere, only on the paper or canvas. They are images, and I want for them to live as such. Like in a children’s book.” In June of this year the series will travel to Tate Modern, London, as part of a retrospective of Alÿs’s key works, which will also be shown at Wiels, Brussels, and at MoMA, New York.
Born in Antwerp, Belgium, in 1959, Francis Alÿs studied architecture at the Institut d’Architecture de Tournai in Belgium and at the Instituto Universitario di Architettura in Venice. Since 1986 he has made his home in Mexico and has been particularly associated with Mexico City’s historic centre where his studio is located. His work has been extensively shown worldwide, recent exhibitions include in 2009 – Shanghai Art Museum; The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo, and Centro Galego de Arte Contemporánea, Santiago de Compostela; in 2008 – KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art, Helsinki, and Istanbul Museum of Modern Art. As Alÿs’s international reputation has grown many of his projects have taken place at the invitation of museums, for example, The Modern Procession, created in 2002, to mark the temprorary move of The Museum of Modern Art, New York, from Manhattan to Queens.
Green On Red Gallery
July 8 – August 15,2009
Dawning of an aspect
Niall De Buitléar, Damien Flood, Laura Lancaster, Sonia Shiel
Dawning of An Aspect, an exhibition of four artists whose work offers an exploration of our capacity for perception through painting and sculpture. ‘Dawning of an aspect’ is taken from both Wittgenstein’s and Wollheim’s philosophical writings on the fundamental distinction between our perception and plain seeing. While the writings on this subject are based on painting, in this exhibition it is also applied to sculptural objects that reveal themselves through the act of looking. This twofold nature of our perception involves both the surface and subject simultaneously.
Wittgenstein’s aim was to dissolve the paradoxical appearance of aspect-dawning: when looking at a picture-object we can come to see it differently, although we also see that the picture-object itself remains unchanged. Wollheim’s writings view the expressiveness of depiction through psychoanalytic concept of projection in which we come to see a piece of the external world as corresponding to an inward state of mind which he referred to as the internal spectator.
The experience of seeing resemblances within the pictorial representation is an essential aspect of this idea. Niall De Buitléar’s use of found objects and re-presenting them as sculptural forms, play with both the history of the found objects and the potentiality to mutate into abstract sculptural forms. It is the recognizable element in the works that reveals the transformation from the everyday to sculptural object. Damien Flood’s paintings occupy a space between fact and fiction. His work, while primarily landscape in line with the traditional notion of painting reveals a world of discovery and illusion. Laura Lancaster’s paintings reveal an element of nostalgia; the figures emerge from the blurred landscape, depicting a moment within a narrative structure that is part of a larger schema. Sonia Shiel’s work commandeers miscellaneous everyday materials to build literal fabrications of ‘lofty’ notions. Her shambolic constructions simultaneously rouse and abandon ceremony, pomp and ego. They merge video, sculpture and paintings to expose subjects associated with the world’s make –up and by revealing their own, assume the subject of creativity itself.
Pallas Contemporary Projects
September 9 – October 10, 2008
Arise! ye starvelings…
Declan Clarke, Stephen Gunning, Nicolas Milhé, Diango Hernández
Arise! ye starvelings… is the opening line of the rallying song the Internationale, the anthem used as an expression of allegiance to revolutionary ideals. The appropriation and re-contextualising of revolutionary and political imagery and ideas is a tactic used by artists to comment on the present geopolitical climate, creating a link between the past and the present. The combination of politics and art together investigate the undercurrents of globalization, and the fault lines opening up in the present. Each of the artists has an aesthetic framework while at the same time containing a political dimension. Their practices traverse the political through the adopting of historical symbols and language associated with revolutionary sentiments. The potentiality of their practices is to unfold the global obliquely, adapting that which is suppressed to developed imagery and discourse.
Declan Clarke’s video work Red Moon engages with our encoded history, which he traces through historical events and the iconography of monuments and architecture. The degradation of the Soviet Union as a super power and its demise as a site of revolutionary thought is reflected in the city’s contemporary landscape through its fading monuments and structures. Nicolas Milhé’s Sans Titre (projection mercator) subverts the standard map. Devoid of any geographical landscape, the artist reflects on the contentious issues of territory and geography, allowing for alternative reading of both our history and our future. Diango Hernández’s Blender features a normal household appliance, but for Hernández it has a strong symbolic meaning: the blender mixes, pulverizes and ‘uniformizes’. The blender is displayed on a naked brick ‘stage’, a deconstructed wall, the unity is gone, and the connection is unstable and vulnerable. The checked shirt is a code to the Cubans: employees of the Department of the Interior or the secret police wore checked shirts. It was a kind of uniform. Now they just lie next to the objects, they are ‘off-duty’, the working day is over.
Stephen Gunning’s dual projection Killing time Amsterdam Penitentiary documents the inmates of a high-rise prison. Foucault spoke about prisons as the Panopticon, the ultimate realization of a modern disciplinary institution. Its structure allowed for constant observation characterized by an “unequal gaze”; the constant possibility of observation. He compared this carceral system to our schools, factories and institutions. Gunning’s piece is disconcerting as the viewer can take on the position of power, observing the behaviour of the inmates.
These works seek to reconnect culture to its political base, representing a strand of resistance in the absence of social revolution. They call into question established notions of society and how the present transforms its past.
‘In every era the attempt must be made anew to wrest tradition away from a conformism that is about to overpower it’ – Walter Benjamin
Green On Red Gallery , Dublin / Wallace Gallery, New York
June 27 – July 26, 2008
Ben Kinsley, Yvonne Buccheim, David Blandy, Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard, Johanna Billing, Kate Murphy, William Hunt
SONIC YOUTH an exhibition of 7 international video artists whose work offers an extensive and in-depth exploration of the various possibilities of the crossover between popular culture and video art. The pieces navigate a variety of sources including the history of film, iconography and a wide range of references to popular culture. The works play with global codes and canonized images that are integral to the collective memory.
Documentary itemization, self-questioning and cultural sampling are videographic practices which the artists use to react to the construction of the everyday. An interest and participation in popular culture especially music represents an important component of their oeuvre.
Ben Kinsley’s GESICHTSMUSIK is a musical self-portrait. All the sounds were produced with his voice and body, and through meticulous editing and layering, an audio-visual composition was created. Yvonne Buccheim, Herder’s Legacy presents amateur singers from 5 different countries (Germany, France, Ireland, UK and USA) in front of a white background eliminating all visual indication of the place of recording. This audio-visual creation inspired by Herder’s song collection from 1773 becomes an open field of research into the visibility of cultural identity within songs. David Blandy uses video, performance and comics to address how identity is constructed. Blandy’s piece The White and Black Minstrel Show, using the character of the White and Black Minstrel (an inverted Black and White Minstrel) to do “live” lip-syncing to songs like “I’m Black and I’m Proud” and “Is it because I’m black?”. This clownish figure, with a “whited-up” face, has come to embody Blandy’s cultural confusion in this post-colonial world. Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard’s film project File under Sacred Music takes as its starting point an infamous video that documents a live performance by The Cramps for the patients at Napa Mental Institute, California, on 13th June 1978. Forsyth and Pollard began by re-enacting that legendary performance in order to film and remake the rarely seen video document. They consulted closely with a number of mental health arts organisations, before inviting members from Core Arts, Sound Minds and Mad Pride to attend the performance and filming, which was staged on a specially constructed set in the Institute of Contemporary Arts Theatre in London on 3rd March 2003.
Johanna Billing’s Magical World is a collaboration made with a group of children from a cultural centre outside Zagreb, Croatia. The direct subject is the children’s rehearsal of a song originally written by the black American singer Sidney Barnes in 1968. ‘The song called Magical World, speaks of personal transformation with both pride and melancholy, conflicting emotions that coexist here, as often in life. This reference to transformation gives a clue to a possible metaphoric reading of the work, filmed as it is in a relatively young country that is trying to conform to European Union demands while establishing its own fragile national identity’. (Charles Esche)
Kate Murphy’s narrative style in her documentary pieces Britney Love highlights an 11 year olds aspiration for her future as a celebrity. In her second piece, she revisits her at the age of 18 where she talks about her motivations and aims. William Hunt’s Even As You See Me Now employs video as a means of not only documenting but investigating and testing his own physical and psychological limits as he performs.
Green On Red Gallery
March 15 – April 12, 2008
Niamh McCann, Gavin Murphy & Marcos Rosales
“Our time demands the anti-masterpiece. Things that are cobbled together, pushed and prodded into a state of suspended animation feel right. Stubby, brutish forms that know something of the world in which they are made tell the contemporary story.”
“Not about Mel Gibson” Richard Flood in Unmonumental:The Object in the 21st Century
Green On Red Gallery is proud to announce the first in a series of group exhibitions in 2008 that examine aspects of contemporary art practice in Ireland and further afield. Niamh McCann ( Irl.), Gavin Murphy ( Irl. ) and Marcos Rosales ( USA ) make up the first exhibition called Frontier. All three young artists show work using a mixture of drawing, text and sculptural installation in a variety of materials ranging from synthetic fabric to recycled tin, fluorescent light and cast resin. All three exhibit work in the Green On Red Gallery for the first time.
What is striking in the practice of these three artists is the cross-referential nature of all their work. Individual works do not point to a single subject or concept but seem to draw from multiple sources and times to arrive at what is more a point of departure rather than an endpoint or conclusion. This is as true of Niamh McCann’s sculptural work as it is of her mixed media on paper. In Splice ( 1 ), the promotional image for the exhibition, the original, low-grade, found newspaper has been re-cycled and reconstituted. Parts of the original ‘text’ – including imagery – survive the alteration but become part of a more ambiguous, complex repository of ideas and narratives. The use of acrylic paint is transparently thin allowing the various layers or systems/signs to infiltrate/negotiate each other. As the title suggests, different messages, different time periods, different forms of communication are spliced together/interwoven creating space for reflection. One dominant narrative/system doesn’t exist. The context is the key to the text.
A similar inter-textuality exists in the work of Gavin Murphy. Murphy uses bodies of ( past ) knowledge to direct the mind to consider monumental subjects. Mortality, the nature of existence, the incomprehensibility of the passing of time are at the centre of his art. Typical of his work are sculptural assemblages or ‘Light/Heavy Monuments’ like the one made from recycled coffee bags in Frontier. Word signs and a light bulb hover like a makeshift lightbox above the silver and gold pyramid. The artist does not distinguish between the suggestive power of the forms/signs he generates and the use of single, floating words to operate as a platform for further philosophical investigation.
These occupations, come from a very personal fear, yet Murphy translates these fears into the universal, turning to an enlightenment understanding of the objective observer as a metaphor for the isolation of the soul who wishes to step out of time.
The work of Marcos Rosales ( born Waco, Texas ) comes from a very personal origin tied in with his adoption as a child. Identity as a quest is something, however, that all of us negotiate whether it’s on a philosophical or emotional level or just going through passport control. His stream-of-consciousness writings, entitled The Demons of Diversity, link in with his almost almost automatic ink drawings connect to his free-form, kinky, black macramé suspended sculptures. Cryptic message and double-entendre abound in an unsettling and intense prod at the viewer.