Des Kenny Reviews Gerry O’Mahony - Keepers of Silence

December 8, 2014

08 December 2014 - Our Arty Blogger is back! Des Kenny gives a personal response to our current exhibition by Gerry O'Mahony, 'Keepers of Silence'.

Gerry O Mahony’s paintings occupy the Ground Floor Gallery of Draíocht like dark pools where forms shimmer and float in a primitive state waiting gently for the viewer to plunge into their depths to decipher and reach an understanding of their content. The paintings are immersed in a clear resin on panels of wood and various layers of paint float in the solution, magnifying the illusion of a bottomless interior realm. The wood panels are scoured with calligraphic marks anchoring elementary signs and symbols to a formless subterranean landscape. These rudimentary marks may describe a mountain, tree, sun or moon and signify a primordial language before the use of words. Arcane signs contain the spiritual essence of objects and act as a pathway into the origins of an archetypal underworld that is lost and forgotten.

Searching for a wide embrace, 60x60cm

In Searching for a Wide Embrace a yellow mountain hovers above dolman structures while a white full moon hangs like a pendant of an ancient order as white dots flicker and dance across a boundless sky. Forms and shapes shimmer into being from darkness and return undefined to their source. Blobs of red punctuate the paint surface akin to the flamed torches of acolytes on a pilgrimage through the night seeking solace from a deaf sky.

Changing Shadows 1, 120x120cm

Changing Shadows 1
is a large painting containing four panels where circular and pyramid designs compete with a surface of globular blacks, pale yellows and transparent purples. Forms are etched with a black line pining them to a dynamic formless painterly picture plane. The artist permits the forms discover their own placement in the crammed chaos of shifting space before sinking into complete dissolution and allows form freedom to flutter into life or fade unannounced into silence. The painting attains a dream state where the unconscious dictates a blurred mysterious narrative.

Changing Shadows 2, 120x120cm

Changing Shadows 2 is a more structured painting were the forms find a harmonic balance within the square edges of the picture. A wheel shaped structure has equal placement to an upturned moon and soar above three echoing mountains. Pale yellows and greens lend the painting a serene sensibility allowing the ancient symbols of nature renew a gutted utopia.

Close to the edge, 60x120cm

The two panels in the painting Close to the edge have totem like imagery. The left hand panel contains a single winged warrior bathed in yellow light while the right hand panel contains what appears to be a sickly obese creature. The external reality of a world on the precipice of climatic change invades the internal domain of an inner vision and invokes scorned and forgotten guardians from primordial origins to rise from the bellows of their dreams and heal nature’s wounds. The artist has no control of the unconscious but can consciously remove barriers which impede access to the underthings that dwell in the mind.

The Seed Sank Deep 2, 80x75cm

The Seed Sank Deep 2 is a small painting charged with primitive imagery. A crossed wheel floats in the blue sky marking the hours of the heavens while a ringed form in green and red is surrounded by white dots. Seeds of life and time emerge from the darkness of creation, breaching the edge of emptiness with the caress of life.

Gerry O Mahony’s accumulated images of ancient signs, symbols and mystical fetishes introduce the viewer to an underworld which lies buried beyond folk memory. The understanding of these ancient hieroglyphics and imperishable myths will illuminate contemporary culture.

Desmond Kenny is an artist based in Hartstown, Dublin 15. He is a self taught painter, since he began making art in 1986 he has since exhibited widely in Ireland and abroad, solo shows include Draíocht in 2001, The Lab in 2006 and Pallas Contemporary Projects in 2008. His work is included in many collections including the Office of Public Works, SIPTU, and Fingal County Council. Kenny's practice also incorporates print making and he has been a member of Graphic Studio Dublin since 2004.

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By Draíocht. Tags: Visual Arts, Desmond Kenny, Gerry O'Mahony,

Tracy Fahey launches Keepers of Silence

December 1, 2014

Gerry O'Mahony's 'Keepers of Silence' in our Ground Floor Gallery was launched by Tracy Fahey, Head of Fine Art, Limerick School of Art & Design on Thursday 27 November 2014. Tracy has very kindly given us her speech for our Blog.

Tracy Fahey & Gerry O'Mahony

I’m starting with a quote from the poet Jo Slade that helps to contextualise the title for the show. 

‘We need to care for our, “keepers of silence” they are the ones who feel the changes in society. They remind us of the power and magic of the image and of the word. They help us to understand, to shape, a form to the unutterable. They remind us that we are willing to explore silence - the empty spaces, the areas between words, between ‘the said’ and the as yet unknown.’

Gerry O’Mahony is one of these keepers of silence, these chroniclers of change. The paintings which surround us are beautiful and aesthetic objects in themselves. These magical, numinous landscapes of the mind recall the best of abstract expressionism, they remind us of the dreaminess of Chagall, the curiosity of Klee, and above all, of the instinctive compositional response of Kandinsky to colour and form.

However, they also have a function similar to Russian icons; they stimulate within us a silent and intense response, they provoke meditation, introspection, and wonder.

Gerry’s works are world within worlds, and are infused by his notion of man’s boundless potential as micro-cosmos, a potentiality as yet only partly visible to the naked eye. The paintings are permeated with a yearning desire for a world that we can almost see and touch, a world of change and excitement, a world of evolution. Earlier this month I had a long conversation with Gerry in his studio about the works he was selecting for this show. As we stood, thigh-deep in the paintings that span his career, he waxed lyrical on the passionate concern for the human condition that infuses his work ‘We are like lamps that emanate light” he told me “we are a realm within a realm, with infinite connectivity with all things that float around us and influence us.’

Beautiful words, and looking around we can see his vision translated - the works vibrate with a charged inner life that is a mixture of gentle spirituality and the sheer delight in scientific discovery. Like Kandinsky and Klee who experimented with a mystical language of forms against a backdrop of atomic discovery, Gerry O’Mahony situates his work somewhere between transcendent philosophy and discoveries of quantum physics. Unusual bedfellows, but in his own words – ‘Spirituality and science are like the wings of a bird. One needs the other to operate.’

This is big work, big work on every level. It deals with large themes – change, evolution, connectivity, cohesion.

This exhibition is made up of two different series of work that map this notion of man’s aspirations and evolution; Changing Shadows and The Seed Sank Deep

Changing Shadows was marked by what Gerry terms ‘a paradigm shift’ in his work. In this he reflects on the value of words, of language, the irrevocable nature of utterance. Like Kandinsky, Gerry’s work revolves around moments of inspiration and revelation – his experience in Israel of having coffee grounds read illustrated for him that language could operate beyond words, that things are written in different ways and that it is possible to communicate in oblique images. The basic forms of mark-making evolved from this experience, the desire to reduce language back to a symphony of simple forms. These works with their stippled dots, palette-knife scratches and organic forms have the immediacy of rock-paintings from the Aboriginal Dream-time or the cave-paintings of Lascaux, the desire to communicate urgently and immediately about life, society, dreams and the human condition.

The Seed Sank Deep took these themes and explore how change in man starts to germinate and grow, while his current series  The Mid-Most Part of the Ocean deals with aspiration, development and the advancement of mankind.

For ultimately, as I said, his work is big. It deals with large themes. It engages head-on with notions of what art should be – its function - to ask questions, to dream, to philosophise. It confronts us with ideas of transcendence of the dizzying, wonderful potential of the human race, of evolution, the journey we have made, are making, and have yet to make.

We see within these paintings, radiant forms, surging movement, and the experienced hand of the artistic conductor. As Kandinsky said - "Colour is the key. The eye is the hammer. The soul is the piano with its many chords. The artist is the hand that, by touching this or that key, sets the soul vibrating automatically."

Tonight we salute Gerry, the poet of colour and form, the artist, the communicator of change, the conductor of these exquisite symphonies. We salute his passion for change, for evolution, for connectivity and his translation of these ideas into the beautiful, glowing works that surround us here in Draiocht tonight.


Thank you.

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By Draíocht. Tags: Visual Arts, Gerry O'Mahony,

Dr Seán Enda Power Launches Uchronia

December 1, 2014

Sinead McDonalds ‘Uchronia’ in our First Floor Gallery was launched by Dr Seán Enda Power, Lecturer and Irish Research Council Fellow on Metaphysics (2010-2012) on Thursday 27 November 2014. Seán has very kindly given us his speech for our Blog.

Sinead McDonald, Emer McGowan & Dr Seán Enda Power


Most people who hear the word ‘utopia’ will think of it as meaning the best possible world. It is a place where everything is perfect and things are as they should be. However, the word means, literally, ‘no place’--a place which is nowhere. It is not on any map; you can’t get there from here (and you can’t here from there).

‘Uchronia’ could also mean the best possible moment, a time when everything is perfect and things are as they should be—however, again, it literally means ‘no time’. A uchronic time is a time which is no-when. It is not in the history of our world. It is not in the past, present, or future.


Stated baldly, the statement that uchronia is no-when is incoherent. A time which is no-when is no time at all. What could that mean? One way to make it coherent is to say this: uchronic times are times but they are times which do not stand in a temporal relation to real time. They are not in the present moment; they are not in the past; they are not in the future. With a utopian country, you cannot get there from here. Similarly, with a uchronic scene, no one now can get there: it is not happening, did not happen, will not happen.


Many (but not all) of Sinead McDonald’s ‘self’-portraits are uchronic portraits. This could mean they are portraits of the best possible times. It’s clear from the titles, however, that these are not the best times. Instead, they are portraits of her in situations which will never happen. However, the titles of the pieces indicate, although they do not happen, these situations stand in an intimate relation to times in her life that have happened. They are portraits of how things would have been if things were slightly different in the past (e.g., “Self Portrait - If I hadn’t met my now ex husband”).


Shift one thing and these would not be uchronic portraits but real portraits. Being so intimate, one might wonder if these should be called uchronic: surely, at least in imagination, you could get there from here?

This brings us to one portrait amongst the others: “Self Portrait - Working on the time machine”.

We all want to change something in our past. Some of these are things - for example, earthquakes - we couldn’t have avoided. But others seem tied to our decisions and choices. One of the most difficult things in life is to separate these two. But once we do, if we can, who would not want to go back and change things--make the other decision, bring about the other outcome?

Recent research by the Pew Institute of the American public asked them what futuristic invention would they most like. 9% of respondents said they would like a time machine.

According to the show This American Life, what a lot of people said they would then do is this: go back and kill Hitler before he rose to power. (Lots of people regret the second world war, I guess).

The belief that, if you could travel in time, you could also change the past is obviously very common. For many, it is the most interesting aspect of it. We see that in lots of time travel stories; Back to the Future, Looper, Primer (although, not Bill & Ted). But there is a problem with changing the past: it leads to a paradox often called The Grandfather Paradox.


The Grandfather Paradox is this (taken from its description by the philosopher David Lewis in the 1970s): Tom hates his grandfather. He has a time machine and is a crack shot. He travels back in time to before his grandfather met his grandmother and shoots him dead. As a result, his grandfather never meets Tom’s grandmother. So Tom is never born. So Tom never gets to hate his Grandfather, get a time machine or become a crack shot. So, Tom doesn’t travel back in time and kill his grandfather. So, his grandfather meets his grandmother and Tom is born. So Tom is born, hates his grandfather, gets a time machine becomes a crack shot, goes back and kills his grandfather. So Tom is never born …


The paradox is not that Tom can kill his grandfather. It is that in doing so he also ensures his grandfather lives (by Tom ceasing to be born). The contradiction is that Tom both kills and doesn’t kill his grandfather, is born and isn’t born, travels in time and doesn’t travel in time.


However, McDonald’s portraits aren’t of her killing her grandfather (I don’t know McDonald’s feelings about that). Killing Hitler doesn’t obviously stop my grandfather meeting my grandmother. Similarly, the kinds of regrets I have are not obviously things which prevent my own existence. So couldn’t we go back and change the past if we had time machines? If she wanted to, couldn’t McDonald make these imagined portraits real? However, one thing prevents you going back and changing the past. Unlike Tom’s patricidal hatred, it is something intimately tied to going back and changing the past. The desire to change the past creates as much of a paradox as Tom’s killing his grandfather.


What I could call the Desire Paradox is this:

You want to change something you regret. You have a time machine and know how to change it (just don’t ask her out; just don’t cross that street at that time). You travel back in time to before you did the event. You do the other thing than what you originally did. As a result, you never did the thing you regret. All seems now right with the world. So you never regret the thing you did. So you never want to change the past. You don’t get in a time machine. So, you don’t travel back in time and change things. So, the thing you regret occurs after all. So you regret it, want to change it, get in a time machine, know how to change it, go back, change it. So it doesn’t occur; you don’t regret it; you don’t want to change it …

Our desires to change the past themselves prevent their satisfaction. (These paradoxes don’t prevent time travel itself. They just prevent changing the past. We might however still go to the past without changing it. So, perhaps, we might just go there to see times which we want to see, and haven’t seen in a while.)

McDonald’s portraits are uchronic because they really are of times which she can’t get to. The same applies to any similar portraits we have of ourselves. No matter how much we might want to change the past, because we want it, we cannot do it.

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By Draíocht. Tags: Visual Arts, Sinead McDonald,

Clown Choir - Interview with Louise Foxe

October 20, 2014

Thanks to Total Choir Resources for publishing this interview:

CHOIR VIEW: Hallelujah! Clown Choir
by Victoria Hopkins

In the latest of our occasional ‘Choir View’ series, we meet a very unusual choir from Ireland, led by rehearsal director Louise Foxe.

Q: Tell us a bit about your choir and how you came to lead it.

My cousin’s boyfriend told me about a ‘clown choir’ starting up in a theatre near where I live (the theatre’s name, ‘Draiocht’ means ‘Magic’ in Irish) in Blanchardstown. The choir was looking for leaders. The musical director lives in Scotland and does intensive rehearsals with the choir once a month, but the weekly rehearsal leadership was to be shared among four people. I had never heard of a ‘clown choir’ and was intrigued, so I looked it up and really liked what I read:

‘….The main performance programme will be innovative – The M50 Symphony, An Evening Rendition of 100 Green Bottles. There will also be elements of red nose performance in the programme. Hallelujah! is open to anyone regardless of ability. There is no audition process for Hallelujah! The ethos of Hallelujah! is accessibility and artistic excellence… Rehearsal directors will be expected to work collaboratively with Debra Salem, the Musical Director to deliver creative and inspiring rehearsals… a high quality of artistic engagement… develop and lead an inspiring programme with the support of Debra…’

It sounded great – fun, aspirational and inclusive without being patronising. It also sounded fabulous to have the support of the musical director, and to work as part of a team (choir direction can sometimes be quite solitary. “Draiocht,” are also hugely supportive of the choir – in terms of resources, time, and people.

Q: What sort of repertoire do you cover and where do you perform?

As you can see from the above, the repertoire isn’t exactly run-of-the-mill. Debra and Veronica (the artistic director) choose fun, uplifting pieces, often building and creating them into something more, into which the element of ‘red-nose’ performance can be incorporated. The musical and red-nose element really complement each other. Inevitably, though, the music is accessible to all and enjoyable. For example, we’ve sung songs such as Barbara Ann, Gareth Malone’s three-way round including Swing Low, When the Saints and I’m Gonna Sing, Always Look on the Bright Side of Life, California Dreamin’, Freedom is Coming, various Christmas carols and Debra’s own Christmas compositions. We are now learning Rufus Wainwright’s Beautiful Child and Stand By Me, so it’s a varied programme. We’ve performed at launches of exhibitions, Christmas parties in the theatre, “Culture Night,” (an annual night in Dublin where all cultural venues open their doors for free) and we’ve done, “Flash mob,” performances in the shopping centre across from the theatre – among other things!

Q: What are your plans and hopes for the future of your choir?

I would like for people to continue to enjoy the choir and to produce work of which they are truly proud. I would like the people involved to feel that they have achieved something, and have given something, from being involved with the choir. The choir has a finite life-span, so in terms of concrete results, we will have performances and hopefully a recording at Christmas, and then more performances next year. To see a room full of adults acting like loonybins, having great fun doing it, and being totally comfortable doing so in front of each other (this is the red-nose element) is hilarious. It’s also remarkable considering they were strangers when they walked in the door, and it’s impossible to go to a rehearsal without being cheered up. If that’s happening for me, and I’m the rehearsal director, then I hope the rewards are ten-fold for the members of the choir.

Q: What do you get from Total Choir Resources and what else would you like to see on the site?

The site is brilliant. Thanks a million. The warm-up exercises are great, as are the ‘cheat sheets’. The technical tips are also extremely helpful – especially because they’re written in layman’s language. Also, the pieces on the psychological aspects of performance are useful and reassuring; so basically I get loads – I love everything! I suppose you could have a section where people can upload warm-ups or rounds or things like that, but really that’s covered on your Facebook page, so it’s not totally necessary. You could have a section for technical questions and perhaps a ‘looking for members’ section.

Our thanks to Louise for taking the time to tell us about her extraordinary choir. I think we can all learn something about innovation and creativitiy for our choirs from this group, whether we don red noses or not. You can find out more about Hallelujah Clown Choir here.

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By Draíocht. Tags: Clown Choir,

Des Kenny Reviews Mary Claire Kehoe - Concentrate On Your Breathing

October 2, 2014

26 September 2014 - Our Arty Blogger is back! Des Kenny gives a personal response to our current exhibition by Mary Claire Kehoe, 'Concentrate on Your Breathing'.

Marie Claire Kehoe is a printmaker and her prints are exhibited in the First Floor Gallery in Draiocht. The artist uses monoprints and collograph techniques to produce unadorned but effective abstract imagery of elevated emotional intensity. The works while having a layered psychological aspect to their understanding also can stand alone in a formal sense as explorations in the language of abstraction. While the prints maintain this duality, it’s the emotional mark making driven by inner need that adds intensity to the impersonal barriers surrounding abstraction.

Support System

In Support System three thick vertical black lines are bolstered by base line which appears to act as a foundation stone. But this keystone is ferociously scoured undermining its weight bearing nature and a vertical line receives similar treatment. The comfortable gilded beliefs held so dear begin to crumble under intense scrutiny and from the rubble of a shattered spirit a new but fragile persona may reveal itself.

Top Heavy / Suffocating / Trapped

In Trapped a black triangular form lays dormant captured beneath two strident grey strokes .The fervent urgency of the grey mark making stifles attempts at freedom from fates shackling indifference. While in Overspill the enclosed red escapes the comfort of its square shaped brushstrokes and flows in a free falling splash towards plundering chaos. While impatiently seeking release from pain, there is the possibility of failing to govern responsibly the release of dark harbingers from the psychic depths and this creates new agonies that lack redemptive healing power. This is further encountered in Open the Floodgates where a rampant black paint plunges downwards onto a sharp restrictive parapet. Once the unconscious is liberated, a torrent of soulful energy scatters without restraint around and beyond self imposed defence systems that guard and shadows our visible personality.

Close Your Eyes and Take a Deep Breath

A sense of panic can arise when confronting the dread that lies beneath the subterranean layers of the unconscious mind and breathing techniques are often found helpful to calm ragged nerves. In Close Your Eyes and Take a Deep Breath a roughly brushed black square contains splatters of blue suspended in self- possessed animation, briefly frozen before the next exhaustive engagement with nameless terrors are resumed. This subject matter is portrayed once more in Concentrate on Your Breathing where the central dark form floats momentarily within the white borders of the print but than oozes beyond the printing plates edges , seeping onto the bleached margins of the printed paper. Calm breathing encourages the emotional outpouring to escape the periphery of the minds restraint in a balanced determined rate, moderating rising angst to endurable levels.

Please Mind Me 1

Meagre marks that possess poignant if austere imagery have a dynamism that concentrates the viewers eye with an intensity that are absent in more complex representations. This effective approach is used successfully in Please Mind Me 1, where a simple curved, open ended line holds a single tender yellow dot. The hesitant opening like a harbours mouth, permits the vagaries of life enter the fixed solitude of a tattered inner sanctum and although not immune from fear or hurt will help embrace the evergreen light a new beginning cultivates. The powerful symbolism portrayed with minimalist means offers a complex insight into a fractured minds excruciating descent through the shrouded layers of the inner self that eventually leads to recovery. These works stand solemnly unabated in their searing pursuit of truth and have a cathartic quality that rewards close scrutiny from a receptive viewer.

Desmond Kenny is an artist based in Hartstown, Dublin 15. He is a self taught painter, since he began making art in 1986 he has since exhibited widely in Ireland and abroad, solo shows include Draíocht in 2001, The Lab in 2006 and Pallas Contemporary Projects in 2008. His work is included in many collections including the Office of Public Works, SIPTU, and Fingal County Council. Kenny's practice also incorporates print making and he has been a member of Graphic Studio Dublin since 2004.


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By Draíocht. Tags: Artist Interview, Visual Arts, Desmond Kenny, Mary Claire Kehoe,

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