Marianne Hartigan launches Vincent Sheridan’s Animation to Murmuration

March 21, 2013

Marianne Hartigan launches Vincent Sheridan’s Animation to Murmuration

Draíocht was delighted to welcome Writer and Art Critic Marianne Hartigan to launch Vincent Sheridan's exhibition 'Animation to Murmuration' in Draíocht on Thursday 14th March 2013. Marianne very kindly gave us a transcript of her opening night speech.


I first came across Vincent Sheridan’s work in a group exhibition some time back. As far as I recall it was one of his etchings featuring a group of crows marching forward as if with determination and collective purpose. At the time it stood out on a number of counts. It was eye catching, it was well made, it had a touch of comedy, and the crows’ activity seemed to mirror people on a protest march or a gang shaping up. Also the artist seemed to have a thorough understanding of his subject matter.


You could tell from Vincent’s work, that he had studied birds. He knew all about how they were put together, what they looked like and how they got on with one another. And while the more humorous side of crow behaviour might be highlighted, it was clear that Vincent had spent considerable time just observing them, watching their socialisation, their day to day activities, their partnerships, their squabbles, and so on.

I must say I found his work, engaging, unpretentious and refreshing.

So, when I was asked recently to open this show, I was delighted to do so and looked forward to see what he had been doing since.


This exhibition contains a body of recent work. The crows are gone for the moment, and starlings are to the fore. There are also other developments: an increase in abstraction and experimentation.


But I want for a moment to go back to the birds. This is a perfect time of year for Vincent Sheridan to exhibit his work. The gardens and hedgerows are full of birds busy building their nests. From the first of March to the end of August, you are not allowed cut down hedges or trees in this country because it is the nesting season and there are laws forbidding you to do so. That directive on hedge cutting may be news to some people. And perhaps that is because most of us in this day and age pay little heed to birds. We may be half aware of them as we go for a walk, their song a background track to our meander. We may find ourselves under the beady scrutiny of a robin’s watchful eye as we dig in the garden, we may be aware of the rushed displacement of birds as we go to hang washing on the line in the garden but otherwise many of us take them for granted or ignore them.

Sadly modern farming methods such as increased use of pesticides and the enlarging of fields and removal of hedgerows have led to a considerable reduction in birds, but because they are not centre stage in most people’s lives, we may not have really noticed.

It wasn’t always like this. Birds have been an important part of human history, either being eaten or providing eggs, or their feathers used in pillows, mattresses, beds, quilts, hats, fans, or feather dusters, or in fly fishing apparatus and so on. Hawks played a key role too in some cultures.

Just think of the idioms involving birds that are in common usage:

That’s a feather in your cap.

Free as a bird.

A nest egg.

Bird’s eye view.

A little bird told me.

A night owl.

Most of them are very positive.

Some are a little more cautious, for instance, don’t count your chickens before they hatch.

There are also expressions such as he’s for the birds, or bird brain!

And then everyday clichés: as bald as a coot, as proud as a peacock; or taking to something like a duck to water.

These idioms suggest how much part of everyday life birds used to be.

Though now, apart from selecting chicken or turkey in the supermarket, most people take little notice of birds.

While scarecrows and bangers frighten birds away from farmers’ crops, birds still perform a useful function. They eat weed seeds, and vast numbers of insects such as flies and mosquitoes, as well as little rodents.

Their birdsong and chatter, add considerably to the enjoyment of the outdoors.

While birds still play their part, most of us don’t see it, and so birds don‘t figure greatly in our consciousness.

We take their lively, but mostly subtle, presence and singing for granted.


Unless of course, we come across something like that which Vincent Sheridan highlights in his work, a huge airborne gathering of starlings, a murmuration.

A murmuration will stop you in your tracks - and may compel you to wonder about the complexity of birds.

A murmuration of starlings is an amazing phenomenon. It is a vast number of birds which seems, without any obvious starting signal, to gather and become airborne in one fell swoop and then soar through the sky in an articulated body as if each individual bird has been practicing its position and sky diving pattern for weeks. There can be huge numbers of birds involved. Literally thousands. At Draíocht, one room of the gallery hosts an impressive video of an awe-inspiring murmuration. And a murmuration is the recurring theme in this exhibition of Vincent Sheridan’s.


Sheridan is from a farming background. He is someone who spends a good deal of time walking, and while walking he takes in what is going on around him. He is highly attuned to the environment.

Whereas in earlier work he looked at the group structure and relationships between individuals or groups of birds, (and often this behaviour seemed to reflect human behaviour,) in this show Sheridan focuses more on the flight dynamics of starlings and other birds in the sky and the shapes they form. Underlying that is the elusive question of how those flying in massive flocks know when to turn, or fly up, or down, or land!

In the works on murmurations Vincent Sheridan is trying to capture ‘the elegance, the delicacy, and the power’ of that immense starling whirlwind; trying to capture that elliptical, constantly changing, fast-moving shape. And he succeeds in doing so. Both when using the time-honoured technique of etching, in which he is a master, and in his more modern, experimental, video-based works.


He is fascinated by the secret signals which propel these birds one way or another, the hidden synchronicity. How do they share that information?

He depicts the rolling wave, the lyrical instant turn, which suddenly catapults the birds in a different direction. His work gives a real feel of the energetic murmuration as it takes over the sky.

In some etchings he creates low lying minimal landscapes topped by immense skies which are then dominated by these organic, evolving shapes.

Then in other works the imagery becomes more abstract, more spare. The cloud of birds becomes a mere wisp of smoke, almost an Eastern calligraphic letter, or a ghost of a bird movement; something that has happened so fast as to be almost an illusion.

Most of the exhibits are etchings worked in a traditional method that is much the same as that done in Rembrandt’s time. These are made in very limited editions and because they are hand done each is very slightly different.


There are also photos and video stills. In the etchings Sheridan worked from drawings from life, in the video work he painted a mass of birds on long sheets of clear plastic hung outside in the wind and worked with that.

Creating art works using video and video stills is a comparatively recent departure for Vincent but it is opening up all sorts of possibilities, blurring the edges between reality and creation. There is more of an element of chance perhaps with this, rather than the painstaking printmaking process. This new venture has resulted in works, some of which appear almost layered or veiled; there is a mystique, an other-worldliness, about them.

Then there are others, photographic pieces, where that complex rolling movement first brought to us in the murmurations, is continued; abstract images which conjure up cool, silvery, icy landscapes, perhaps connecting in some way with the years he spent in Canada and his trips to the arctic.

The origin of these compositions is more prosaic: sheets of plastic on the Bog of Allan in Kildare, catching the light and rippling in the wind, resulting in these swirling shapes, which were captured by the artist’s eye through the camera. But significantly, these images echo those remarkable, fluid forms created by the birds in flight.


I congratulate Vincent Sheridan on this wonderful exhibition and wish him every success with it.

Marianne Hartigan © 2013

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By Draíocht. Tags: Artist Interview, Visual Arts, Vincent Sheridan,

Des Kenny Reviews Vincent Sheridan - Animation to Murmuration

March 19, 2013

Des Kenny Reviews Vincent Sheridan - Animation to Murmuration

Vincent Sheridan is better known as a printmaker but has extended his range of skills as an artist by including video, photos and animation to his repertoire. This is evident with the works on display in the two exhibition spaces in Draíocht. The main subject matter in this body of work is an aspect of birds in flight, flocking together, called murmuration. Physicists and biologists are intrigued in the formation of this natural phenomenon and are trying to investigate how the sudden change in movement is communicated instantly from one bird to another, a hundred feet away. Similar critical patterns occur in the neurons of the brain and the instantaneous magnetisation of metals.

This natural occurrence is explored in a video where flocks of starlings are observed over a stark winter landscape, pirouetting through the sky as if performing some ritual dance. The wind is heard in the background like a steady drumbeat and the birds fly and hurl weightless through the sky with the rhythm of the winds cadence. Suddenly the birds invade the viewer’s space and a thousand wing-beats drown out the wind like a thundering train rushing through a station. The memory of the Hitchcock film “The Birds” seeps from the depths of the imagination, coupled with foreboding and fear of uncontrollable nature. The birds move away on the turn of the wind and the tremulous imagination calms a heart hugged by fear. In Hitchcock’s film birds act as purveyors of justice on those who have sinned against man and nature and render a fatal punishment.

Outside the video enclosure arranged on the walls are large etchings, where Vincent uses all the skills of the printmaker’s craft, spit biting, carborundium and aqua tint to show birds in flight. In “Ritual Dance” Vincent hints that bird’s aerial balletic display might be a ceremonial celebration before a long migratory flight to distant lands. Swifts appear ethereal, flying so quickly through the immeasurable sky, leaving a ghost like after-image on the back of the eye. Some etchings portray the birds as mere wisps of smoke, velvet moments lacking definition. Other images find flocking birds assume the forms of animals such as a whale, humorously captured in photographs taken from video stills.

Upstairs in Draíocht a DVD of a large sheet of black plastic wrapped around a small hill caught by the wind, seems to reveal the farcical bulbous forms of elephants moving underneath. Vincent is exploring the way imagination influences how we see the world. We find animal shapes in clouds and stars, hoping to humanise and control nature, because what is ungovernable we fear. Perhaps this is evident in “Tidal Wave”, where the undulating semblance of a large destructive wave is created with the use of a black plastic bag. Its devastating natural power is contained, transforming our binding anxiety into an illusory belief, that we can shape and master nature. What the guileless soul desires, reality destroys.

The science of chaos theory implies the reverberation of a butterfly’s wing on one continent can cause a storm in another continent. The etching, “Motion 1”, depicts the tangled gloom of a wintery evening, birds swirl through the thickening air like a tornado funnelling towards the earth. Are these black crows malevolently casting a spell which will change the climate of a distant land? In the dim light of the witching hour the crow knows the latent power of its wing beat. In another etching the crows take the shape of a hammer searching for a battleground to crush bones and devour the fallen.

The artist has no gravitational control over the viewer’s boundless imagination and must relinquish sovereignty of his art to the observer, so it can live. These works fine tune the imagination and mirror the breath of nature.

Vincent Sheridan
Animation to Murmuration

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, Vincent Sheridan,

Des Kenny talks to Aisling Conroy, Artist in Residence at Draíocht

February 21, 2013

Des Kenny talks to Aisling Conroy, Artist in Residence at Draíocht

18 February 2013

While visiting Aisling Conroy, the new Artist in Residence in Draíocht, I was surprised to find a large body of work nearing completion. Normally an artist will spend time formulating ideas during the initial phase of a studio residency, but Aisling has a solo show in the Talbot Gallery at the end of February and is under pressure to finish this body of work before beginning new work for a show in June at Draíocht.  An intense air of restless purpose combined with fraught solicitude permeated the studio space. There was a desire to have all the works replete with artistic intent and anxious that they will hold up to the scrutiny of her peers. I was intruding, taking up precious time, interfering with the definitive decision making process that occurs when an artist determines what works are fit for showing.

On the end wall hung three works constructed from corrugated card board boxes. The central piece in black circular shapes dominates the wall. The black circular forms expand over the wall and penetrate ominously into the studio space. A black hole in the dark heavens contracts and pulls all light inward but this dark sculptural form wants to grow chaotically outwards and devour the light and space around it. Yet we should not view this in dread, science has stated that a great part of the universe is constructed of dark matter and perhaps Aisling is trying to give shape to something we cannot perceive or understand. To the right is a work in a dense yellow presented in layered rectangles and again made with corrugated cardboard. This work seems more contained without the wish to grow incrementally beyond its own fullness. Yellow appears to engender a calming effect and Aisling understanding the natural force of colour allows it dictate the sculptures organic growth.

Aisling's Studio Space in Draíocht

At the base of these sculptures are numbers of paintings leaning against the wall. Each has a singular coloured blob on a white ground. On top of these works, fine lines made with black thread lend a feeling of depth to the picture plain. The flat sections of vivid pulsating colour float above the white ground due to the illusion of the fabricated shapes created by black threads. These threaded forms impart a mystical quality and intimate the elemental coded signs found in ancient religions. Aisling informed me of her interest in religious iconography and how religious art invokes a transcendental experience in the believer. The artist attempts to evoke this transforming religious experience in her paintings by the meditive use of colour and symbols. She is interested in the mystical pursuit of the sublime found in the core beliefs of all religions. Her abstracted forms do not belong to the confined narrow interpretation of one belief system but opens the viewer to diverse rites of passage that allows us experience the sublime in everyday reality. These paintings can function as a portal to spiritual transformation.

We were sitting down having a cup of tea, chatting about various aspects of artistic life and the difficulties we encounter while we gaze at the three sculptures attached to the studio wall. Aisling paused in mid sentence and focusing on the large black wall piece announced "I think I’ll change the colour from a gloss black to a mat black".  This change would transform the sculpture from a confrontational object into a whispering shadow found in the mysterious light at dusk. I realised the artist had permitted me to witness creative decision making at its luminous source. Illuminating moments in the creative act are rarely shared, since most artists work in isolation. But moments gather and compress the timescape of a studio space as deadlines approach, so I begged my leave not wishing to intrude any longer. Moments cascade onwards, but they will find no idle corner to rest, during Aisling Conroy’s residency in Draíocht.

Aisling Conroy, 'Void I-IV', corrugated cardboard and enamel paint, 40cm x 40cm, 2011

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, Aisling Conroy, Desmond Kenny,

Des Kenny Reviews Una Sealy

November 28, 2012

28 November 2012

Una Sealy, A Piano in the Kitchen, 120x120cm,  oil on canvas

Una Sealy paints directly from life. This engagement with reality imposes great strain on the creative act. A sitter may want to move, just as you need stillness, arrive late or wish to leave early. The artist must look intensely at life in constant change and corral the fluctuating sensations of a three dimensional world onto a two dimensional surface, a stretched canvas. This concentrated creative endeavour demands stamina, to endure the delight of success and pain of failure at that pregnant juncture between subject matter and painting process, hoping a work of art emerges.

In “Neighbours” a 4 feet x 6 feet in size oil painting Una Sealy depicts a couple in a suburban bedroom sitting on either side of a marital bed. The sheets dividing their bed rise like two opposing waves about to collide into each other. In the emotional undertow of these sheets, marital bliss is saved or lost. A chink of light falls upon this daily domestic drama, unveiling a shadow of marital tension. When Una reveals the inner moods of her sitters, she raises the level of portraiture beyond a study of appearances and enters the territory of psychological drama.

A large oil painting titled “Other People’s Children” is situated in a family kitchen. Centred in the painting is a mother and orbiting around her like moons are three children caught in the gravitational force of paternal love. Love binds as well as enriches and motherhood imposes restrictions on self fulfilment until the young have reached maturity. Una aptly explores the glazed eyes of resignation on a mothers face, burdened with love. This is a shared communion between two mothers, artist and sitter. An unspoken truth is revealed, the confined existence of motherhood is accepted and not spurned, that instinctively, they acknowledge, love hurts. The children are of course unaware of loves selfless obligation which allows them freedom to grow.

Una needs an intimate knowledge of her sitters lives to allow her unearth the stories lying dormant beneath surface appearances. In “Thinking of Home” the sitter yearns for her homeland but there are barriers she must overcome, the obstacles appear more internal than external. Over the sitters shoulder is a large imposing wall and colossal sea; metaphorically they hint at the internal handicaps she must overcome before returning home. This frustrated longing, etches her wistful face.

In another painting an old artist sits in her studio surrounded by the implements of her craft. Undone by the art world’s indifference, she remains defiant, since defeat cannot gain purchase in a life given to beauty. She seems to implore the younger painter; this is your future and my inheritance to you.

Una Sealy, End of Days, 24x30cm, oil on board

Upstairs a number of small landscapes of a beach are laden with information of changing weather patterns and are superior in content and incident then the large landscapes found downstairs. In another small painting a kiosk is positioned against a stormy blue sky encircled by puddles of rainwater. It has a cryptic air of nostalgia, a place belonging to the past, declining unmanned in the present. In “End of days” an old wooden garden shed falls apart in the briny air. Its decaying structure tilts towards the engulfing ground where it will rot and disappear. I recognise that this small painting will outlive me and I will decline and become interred by the hungry earth. It is from dust to stardust we must return from whence we came. In the tumultuous rush through flowering and the passing of our lives, Una Sealy seems to imply that art and love will help us come to terms with our moribund destiny.

Una Sealy, Alley to the Sea, 120x120cm, oil on canvas

Read more about Una Sealy here 

Una Sealy

Una Sealy / A Piano in the Kitchen & Other Stories / FRI 23 NOV 2012 - SAT 23 FEB 2013 / GROUND & FIRST FLOOR GALLERIES



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, Una Sealy,

Des Kenny Reviews John O’Reilly - Transient

September 20, 2012

20 September 2012

Smithfield Car Park, John O'Reilly (2012)

John O Reilly’s exhibition ‘Transient’ consists of seven oil paintings in Draíocht’s First Floor Gallery. John is better known as a graffiti artist and went under the tag name of JOR, his initials. He abstracted this graffiti name of JOR into large wall pieces, using spray cans. The graffiti artist rarely exhibits in a gallery environment except for a few well known exceptions, such as Basquait and Banksy. They prefer the anarchic freedom to display their creativity on the walls of disused buildings throughout our cities. This desire to remain outside the cultural structures of today’s society predominantly attracts youthful practitioners and audiences.

The paintings consist of views of our city that graffiti artists find popular. He knows these environments well and instead of using spray cans on vacant walls; his creativity is now channelled into fabricating paintings in a studio. This creates an inner tension, as the desire to reach out for the impulsive freedom of a spray can is restrained. The artist needs to focus intensely on his subject matter and hopefully control this capricious side of his nature. In these paintings this tension, though not self evident, lurks achingly just below the surface.

The paintings are small and intimate when compared to his graffiti work, which are large and envelop the viewer. Their main concern is the study of light, be it dull florescent strip lighting of concrete car parks and warehouses or the glaring light over a sombre city masked by cloud. The grey cool interior of ‘Smithfield Car Park’ is cast in the shaded gloom of white strip lighting while outside the streets intense daylight will cause pain as the eyes dilate sharply on leaving the car park. In ‘Ticket Machine’ the red light emanating from the machine relieves the enclosing shadows shrouded in bleakness. In ‘Cavern’ we are pitched downwards steeply into a vault like space, devised for vehicular traffic and too precipitous for people. An alien opening to a concrete underbelly of an anonymous office block designed for commerce and not for people.  

In daylight, against a nondescript sky, lurks a crane for container traffic, inactive but for the rusting air devouring it. Behind a warehouse, climbing weeds are beginning to renew natures claim on disused land. The paintings exude a quiet sense of loss and melancholy, for these sites are the remains of the Celtic Tiger. The airport lounge is a reminder of the heartbreak we know as our youth flee the country. ‘Patchwork’, is a study of two walls and snow as its white purity drains down a patchwork shore, like an unfulfilled dream dissolving into the sludge of regret. These paintings do not overtly offer a political stance but are quiet reflections on a lost opportunity, when property and greed took precedence over people and culture. Yet the title of the show ”TRANSIENT” denotes this hopelessness will pass in time.

Artist John O'Reilly

When paintings leave an artist’s studio he surrenders, to a certain extent, his ideas and allows the audience introduce their thinking processes to the works. It’s this engagement with the viewer that transforms the painting into a work of art. Maybe an unknown visitor troubled by our economic plight will look at these works and find assurance. Perhaps these paintings might probe into that internal horizon where revelatory hope reclines waiting a summons to push back the dark tide. Perhaps this unknown visitor might feel their load lighten as the darkness recedes. Is this not a function of art? There are not seven paintings in Draíocht’s First Floor Gallery but seven works of art by JOHN O REILLY, primed in stillness, awaiting your thoughts.


Read more about John O'Reilly here 

John O’Reilly / Transient / FRI 14 SEP - SAT 10 NOV 2012  / FIRST FLOOR GALLERY



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.

Des Kenny, Rosie Fay & President of Ireland, Mary McAleese

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By Draíocht. Tags: Artist Interview, Visual Arts, Desmond Kenny, John O'Reilly,

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