Des Kenny Reviews Patrick Horan - Present State

June 20, 2013

The figures in Patrick Horan’s paintings do not fall from the sky like Icarus but seem to float in the ether between heaven and earth. In Pieter Brueghel’s (1525 - 1569) famous painting of Icarus falling from the sky to his doom, we encounter the moment he crashes into the sea where only the bottom half of his torso is seen. Around the catastrophic event life carries on, a man ploughs his field, a Sheppard tends his flock, and a ship passes by, not intervening to aid the fallen Icarus. The happening goes unnoticed but intervention would not have saved Icarus from his fate. Patrick Horan’s figures in these paintings are unable to change their fates and like Icarus in Brueghel’s painting we only see the lower region of the body. The expressive quality of the upper body is removed from the scenario and the figures are forlorn without the ability to communicate fully on the unearthly nature of their existence. They float aimlessly without any perceived goal but are subject to forces beyond their control and are unable to influence historical events.



The darkening skies in some paintings hint with foreboding the vulnerable nature of naked flesh and its inability to defend itself against the coming onslaught. In this vacuum, exposed flesh is helpless against onrushing chaos and entwine closer, searching for comfort and protection. A foot tries to cling to the inside of a thigh; a knee tries to embed itself beneath a foot. They clasp and tumble into one another hoping to prevent non-existence.

Searching for a way to decipher these paintings is difficult. On one hand they are beautifully crafted paintings of human flesh and yet suggest on another level a deeper meaning which the artist does not reveal. It is the search for a greater understanding of these works that the rest of this review explores.

Eugene Delacroix (1798 – 1863) stated something along the lines,”if you cannot draw a falling man from a fourth story window to the ground you will never be able to go for the big stuff”. Patrick no doubt knows his art history and would recognise this quote. Patrick has the skill to accomplish the test set by Delacroix but what about the “big stuff”. My train of thought brought me to Theodore Gericault’s (1791 – 1824) painting “raft of the Medusa”. The painting is based on a sea faring tragedy. A French ship ran aground on a sand bank and to lighten its load and refloat, the captain placed its rich travellers in boats and the poor were dispatched onto a make shift raft and left to their fate. 147 souls were placed on this raft but only 10 survived. The captain and his crew survived unscathed. Later it was discovered the captain had not sailed in twenty years and did not know the waters around the African coast. Delacroix posed naked for one of the figures in Gericault’s painting and Gericault’s extensive research led him to make drawings of amputated limbs, which in a tenuous fashion indentifies a relationship to Patrick Horan’s disembodied figures.



I am wondering are these works by Patrick Horan a reference symbolically to a recent contemporary Irish tragedy. The aftermath and consequences at the demise of the Celtic tiger are still felt by Irish people since 2008. The ship of state had poor leadership, strayed into unchartered waters and ran aground. The Irish people did not rise up in revolt, no banks were burnt or windows shattered. Unable to control and alter events we entered into a numb like state similar to the dream like figures in Patrick Horan’s paintings. Are these paintings a psychological portrait of a traumatised nation, shell shocked, surrendering to a dream world? We are a gentle people and perhaps the only safe haven open to us, was to retreat into the floating realm of dreams. Yet Patrick’s paintings remain enigmatic and appear ready to accept any rendition visited upon them and grant no final interpretation, but engage with the “big Stuff” with quiet restraint and emotional intensity.

 

Patrick Horan
Present State
07 JUNE – 31 AUGUST 2013  FIRST FLOOR GALLERY
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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, Patrick Horan,

Des Kenny Reviews Aisling Conroy - Ocular Reverberations

June 19, 2013



Aisling Conroy has almost finished as Artist in Residence at Draíocht for the last six months (January-June 2013). Aisling took advantage of Draíocht’s Artist Studio to produce the body of work situated on the Ground Floor Gallery space.



Placed in the centre of the gallery is a sculpture called Foundation, constructed from discarded frames. These frames may have held family photos, prints or paintings but now are empty. This void is filled by a chanting or humming sound emanating from two speakers placed at the base of the sculpture. The sound appears to resonate with memories of lost images that are still retained in the vacant frames like ghosts. The frames are haunted by their past. The sculpture tilts at an awkward angle and just about defies gravity and might topple over at any time. The artist is playing with the notion of discovering a tilted frame on a wall - we have an innate desire to rectify this imbalance and straighten the frame. When the frames are removed from their recognised formal function and operate in a different capacity, this eagerness to correct slanting frames, dissipates and our inaction is filled by the chanting humming music of the sculpture. Desire patiently emerges dressed in emptiness.



Four large circular lambda prints are found on one gallery wall. They are abstract in form and each print is dominated by one colour i.e. red, yellow, blue and green. The lighter colour found at the periphery recedes towards a dark centre. Each print has a unique musical recording which is heard through ear phones. The colour of the prints and musical chants entwine and release images from the recesses of our mind and imagination. The yellow print with the sound of children heard in the accompanied musical piece produces a feeling of joy and inescapable calm. The green print and chant evokes emerald forests, the scent of rain on green leaves and fern covered caves, gateways to mysteries not discovered. The blue print associates with images of distant Blue Mountains, cloud free skies and a yearning for something just beyond understanding. The red print bubbles with passionate desires that surface uncontrollably from depths of wildness we assumed were buried and forgotten. These works help transport the viewer into a daydream reverie where the unconscious thought stream encounters daily concerns. At times this is unnerving, since there is no control over the sensations and feelings that are unleashed. The artist allows such outpouring of imagery overcome our natural guarded exterior self and opens pathways to our interior life.



Around the rest of the gallery walls hang coloured pieces made from discarded corrugated boxes. Various sizes of card board are glued and are placed on top of each other. In one piece called Alber’s Ritual II, the artist makes reference to Josef Albers (1888- 1976) the artist who made paintings of coloured squares. Generally Albers created paintings with three coloured squares, each square smaller than the previous one. Using this restrictive formula he explored the effects colours had on their neighbouring colours. Whether they receded or moved forward when observed with the naked eye. Aisling re-examines this territory and finds a new theme by allowing the colours escape the picture plane of Albers illusory vocabulary and projects colour into the architectural space of the gallery. Artists are in constant dialogue with past masters and art history is a living entity and not a dust covered shelf full of books with tattered facts. These works extend a conversation with the past and take wing on changing winds of living history.







Aisling Conroy
Ocular Reverberations
07 JUNE – 31 AUGUST 2013  GROUND FLOOR GALLERY
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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 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
FRI 15 MAR - SAT 25 MAY 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, 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,

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