Des Kenny Reviews Expanding Spaces by Robert Kelly

October 10, 2016

10 October 2016 - Our Arty Blogger is back! Des Kenny Reviews 'Expanding Spaces' by Robert Kelly ...

Abstraction has no other purpose but to be of itself, simultaneously distinctive and paradoxical. At times existing outside the tangled realm of words, inexplicably defying the desire of language to categorise it. The elusive quality of non-objective art appeals to many contemporary artists since it accommodates any strategy or theory while remaining ambiguous about any infallible final truth.  Robert Kelly’s show in Draiocht of abstract prints and drawings uses a number of elemental signs such as the triangle, square, circle and curved forms to explore the nature of pictorial space whilst indirectly referencing the subliminal space of the imagination.

On folded paper blue squares, green triangles and purple circles are run through the printing press but these rudimentary forms fragment as the paper is unfurled. The tension of this shuddering disruption across the paper surface reaches out to the viewer to reassemble the shapes in their mind. The graphic reality of the print exercises the viewer’s imagination to make connections and restore order to the splintered narrative of the imagery.

In another print presented on a square sheet of paper, circular forms are pulled asunder as the folded paper is restored to its original state. A great area of white paper disrupts the printed image like a crack appearing after the movement of tectonic plates across the earth. One blue circle moves from the printed surface into the compressed subterranean space of the indented white paper as if trying to manipulate the physical order of the composition before it disintegrates. By allowing chance dictate the outcome of the pictorial plane may imply that any measured principle of certainty we have is illusory.

A series of charcoal drawings display a calmer approach compared to the disruptive ideas pursued in the first five prints. These square drawings are folded in a manner which leaves horizontal, vertical and diagonal marks embedded in the paper. This underlying structure creates a scaffold upon which gentle curved marks find placement in an ordered construct. Mirrored images are formed when the paper is folded and put through the printing press creating symmetrical shapes that are balanced. The artist counters this informed symmetry created during the printing process by working over the paper with marks made in pastel that float above the uniform design. These intuitive marks made without the use of a printing press depend wholly upon the reflective touch of the artist hand and integrates the makers artistic personality more richly into the process.

The work called Entropy is made of sixteen prints on grey buff paper which combine to create a large square format where curved forms dance like musical notation. The repeated arabesques vary slightly on each page as if in a state of flux but moving towards dissolution. In The Wind of Change the notional marks are more strident and the diagonal creases lift the prints away from the wall. A symbolic turbulence ripples across the surface of the prints, where a reckoning wind will transform everything.

A large installation piece hangs from the ceiling, undulating like the serpentine form of a Chinese dragon. Seeming to catch the light and movement of the scurrying white clouds reflected in the large windows. Imprisoned, it yearns to take flight from the restraints of the gallery and let the tilting wind lift it up on silvery clouds. In folded sculpture square sheets of creased paper race upwards from the floor towards a vanishing point upon the gallery’s highest wall. A vertiginous sense of speed is felt as the square sheets reduce in size the higher the sculpture climbs up the stark white wall.

Robert Kelly is a restless printmaker who uses non-traditional printmaking techniques to excavate the hidden riches inherent in the medium.

Read more about Robert's show ... here ...

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: Reviews & Interviews, Visual Arts, Desmond Kenny, Robert Kelly,

Des Kenny Reviews Glimpse by Ruth McDonnell

March 4, 2016

04 March 2016 - Our Arty Blogger is back! Des Kenny Reviews Ruth McDonnell ... 

Glimpse is the current exhibition of paintings, prints and drawings by Ruth McDonnell in Draíocht’s Ground Floor Gallery running until 07 May 2016.
The nostalgic longing to restore a decaying past before it recedes into the domain of the forgotten can cultivate ingratiating sentimental art forms that appear dysfunctional to the needs of contemporary society. The former cinemas that interest the artist are now carpet warehouses or part of apartment complexes. They perform a different function in today’s society and their former glory in the entertainment of the masses is now redundant.

Ruth McDonnell has avoided a maudlin sugar coated pitfall while exploring the loss of old cinema houses and the passing era of popular entertainment by paring down their representation to abstract elemental forms. This reduction does not eliminate the emotional attachment to this period but intensifies its poignancy. The facade of the Metropole cinema is whittled down to a basic rectangle form with a tentative triangle on top. This form in yellow ochre is held resolutely fringed by grey in the centre of a small wooden panel. Under-painting of red separates yellow and grey like a deterrent that delineates the paint surface. Descriptive reality competes with the formal abstract language of paint and this dual character concentrates the image with additional painterly tension within the cradled space of a rectangular panel. In the Stella Terenure a wider range of colour holds the image playfully, centre stage. Greens and pinks combine with shades of blue formulating a rich painterly surface. The building seems to emanate from a memory of a bright summer’s afternoon where happiness and time crystallised momentarily, sleepwalking past the rudeness of reality. Such moments become embedded in the human psyche where the inaudible search for happiness is measured.

The etching “Heres looking at you” recalls the famous line delivered by Humphrey Bogart in the 1942 film Casablanca. The memorable words were said by Rick to Ilsa as she boarded a plane to leave Casablanca and these few words embedded their love story forever into celluloid and popular culture. The etching reveals a green curtain descending at the end of the film and a glimmer of the   silver screen still remains caught on the retina of a spellbound audience. The etching is a fluid rendition of a falling curtain. This is achieved by technique in printmaking called spit biting. Acid is applied to a copper plate with a brush, allowing a more painterly image adhere to the copper plate.

A similar technique is used in Once upon a time where a liquid red flows and spills beyond the linear structure of a recently vacated cinema seat. As if the thermal residue of emotional engagement with a film still remains long after a patron has left the cinema.

Various drawings tracing the contour of cinema roof tops silhouetted against the skyline explore the formal qualities of the art deco structures inherent in these buildings. The modulated forms haunt the suffocating night sky like echoes of past glories which are forgotten. They seem at times like snapshots of forlorn tombstones unvisited in a graveyard.

Another pervasive theme in these drawings is the circular spotlight shining on the cinema curtains. Dark vertiginous lines made with charcoal race vertically downwards over the paper, stopping sharply short of a white circle which emerges light filled from the blank page. It is a rudimentary exercise but these spare actions release understated abstract patterns that have a realistic interpretation. Chalk and gesso drawings create with simple gestures, vestigial images bordering the hinterland which exists between abstraction and realism. The edges of a white rectangle emerge from three broad strokes of black gesso while the papers clean margin contains the shape. Horizontal black conte marks stride across the lower part of the drawing. In the formal abstract language of modern art a rectangle and horizontal lines can stand aloof without further investigation but equally the same image is read as the silver screen in a cinema with rows of seats. The shifting ground of both viewpoints intensifies the rendered image and adds vitality to these works.


Read more about Ruth's show ... here ...

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: Reviews & Interviews, Visual Arts, Desmond Kenny, Ruth McDonnell,

Des Kenny talks to Jason Deans Artist in Residence at Draiocht

January 28, 2016

28 January - Our Arty Blogger is back! Des Kenny chats to Jason Deans ...  

Jason Deans is the new Artist in Residence in Draíocht for the next six months (January-June 2016).

The Artist Studio looks out onto the bustling shopping centre and the artist works behind a transparent wall of glass in full view of the passing shoppers. This open insight to how an artist works in their studio can prove to be a mutually beneficial experience for the artist and the public. The sense of isolation an artist’s life embraces dissipates as they communicate directly with society, bridging the gap of exclusivitythat contemporary art invokes within the general populace.

On the glass windows Jason gives a mission statement declaring his intention to make art that explores the evolution of the Irish state from 1916 to the present day. Drawings depicting Irish volunteers defending positions behind makeshift barricades in the 1916 Rebellion hang on the window, instantly catching the eye of passing shoppers. Reminding all unequivocally, that this was how the Irish state emerged. The artist has begun a dialogue and a fugitive relationship with a transitory audience that he hopes may evoke questions about our nations struggling birth and today’s national identity.

On entering the studio the scent of elder tree sap clings to the air. Branches of the elder tree are scattered across the studio floor and are the base material for various sculptures the artist is working on. He explains the wood from the elder tree has no practical utilitarian purpose, too soft to make furniture and useless to burn as firewood. The material was in plentiful supply in his garden so he decided to make sculptures with it. Transforming a base material into art, recalls alchemists attempt to convert lead into gold. The artist becomes an alchemist seeing the potential hidden in a worthless substance, transporting its arrested possibility into something that has relevance.

Standing resolutely in a corner is the ribbed structure of an electric pylon made from elder branches. The struts tied with string hold the structure together but lack the strength to hold electric pylons. Artifice and practicality are not, of necessity, realistic companions but if a medium is transmuted beyond its natural reference into an object granted meaning by the artist, it becomes a work of art and it cannot be judged by its lack of functionality. The artist explains how research is part of his artistic practice and he got the plans for these pylons from the ESB. We also spoke about the ephemeral nature of his work and the inevitable lack of commercial prospects for these works. Who will buy a work which will disintegrate over a short time? It’s a problem the artist accepts if he wishes to make art which is pertinent to his art practice and convey his ideas without constraints of commercial demands.

My attention was caught by a series of photographs of sand pillars in an exhibition space. The artist explained it was a piece he entered in the Tulca show in Galway. It consisted of a number of pillars made from sand without any coagulant to hold the sand together - naturally the pillars deteriorated and collapsed over the duration of the exhibition. Installation of the piece proved hazardous as each pillar needed to be constructed away from the exhibition area since the vibration in their construction would cause all the other pillars to fall. Of course there is a connection to the property bubble and the collapse of the property market which disastrously afflicted the Irish economy. Artistic and economic reality can mirror each other as he recalled how during his MA show in 2009 he tried to fashion the Central Bank in sand and how the construction was impossible as it constantly crumbled and fell apart. There is an element of performance in his work and the choreographed dissolution of a piece over time can resemble the gestures and movement of actors on a stage.

The skeleton of a currach made from elder branches is taking shape in the centre of the Studio. The Currach has a distinctly Irish identity in visual culture and artists like Jack Yeats, Paul Henry and Dorothy Cross have used it as a symbol to explore Irish consciousness. While understanding the Currachs visual history, Jason wishes to find a new way to define its Irish heritage in contemporary society. As I left Draíocht I noticed the blinds in the Studio were drawn, no doubt indicating the artist had left. The Studio becomes a theatre and the artist performs daily for those with a curious eye ...


Read more about Jason on his website ... here ...

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: Reviews & Interviews, Visual Arts, Desmond Kenny, Jason Deans,

Des Kenny Reviews Amharc Fhine Gall X - Transhistorial Terrain

January 8, 2016

Ella DeBurca, Ruth Clinton & Niamh Moriarty / Curated by Linda Shevlin
WED 09 DEC 2015 - SAT 13 FEB 2016 
Ground & First Floor Galleries, Draiocht Blanchardstown


14 December 2015 - Our Arty Blogger is back! Des Kenny Reviews Amharc Fhine Gall X - Transhistorial Terrain ...  

Amharc Fhine Gall is an annual exhibition for emerging visual artists based in county Fingal and occupies the Ground & First Floor Galleries in Draíocht. Fingal Arts Office, moving with the current contemporary art trends, has employed a curator to pick the artists for this exhibition. The curator in today’s art world must have great knowledge of the forever changing landscape of contemporary art practice and be adept at generating projects which keep pace with new interpretations of modern visual aesthetics. The curator also brings intellectual rigour to an exhibition while creating a platform for artists to express themselves. The artist and curator working model is an inclusive relationship that charters two diverse artistic disciplines towards a common vision. A symbiotic dialogue between both partners with a shared vision can raise the profiles of artist and curator to achieve a more extensive visual arts audience.

The curator Linda Shevlin is very interested in how artists interpret local history and how re-evaluating the topical hinterland of our buried past can affect present and future social history. The curator searched through the visual archive of Fingal Arts Office and decided on fifteen artists whose work had an affinity with the curator’s preoccupation with social history. Linda then made fifteen studio visits over three days which culminated in picking three artists for the Amharc Fhine Gall Exhibition. The curator decided to include a number of Fingal artists who did not make the exhibition shortlist in other projects she is currently engaged with and future art programmes awaiting realisation. The dynamic relationship between artist and curator will continue long after this exhibition has finished.

Linda Shevlin has titled the show “Transhistorical Terrain” which hints at her interest in the environment of indigenous social history and renders a cohesive system for debate between artists and a regional audience. The curator does not overtly influence the artists on how to display the works but does offer suggestions to maximise the choreography of presentation.

The Ground Floor Gallery features the work of two artists Ruth Clinton and Niamh Moriarty
who work collaboratively together. The show consists of photographs, a video and various banners. The artists received permission to make work in and around the estate of Glenmaroon House which was formally owned by the Guinness family and latterly by the Daughters of Charity. The estate has fallen into disrepair and now stands vacant, clasped in the grip of the withering elements of Irish weather. As the artists worked in the house over weekends they discovered traces of a film crew working on a film about the 1916 Rising. Scattered pages of script denoting scenes and directions for actors were discovered throughout the house. The artists decided to use these found pages as an additional motif in their exploration of the houses history. Artifice and fact melded accidently and the discovered actor’s lines were embedded into a newly constructed plot. A fabricated record of events was construed to be true and a storyline was fashioned around this fiction. On a wall in the gallery a line of photographs are displayed showing various aspects of the house. Stairs seem to always pull the viewer upwards by design to an inaccessible location, a long corridor glazed in darkness might have two shadowy silhouettes and doors open searchingly as in a barren dream, stir an atmosphere of unease. Interspersed throughout these photographs are the pages of dialogue between a male and female volunteer who are trying to defend the building from the advancing British Army. There is bristling tension as ammunition runs low and the volunteers decide to retreat. In one scene a British soldier raises his rifle to shoot a volunteer in a basement but is shot by Frances and dies. The scripted word invigorates the photographs with additional significance. Are these the stairs and corridors the volunteers fled through? Is that blood or red paint on the stairs? The formal barrier between reality and fiction erodes and the vacuum is filled by the viewer’s imagination.

A short video with an insistent music score plunges the spectator into another fictional history of the house and perhaps suggests a murder may have occurred there. The opening sequence reveals trees disappearing into clinging mist and milk white steps lost in fog. History seems to drape itself in obscuring mist before unveiling its truths. The windows of the house fog up as if a passerby breathed upon them before leaving. Doors open and close without us seeing the protagonist. Dead flies and butterflies that accumulated on window sills are arranged into a black shaped directional arrow which points towards an unseen revelation. A hand is held over a hot oven and perhaps the same hand holds a torn page describing the safe use of knives. If this advice was followed a terrible act would not have occurred. The video ends with an aerial shot of the house as if taken by a news crew seeking the only access to a crime scene for the morbid viewing of an insatiable TV audience. Left uncertain if this reading of the video is correct, alters ones sense of critical judgement and undermines its fatal certainty.

In the centre of the gallery is a large grey banner stretched between two poles. The gauze like material has a translucent quality and seems to refer to an excerpt of a Kafka novel which describes the action of male servants attempting to raise grey linen sheets in the air so they could manufacture the atmosphere of a misty morning for the benefit of the lady in the great house. There is also a connection to this banner in the video on Glenmaroon House. This banner is raised in front of a window to give a misty morning effect as in Kafka’s novel. It brings into question the opening sequence in the video showing mist covered trees and fog covered steps, may not be a natural event but something conjured up by the artists. This is a multi-layered exhibition were fact and fiction are threaded together to fabricate a poetic realm were the imagination can reside. 

In the First Floor Gallery, 
Ella De Burca’s temperate piece in the Amharc Fhine Gall exhibition is made of a video projected on a large homemade kite. The kite is tilted at an angle as if caught in the turbulent wind, aching to break free of its restraints. Upon the kites clear plastic surface is displayed a short video. Ella spent time researching the history of St Ita’s Hospital in Portrane. The hospital cared for long term psychiatric patients. The institution opened in 1900 and at one time housed 1600 patients who were looked after by 300 staff. Most of the staff lived on the site. The hospital grew its own food and small industries occupied the patients. It was conceived as the ideal method to treat the mentally ill at the time. By the 1940’s due to poor financial support it fell into disrepair and its services for the patients became limited.

Against this historical backdrop the artist has conceived a work which tries to commemorate the patients who are buried in unmarked graves in the hospital grounds. When the veiled social history of an institution like St Ita’s is unearthed, a remnant of the tangled distraught memories of its history clings like a residue to the researcher. This is alluded to in a booklet printed by Fingal Arts Office where the artist chronicles a conversation overheard on a train while travelling to Brussels. An artistic couple discuss the documentation of a performance work, were a residue of the performed piece still remains after the event. Perhaps this was not fully understood until the artist became involved with this emotionally unsettling project. Sometimes this resonance of clinging history cries out for someone to bear witness to the suffering of the grieving past. During her research the artist discovered weekly screenings of films were shown to raise the spirits of the interred patients. She decided to screen a video over the patient’s graveyard to commemorate the memory of those weekly films and also aspire to exact repentance and acknowledge their padlocked suffering.

The artist flew a large kite up into the darkening winds of a star filled sky. On this blustering kite she projected a dancer skipping and tapping across a stage to the sound of an Irish ceili tune. The imagery hints at De Valera’s desire that all citizens would find happiness if they danced on every crossroads throughout Ireland to the rhythmic beat of Irish music. This ideal way of life was not granted to the patients of St Ita’s whose smothered torment was hidden from a blinkered society. The incessant tapping of the Irish dancer appears frenetic as he tries to remain in shot of the video projection caught on the rippling surface of the flying kite. Briefly the word SORRY mingles with the Irish dancer on the kites surface as if their choreographed interaction seeks redemption for past injustice. Then the music and dancer fade and the word SORRY holds the forgiven air above the graveyard of the forgotten. The artist silhouette is seen now and then as she struggles to control the kite wishing to take wing up into the splintered night sky. Although a short video it seems to grip tenaciously to the viewer like an afterimage on the back of the eye. It remains there like a residue snagged in the shadow of consciousness long after one has left the show.

Read more about the show ... here ...

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: Reviews & Interviews, Visual Arts, Desmond Kenny, Ella DeBurca, Linda Shevlin, Niamh Moriarty, Ruth Clinton,

Des Kenny Reviews Martina O’Brien - Continuum

October 14, 2015

13 October 2015 - Our Arty Blogger is back! Des Kenny Reviews Martina O'Brien ...  

Martina O Brien’s multi-layered exhibition resonates with humanities need to understand, predict and control the earth’s climate throughout the ages. On a small pedestal stands an urn filled with sage sticks. These were lit by ancient tribes to commune with spirits of the breathing air. Nowadays sage sticks are used in yoga classes without a direct reference to the spirits. These reliquaries of the past and the rites of ancient people no longer have a foothold in modern consciousness. In the main window of Draíocht’s Ground Floor Gallery stands a small Child of Prague Statue. These were frequently found in farming homes and placed outside to call for rain or imploring God to intercede and prevent damage to crops from heavy rains. The child of Prague is replaced today in homes by a white porcelain figure of a woman which is displayed in front windows. The weather forecast beamed by satellite into every home does away with the need for Gods intercession since understanding the scientific character of the weather removes the Godhead from the equation and anyway, satellite images beamed into our television of the weather have yet to reveal the invisible spirits of our ancestors.

The video piece Provision explores the ideas proposed by the scientist James Lovelock. He believed the whole planet is a living organism and called this entity Gaia. This theory granted a certain relevance to the beliefs of our ancestors who instinctively understood the connection between inanimate objects and living matter on this planet. Lovelock created, with the aid of a simple computer model, a fantasy world, where white and black flowers controlled the median temperature of the planet. When too much heat energy arrived from a sun the planet grew white flowers to reflect the excessive heat and black daisies grew when the heat needed to be absorbed. Lovelock maintained this simple computer model had a parallel connection to how our planet works. The artist’s video commences with a red screen. Black and white dots suddenly fill the wall, representing Lovelock’s theory of black and white daisies proliferating as required by his fantasy planet. Next an image of clouds towering the heights of a blue sky is combined with small creatures living in a pond. Wild inanimate existence and prolific quivering organic life have a direct dependence upon each other. Representations of decaying industrial structures with reflective images entangled in stagnant water may indicate the destructive nature of humanities persistent enterprise upon the natural world. Dying white flowers adjacent to an image of the world’s tempestuous winds twisting across the earth, bring into focus how climate change will bring rapid disaster to the whole planet. One nice addition to this video is a sequence of sixty seconds winding down to zero before the video restarts. This is a helpful note to the viewer, marking were the video sequence commences but also a chilling reminder that time is ebbing away, engendering the chilling feeling it is too late to redress the earth’s traumatic climate change. The clock is ticking downwards to a terrible fate, since we have sacrificed our natural inheritance for economic growth.

Drawings on paper are made with the use of thread and correspond to the threaded works attached to nails, fixed to the walls. These drawings form groups of three and indicate a fable which remains difficult to decipher. In the first grouping a pyramid displays its interior structure as if made from glass, the next drawing displays a vector design and the third shows a giant tearing down the pillars of Valhalla. Perhaps signifying the destruction of the old gods as monotheistic religions took the centre stage in the human psyche. The resulting change allowed humanity freedom to construct the world to a personnel vision without interference from the demi - gods of an inanimate world and an absentee godhead. The other drawing series is much more mysterious and enigmatic. A prophetic angel with a flaming sword hovers above three cowering figures, no doubt threatening punishment if not obeyed. The next drawing is a complex structure that seems impossibly to move inward and outward and yet remain in the same visual plane. While the next drawing appears to depict a bacterial form, bursting from the confines of its natural habitat. Perhaps a reference to an air carrying pathogen freed from the jungle by intensive colonisation. Yet trying to discern links between these drawings appears illusive, yet strangely this quality adds to their appeal.

The large paintings composed of black inks, markers and pens stand out starkly against the white background of the canvas. In one painting white flowers lift their heads upwards towards a benevolent sun. The flowers seem to reference the white flowers of James Lovelock’s imagined world. If we could allow the natural world to heal we might not face the disastrous changes about to befall our planet. The other paintings depict an elaborate realm where it’s difficult to discern if the fauna is diseased or thriving. An ambiguity that is disconcerting but perhaps we cannot tell the difference anymore.

This is a complex show on many levels and would reward a number of visits to understand the manifold interpretations that lie within this artist’s vision.

Read more about Martina's show ... here ...

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: Reviews & Interviews, Visual Arts, Desmond Kenny, Martina O'Brien,

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