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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