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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