Des Kenny Reviews Helen MacMahon - Profero

May 18, 2015

18 May 2015 - Our Arty Blogger is back! Des Kenny gives a personal response to our current exhibition by Helen MacMahon - Profero…

Art and science find common ground in Helen Mac Mahon’s show in the First Floor Gallery of Draíocht. These two divergent disciplines combine to form a dialogue which illuminates their parallel search for truth and beauty. The placement of the art works in the gallery seems to follow a hidden mathematical theorem for defining exhibition space. An ordered harmony of coherent intervals places each work exactly where it is required to satisfy a luminous eye.

Radii is placed on a slender white pedestal in a corner of the gallery. A square mirror painted in a medative black reveals a silver star in the heart of the equitable form. The black absorbs light while the silver mirror reflects light causing a shimmering tension on the surface and a sense of movement appears to occur as the viewer circulates the form. The act of looking transforms the indolent object into a twinkling illusion.

On the wall are four images created with the aid of heat cast by a variety of different light bulbs upon a heat sensitive material. The light source is on a timer which comes on and off in fifteen minutes cycles. Notional forms appear on the heated surfaces and fade like a spectrical entity when the surface cools. Steely blues and purples gather in the centre while emerald greens and toxic oranges flare out towards the edges. Pulsating cycles of presence and absence articulate these works with the parallel patterns of life and death that is part of life’s convulsive existence.

A sculptural arrangement of metal slinkies holds center stage on the gallery floor. The slinkies appear to float upon the white parapet and there surface ripples with illusory movement. A wave like pattern rolls across the undulating surface as the observer approaches the installation. The false sense of motion is triggered by the moving spectator. Our formulation of reality depends on retinal information that unfortunately provides false data to the brain. The perception of the world formulated by our glaring eyes is untrustworthy and doubt begins to gather on the abundant shores of reason.

Placed in a gentle curve are four Magnographs, beautifully crafted devices which display the effects of magnetic energy upon a receptive film. The inner workings of the device are displayed which of course raises the natural curiosity level of a visitor. The lid of the apparatus is tilted forward revealing a mirror showing the inverted image of magnetic material placed on the underside of the display surface. The bowels of the mechanism are exposed to inquisitive investigation awakening a beckoning call that lays deep within the human psyche, a desire for knowledge. The inclination to understand the unknown lifts a species beyond the control of its environment to controlling its habitat. The exquisite pleasure derived from comprehending the concept of these mechanisms is perhaps uniquely human.

While black is the predominant colour for the objects in this exhibition allowing light to focus on the viewing surfaces this technique is absent when looking at a group of digital photographs examining the luminous property of light. The white gallery walls surround the gleaming images with bordered neutrality, transporting the inner light of the photographs to flutter towards the visitors receptive eyes. Silver spectral shapes emerge from gloomy depths and float eloquently like snowflakes unwinding in the air. Circular shapes materialise from an ethereal blue as phosphorescent oranges and yellows simmer in the darkness.

All in all science and art collaborate on equal terms to present an engaging show from the thoughtful vision of Helen Mac Mahon. 

Draíocht's Galleries are open Monday to Saturday 10am-6pm. Admission is Free.

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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