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

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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