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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