Natasha CONWAY

The Lost and Found

Natasha Conway’s paintings are born from a spontaneous and intuitive act devoid of any premeditation, surprising even the artist herself when the work is completed. Her small-size paintings are made of oil on linen or wood panel in line with pictorial tradition, however, although there is a technical continuity with the past, she shows on the contrary, a break with the figurative principles that ruled academic painting. Conway demonstrates an interest towards the language of abstraction and its emotional aspects, acting on the canvas with great virtuosity and vigour. The brushstroke is restless and fauve-like, as the painters of the French avant-garde of the early twentieth century. The artist makes her creative gesture free from any obsolete formalism by concentrating exclusively on her inner self, the subconscious emotion that emerges and unfolds among the vivid colours of the pictorial surface, becoming a theatre of feelings, a place where nonsensical passions are settled. Therefore, the knowledge of the world and its representation occurs through an impulsive and liberating act, the forces that rule reason are spontaneous on the canvas without any illustrative pretence.

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Colm MAC ATHLAOICH

Traveling Without Moving

Painting for Colm Mac Athlaoich is an experiment of technique and colour, a journey into abstraction, a deep and personal experience, an unconscious automatism that takes life on the canvas. His painting is fluid, the ductus is full and free, moving on the surface without any obstacles. The creative subconscious of Mac Athlaoich gets out from between the authentic gesture of his brushstroke and the thin oil glazes that go to create a translucent painting whose surface is enriched with depth and shine. The final tone of colour is the result of a process that uses a stratified sequence of different tints that give birth to “variations of light”[1] since, as Renaissance man Leon Battista Alberti pointed out, colours are manifestations of light. The abstract composition produces liminal visual ‘capriccio’ between real and unreal, as in Joyce’s Ulysses the reader is incapable of distinguishing truth from fiction in the same way Colm Mac Athlaoich offers to the observer a new point of view, a new reality. Everything is subjective, everything that belongs to the phenomenal world is questioned, only through Gestalt perception can the perceived visual lead to the figurative. To overcome the absence of figuration the artist comes to the help of the onlooker, placing theatrical scenes at the confines of the image to create a decorative structure with architectural function. This function is capable of suggesting another realm, a scenic illusion, a perspective similar to Parrhasius[2] or the artist Antonello da Messina – exemplar of Flemish art in Renaissance Italy – who made use of the stage plan as an imaginative expedient.

Colm Mac Athlaoich

Pallas Projects/Studios


[1] Author’s translation of «variazioni di lumi» from Leon Battista Alberti, De Pictura, 1435.

[2] Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, Book 35:68, “Painting contest” between Zeuxis and Parrhasius, 77-78 AD.

Eve WOODS

Eve Woods’ pictorial research arises from interest and study of social and cultural substrates where suburban phenomena come together to generate myths and urban legends, as well as pseudoscience to which the weaker social strata address with renewed interest.

In an era of digital overcrowding and overexposure of images and news, not always truthful, Eve Woods records anxiety impulses that appear in contemporary society on the pictorial surface of her paintings through the contrasting use of bold colours.

The social structure is the frame in which, and through which, social action takes place. By that the artist gets to make them an integral part of her artistic repertoire, which is manifested in the frame of a framework in which the “collective psychic representations” form (Émile Durkheim, The Rules of Sociological Method, 1895).

Woods’ pictorial practice, therefore, assumes a therapeutic value since in her paintings she is able to demystify the social phenomena. The use of bright colours, the speed of the stroke and the compositional gesture are the expression of that unease, that dominates contemporary culture and it is extrinsic in the eclectic world portrayed by the artist.

The anxiety of existence is a theme often dealt with in the history of art and it is apparent that Woods looks at artists of the past who have abstracted this theme through figurative art. The strongest reference is to Eduard Munch’s painting, the Norwegian artist who at the end of the 19th century transfigured reality in The Scream (1893). The same expressive charge is found in violent colours used by Eve Woods. The dramatic contrast of the background, characterized by nervous and repeated traits, makes a disturbing figure emerge as obscure prelude.

Angular and tormented linearity, such as the chromatic contrasts that contribute to a sense of disharmony and precariousness, are a strong reference to German Expressionism art, in particular, to Ernest Ludwig Kirchner who expressed with the same figurative charge the sense of anxiety that populated Berlin in the early 20th century. The strong references to this artistic current are traceable in the choice of cold-stained, acid-like colours, with nervous traits.

In this latest collection of works, which also gives title to her latest solo exhibition, Smile (2016-2017), the artist shows for the first time her personal experience bound to the world of dreams and, more specifically, nightmares. The vivid perception of a recurring dream has aroused the curiosity of the artist who turned her attention to discover the oneiric significance of teeth. Acting as Titaness Mnemosyne, she names and circumscribes the objects surrounding her figuratively by investigating at the level of introjection the subject treated in her artwork by cognitively sweeping it from many points of view. With a graphomanic approach she takes note and collects every similar treatment to the exploration of holistic disciplines as well. In this succession of images and information, Woods’ nightmares come to life on the canvas along with icons from Master artists of the past, depicting the horrors of the mind. The Aragonese painter Francisco de Goya with his famous design The dream of reason generates monsters (circa 1797) or The Nightmare (1781) of the Swiss Johann Heinrich Füssli are celebrating examples of how artists have always relate to the dream world even before it was analytically described by the father of psychoanalysis Sigmund Freud.

In a Sturm und Drang of emotions and images, Eve Woods introduces us into unusual interpretative visions, as a careful observer of the art of the past while remaining consistent with her artistry and returning, through a figurative sense mediated by her perception of reality, a world increasingly characterized by anxieties and disadvantages.

Eve Woods

Pallas Projects/Studios

Mark CULLEN

The One becomes Two, the Two become Three, and by Third the Fourth makes the Unit.

C.G. Jung, Psycology e Alchemy, Collected Works of C.G. Jung, Vol. 12, Princeton, N.J., 1968.

Mark Cullen has always being interested in using various media, he makes sculptural art as well as installations, wherehis main mean of expression aims to research and explore cosmological principles.

During his residence in 2007 at the El Levante Cultural Centre in Rosario (Argentina), Cullen had the opportunity to visit and work with the antique telescope in the astronomical centre of the Mendoza University and then continuing his research at the international observatory CASLEO located in El Leoncito, Argentinian Andes. The result of this experience was the realization of Star Gazing, an installation which creates a re-connection between the internal environment and the night sky outside, where now it is impossible to see the stars in or near urban centres of the world due to light pollution, through the reproduction, by installing 300 white LED lights of varrying luminousity, of the starry sky of the southern terrestrial hemisphere observed by Cullen during his residence at CASLEO.  The work therefore intends to connect the microcosm with macrocosm, composed here by so many luminous elements that create a harmonious relationship between interdependence and interaction because each element is activated by a solar panel thereby completing an active connection with the stars. The use of natural elements as energy activators means that the harmonic relationship not only builds on but it strengthens, thanks to a process of solidarity, the exchange between man and Universe.

In Cullen’s art this union is often traceable because he is usually operating as a poietes, who during pre-Socratic edge in Greece was both an operator, a creator and a poet. He realizes installations in which the particular crosses over melting with the universal. In this cosmological view, one finds out how the individual is an active part of the universe and how, in his works, it is possible to find the cabalistic and alchemical concept about the Unity of All expressed by Heraclitus of Ephesus, who in his writings expressed how totality was synonymous with completeness and, therefore, of unity with the Universe. In I see a darkness II (2009), the individual experience re-joins with the cosmos tending towards the infinite represented here sculpturally through Costantin Brâncuşi’s Endless Column (1938). The modular repeating shape of the column carries with it the geometric elements that describe through a numerical sequence, attributable to that of Fibonacci, the infinite. The entire installation, which has to be enjoyed in complete darkness, highlights the link between those who experience Cullen’s art that subjectively connects them directly to microanthropos and macronthropos. By passing through a bright Stargate, that connects everybody, through a circular motion, to the Universe and alien species far away, it could be possible to reach metaphorically the Milky Way Galaxy, reproduced on the darkened windows.

By maintaining this duality of research, the artist continues his spectral stars’ investigation with the work Ladies and Gentlemen we are floating in space (2010), which makes a relationships between cryogenic and spacecraft experience. Science and fiction fuse together to form a futuristic living environment, a Sleeper Cell able to accommodate humans for an interspace journey. The perforated vault reproduces the possible spatial vision that only some humans will experience in the future. Again in this case we are in front of an immersive installation that welcomes the public, future astronauts, in an environment whose purpose is to connect the celestial sphere with earthly life. The viewer assumes the role of interstellar traveller who takes as Dante in his Commedia (1304-1321) his experiential journey of the mind, or itinerarium mentis, from the underworld to the stars.

Cullen has continued his exploration of space and human dynamics over the years, producing works such as ARK (2011) and I could sleep for a thousand years (2011), the latter realized for series of “Manifestation” exhibitions ference Engine, that he has been working with since 2009. On these occasions, he began to place beside installation works paintings on which he depicted Mandalas, an ancestral figure founded within complex and avant-garde physical mechanisms such as inside of CERN’s particle accelerator in Geneva. Using the pictorial surface as a real “meaning space” (A.J. Greimas, 1960) Cullen’s semantic becomes recurring, his space exploration, his desire to work for a site-specific space led to the use of 30×30 cm to represent primigenial pictures. The study of the Penrose tiling (1974), a pattern of geometric figures expressing the proportion of the golden section and mirroring aperiodical tiling sets of the near orient, allowed him to obtain decorations of infinite surfaces in an aperiodic manner and to reconcile them with his previous cosmological research, creating the collective installation “Accumulator II”, in which appear Infinite Preserve (2012), Carpet (2013) and Mandala (2013). In these first two works appear with evidence how Penrose tiling is in connection with decorative patterns used in the Middle East and, in particular, with some examples of medieval Islamic geometric patterns, such as the girih (strapwork) tilings for decoration of buildings in Islamic architecture. Cullen’s relationship between science and the cosmos is linked to an indissoluble leitmotiv: the idea that one system of thought operates in parallel with another and reaches similar points of insight is very important for his art, in fact, this way of thinking extolled into Mandala’s work: As within so withouth (2014-2015). The large installation at UCD in Dublin favours the waving nature of the light as it happens when it is diffracted by a quasicrystal forming an icosahedron. This geometric figure assumes a particular significance in Mandala, symbol of perfect knowledge (aurea apprehensio), expressing itself according to the alchemical precepts, in which the cognitive process of the inner self is enveloped by Universe. The symbol of totality, the Mandala, is for Jung (Man and His Symbols, 1964) archetype of the inner order and expresses the fact that there exists a centre of commutation and a periphery circumscribing the All, en tu pan, “All in One”.

Mark Cullen

Pallas Projects/Studios

Kathy HERBERT

All Kathy Herbert’s art is permeated by a desire to understand the process of interaction between humans and the Earth but, above all, the aim of her art is the creation of ideas that not only connect people to each other but also connects them to the World.

Environmental and ecological art is a spontaneous continuation of some artistic movements such as Land Art and Arte Povera. Herbert in the beginning of her career practiced Land Art, but during the eighties a new critical approach developed which saw a traditional sculpture as outdated and potentially out of harmony with the environment so the artists adopted new conceptual visions designed to preserve the balance with nature.

Herbert’s art not only uses natural material to realize her art work but she investigates nature to express better her discovery and analysis of the natural processes that surround us. Among her works in progress, Bricks to Shells (2012-ongoing) tells us about the marine erosion process and consequent modification of materials. The shells, the original homes of sea creatures, become an important part of her research as she reshapes bricks, which have been washed up by the waters of the Irish Sea, as cochlea.

The observation of nature and its changes, through the cognitive process, are at the basis of Herbert’s artistic research. She wants to create connections with people and their essence in the context of their relationship with the natural world. An example of her art is given by the work titled All we’ve got (2011): a sculpture in limestone of three spheres, each carrying a carving of the artist’s handprints. The handprints hold between them the Earth’s vital energy, in a protective gesture: it appears as an invite to everybody to take care of the only good thing that we have and share – Earth.

Herbert is following the great environmental legacy left by the German artist Joseph Beuys, she is looking to encourage a critical conscience in the audience.

In Trail (2010) she creates a real repeatable and recognizable path using of geographical coordinates and the name of the place where the tree is located. Moreover, with her drawings, she shows how the vegetation is forced to live in urban centres in conditions of total restriction. In Urban Foxes (2007) we are in front of an environmental problem, which shows behaviour change and adaptation of foxes living in the city due to the ease of finding food. This art work shows how the change in the environment has affected the life of this animal species, which is forced to survive by taking refuge in a “civilized” environment.

In a nutshell, observation, understanding and interaction between individuals is what prevails in the art of Kathy Herbert, who aspires to connect people daily inside natural environment, but she puts under observation with her art works some strange human tendencies, such as her Blanchardstown Walking (2013): a notebook in which she records every day what she sees and what she hears during some brief stops in the largest shopping centre in Ireland, Blanchardstown centre. This space it’s possible to call a nonspace, according to French Anthropologist Marc Augé who used for the first time this neologism to explain the no relational spaces where people is usual, in the modern age, to spend a lot of time without entering in connection with each other. In the opposite side of these nonspaces, Herbert tries with her art work to create sympathetic relationships in anthropologic spaces in which every person is able to keep in touch with themselves and the surrounding nature to carry out socialize spaces in complete respect with the ecological environment.

Sometimes her way to create art works could appear as intangible, but that is not true since she is interested in the everyday interaction of people and the ecological environment and her endeavours suggest to us a new vision and a new approach to life in accordance with Nature. Draíocht Residency (2013) shows how the artist is always looking for some vegetative element able to bring man into nature even in those areas where it is deleted by urbanization projects. Leaf Survey, Leaf Graffiti and Word Tree are part of this work cycle born during the artist residency in Draíocht, Blanchardstown. The social return of her artistic interventions are therefore a real proof and consistent work of a woman who makes every day of her ideas her original artistic product.

Kathy Herbert

Pallas Projects/Studios

 

Anna RACKARD

Anna Rackard began her career in 1992 working as an art director on international films, including Braveheart (1995) and King Arthur (2004). Later she won Irish Film & Television Awards for her production design work on Stella Days (2012) and Ondine (2010).

Alongside her film career she became interested in documentary and photographic art. With the publication of the book Fish Stone Water: Holy Wells of Ireland (2001), with Liam O’Callaghan as a co-author, Anna Rackard has visited some of the most ancient places of pre-Christian worship in remote parts of Ireland. The book discovers how ancient rites are still alive, albeit changed, mixing with the Catholic faith over centuries of history passed.

The strong evocative power of the images lead us into a primordial religious dimension made up of rites and ancient symbols that have been handed down over time by uniting and mixing until completely melting with images of  the Christian tradition.

The works of Anna Rackard are all marked by her continuous will and desire to investigate the archaic origins of each image that surrounds our world. In one of her first photographic series entitled Postcards (2005) the photographer recreates the typical style of colour postcards of the 1950s and 60s produced in Dublin by John Hinde Ltd. where the landscape and the physical characteristics of the people depict an idyllic Ireland. These postcards satisfied not only a tourist commercial operation, but they were appreciated by foreigners and diaspora who recognized a nostalgic and idealistic version of Ireland in those vibrantly coloured images populated by typically Irish looking people.

In contrast to the typical desire for approval of John Hinde’s postcards, Rackard questions what is the current real identity of the Irish people, since now they have “compromised” their physical integrity with immigration during the past years. Although she maintains the typical natural backdrops of the island, she places foreground subjects that are in complete discord with them because they are Irish in adoption. People immigrated temporarily or permanently in Ireland become the new protagonists of these postcards that want to show a representation of a new nation through the creation of new social figures.

“The essence of all photography is the documentary manner” pronounced August Sander (1876-1964) in 1931 during the radio broadcast Westdeutscher Rundfunk, Anna Rackard continues her investigation through the figurative and social study of images of women in an agricultural context noting that in Irish society people never talk about women as “farmers”, but always subordinate them to the roles of “farmer’s wife or daughter”. The women represented in the series Farmers (2007) consists of a series of photographs which nowadays we consider the best synthesis of this kind of picture initiated by Sander in 1924 with the collection of People of the 20th Century. By analogy, Rackard collects portraits of these women who demonstrate their commitment and their presence within the farming families. By continuing to work the land with diligent perseverance they demonstrate how a woman’s subordinate role is now only a hangover of a vernacular culture that is slowly evolving but it remains in the linguistic definition of these social figures.

Under into Somewhere (2011-2016) is the latest series of photographs made by Anna Rackard, the fruit of five years research, during which time she investigated the scientific and artistic point of view of the sleep state. She took her inspiration from the painting by Francisco de Goya El Sueño (1790 c.), which now is in the collection of the National Gallery of Ireland and was part of female paintings’ series painted by Goya in the end of 18th century. The photographer has used the same stylistic setting through her pictures, in which it is possible to find the same lighting contrast of the painting and also the human presence asleep. The dream is a subject that has always fascinated scientists and artists; it is a transitional situation in which the subject appears as a “still life” in the true sense of the term. These photographs, therefore, could be defined as “still images” in which the human figure is depicted during sleep through the uncontrolled shooting by the artist who has the will and the desire to capture these moments of unconsciousness. To obtain this result the artist set up a large format camera and a light in the sleeper’s bedroom. The room was blacked out, the camera shutter stayed open all night and the image was made when a light came on during the night. The sleeper woke in the morning in a completely dark room and closed the shutter. For each image the photographer had no control of where the person was in the frame and also whether they were in focus or not.

Beyond this technical process, the images have the quality to want to explore the dreamlike phenomena thanks to the random association of the dreams reported by each protagonist at the end of those experiences.

Anna Rackard

Pallas Projects/Studios