These five exhibitions are in chronological order and are only my favourites of the shows I was able to attend in person. There were many that I was dying to see but in the end, couldn’t make.
Curated by Colin Darke
QSS Gallery, Belfast
02/02/18 - 22/02/18
This was the fourth group show curated by Colin Darke that was based upon the four titles of Barnett Newman paintings (“Whose Afraid of Red, Yellow and Blue”). According to the text accompanying the exhibition, linking works in accordance with colour “allows for a level of visual cohesion, while retaining the conceptual and aesthetic diversity that defines Queen Street Studios”. Ordinarily white, in a gallery context, inhabits the space between works. In this show however you become strangely aware of the normally silent walls. In Craig Donald’s installation “Ozymandias” sections of the gallery wall are set centre stage; framed by colours that correlate in other drawings and paintings within the installation. You become aware of the void.
Nightfall - amplissium terrarum tractum
Golden Thread Gallery, Belfast
03/02/18 - 10/03/18
This group exhibition by David Godbold in the Golden Thread Gallery really was a stunner. In gallery one, the works that give the name of the show, “Nightfall - Amplissium terrarum tractum” takes up an entire wall. Consisting of 116 framed drawings and a wall drawing in neon, I found myself getting drawn into the gorgeous and witty drawings usually accompanied with text loaded with humour and a certain political sting. Then all of a sudden I would walk backwards, trying to take in the sheer audacious scale of the work as a whole. I was especially taken by the drawing with the text "Infamy, infamy, everybody’s got it in for me” - a one liner from “Carry on Cleo” which my dad regularly cries aloud. Gallery two sees landscapes, beautifully painted and paired off with one in daylight and the other at night. Showing these romantic locations at different times of the day means you can never fully see the region in its entirety.
Future Perfect - Contemporary Art from Germany
Curated by Angelika Stepken and Philipp Ziegler
The Model, Sligo
06/05/18 - 01/07/18
During a summer break down to Sligo it would have been rude not to visit some of the galleries. This travelling group show did not disappoint. Sixteen artists envision and speculate about the future and reflect on the promises it could bring. The installation of Nora Schultz called “Discovery of the Primitive” reminded me of a transportable monolith like the one in Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey”. Schultz gathers found objects from around her Berlin studio to assemble these delicate structures that also double as printmaking stations. It dominated the room and sticks in the memory. Antje Majewski’s paintings were impressive in scale and in detail. The lengthy title “Decorative element that once adorned a passage leading to a shrine” was a large circular painting consisting of smaller overlapped orbs of differing gold and green. The same ‘decorative element’ makes a cameo in the even larger painting - more akin to history painting of old. “The Donation” sees a large group of people witnessing an exchange in what looks like a gallery with warped dimensions and off kilter paintings on the wall.
At the gates of the Music Palace
Curated by Mary Cremin
VOID Gallery, Derry-Londonderry
04/08/18 - 22/09/18
I was lucky enough to see this show on the opening night where the artist Alex Cecchetti was giving a guided tour of the works. A serial collaborator almost all of the works came to fruition as a result of Cecchetti working with musicians, dancers and singers. The first gallery was bathed in a pink light with two large copper cones suspended at the far end. If you move across the sensors musical notes are played and according to different gestures you can actually play music. Cecchetti and a dancer then played a piece of music they composed by dancing in front of the “Music Hall” installation. Gallery 2 held a sound installation entitled “Cetaceans” where a human choir sang like whales. This room was in darkness and you were encouraged to lay down and let the sounds wash over you. The third room had my favourite piece of collaborative work by Cecchetti. Oil paintings on crystal and rise paper hangs from a structure surrounding a piano meaning when people from the tour poured in and no matter where they stood they could see the works on the paper - even from the back where I stood. A synesthetic musician then sat at the piano and read the works like a sheet of music. Even by just watching the paintings you could follow the musician as they played and I found it totally engrossing. Probably the best show featuring audience participation I’ve seen.
Not Half Right
Atypical Gallery, Belfast
12/11/18 - 21/12/18
I stumbled into the Atypical gallery on my way to see the MAC international exhibition (which had incredible works by Ali Cherri, Aisling O’Beirn and the winner Nikolaus Gansterer) and hadn’t any preconceived notions what “Not Half Right” by Jane McCormick contained. What I came across was an incredibly strong practice that explores deeply personal and intimate issues in a scarily wide range of media. Medicine bottles with text and images of children replaced the label. A heart shaped box with tablets instead of chocolates resonated with me. It was humorous and darkly menacing at the same time. Is it a comment on today’s ‘there’s a pill for that’ culture, a love note to how medication has helped the artist or something else? You can’t help but bring your own experience to the work here. The self portrait drawings on what McCormick calls “useless articles and medically-related tat” are visceral, bold and expresses the frustrating and tiring nature of the “never ending search for ‘the cure’”.
NB:- "Imprint": washes over selected charcoal marks makes for a more painterly and softer outcome whilst still retaining the drawing element - it's just not as overwhelming. Marrying the two worlds. Artistically I'm in a good place. It's utilising time more effectively.
On Hodler's "Night": covered figure personifies death as an intensification of sleep. On the back of the canvas Hodler wrote: "There is many a people who lies down to rest in the evening but who does not wake up in the morning."
"Riot" and "Chidren of the Stage" started.
Haven't painted on board in two years. Keep forgetting how forgiving the surface is.
Started small canvas of "Cult" drawing I did five years ago. Been a long time but its always good to keep everything - just in case.
Let's see what happens.
Playing about with "The Mountain of the Heights" - particularly the sky. Intangible so the marks should be also.
"I want to be a painter of modern life, and modern bodies." - Jenny Saville.
A.F. born today.
Notes from a previous workshop:
Turn off distractions
Give yourself permission to move your practice forward.
Elevator pitch - needs work.
Find focus and priorities.
Studio days - regimented routine.
Be persistent and consistent.
Find unproductive habits + break them.
Defend creative time.
Slow down and hear your own ideas.
"Creativity is not a talent - it's a way of operating." - John Cleese
When you value serendipity, you start noticing it at work right away.
Zero energy. There are not enough hours in the day. Structure. Guilty of putting off work because of convenience.
Is yellow is the colour of hope?
Bacon was fascinated by butcher shops as a child. The figure in the painting said to be pre-war Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain - known for carrying an umbrella. This work is raw power, beauty and horror rolled in one.
Paint/draw with purpose. Reasons - just because I can't pin them down doesn't mean they aren't there.
Lubaina Himid - take a "given history" from found objects and then "paint a history on them that isn;t as much talked about." Daytime can't be squandered - every hour counts.
Painted pretty much up to 10pm tonight,. Stuck in the zone.
Trip to Rosses Point. So hot too and great to bump into Rob and Sally. Small world.
Trip to The Model in Sligo town before home. A wonderful space.
Slowly getting back into the rhythm of working again. Finished "Cult". The small child is considerably creepier than expected. More work to "Mountain of the Heights" - been looking at Cezanne's multiple treatments of Mont Sainte-Victoire for some sort of guidance.
Extremely hot in the studio - close to 30°C.
I have Sickert's "Ennui" on my mind.