Obscura | Paul Nugent | 14.09 – 14.10 2017

Written by Harry on . Posted in Exhibitions

ObscuraPaul Nugent

14.09 – 14.10 2017

The Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital is an institution in Paris that interned and treated patients deemed mentally ill by the state from the 17th century onwards. It was known for its poor living conditions and crude experiments. The Salpetriere in its current manifestation is a university hospital. Gaining notoriety as one of Europe’s largest insane asylums during the Belle Époque, the Salpêtrière became the sight of French neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot’s famous Tuesday morning lectures.

These lectures were renowned for their theatrical presentations in which Charcot’s patients performed their conditions to crowds of spectators that included important physicians and neurologists as well as wealthy members of the public. The spectacle of such events was driven by a morbid curiosity that also spurred the circus shows, travelling magicians and hypnotists of the same era. In fact it was noted that Charcot’s lectures were attended by the famous French stage actress, Sarah Bernhardt who purportedly took inspiration form the repertoire of gestures and intensity of performance presented by patients at the Salpêtrière.

(Heroes and Legends of Fin-de-Siècle France: Gender, Politics, and National Identity, Venita Datta, 2011 Cambridge University Press, p156).

Charcot initially believed that hysteria was a neurological disorder and throughout his career he searched for the ‘seat’ of hysteria – hoping to find a physical location for the disorder. He later concluded that hysteria was a psychological disease. Using medical apparatus and hypnosis, Charcot and his contemporaries conducted experiments on the – almost exclusively – female patients. During this time he had a number of patients whom he favoured and in the performance of his lectures, Charcot often relied on his more ‘experienced’ patients. Namely those who understood, and were cooperative in, the theatrical nature of the events. Patients such as Louise Augustine Gleizes and Marie ‘Blanche’ Wittmann became complicit in the performance of their condition in a way that transformed them into icons of their hysteria.

In many cases, Charcot’s patients became famous in their own right; Gleizes and Wittmann for example were well known hysterics in the 19th century and became the subject of novels, newspaper articles and works of art. Jane Avril was a dancer and hysteric who became the muse of Toulouse-Lautrec. In her book, Medical Muses: Hysteria in Nineteenth-Century Paris, Asti Hustvedt details rivalries that existed between the young women who hoped to achieve fame by performing in Charcot’s lectures.

Charcot, in his search for the seat of hysteria in the female body, employed what he deemed the most up to date technology to aid his research. He believed that the forensic use of the camera would allow him to locate and distil the essence of hysteria. However as photographic technology developed, the state, hospitals, Gendarmerie and the Académie des Beaux-Arts became complicit in a fiction. Art students, physicians and doctors often worked together with favoured subjects to create the most convincing iteration of the suspected condition. The photographs became increasingly staged and ornate, blurring the already delicate line between documentation and fabrication.

In his most recent series of paintings, Paul Nugent returns to iconography as it pertains to the history and architecture of the asylum chapel. During the 19th century, Charcot relied heavily on photography to decipher and archive cases of hysteria-a disease that no longer exists despite being suspected to affect more than half of all women during the 19th century. (Medical Muses: Hysteria in Nineteenth-Century Paris, Asti Hustvedt, 2012, Bloomsbury Press).

Throughout Obscura, Nugent responds to his photographic source material and the interior of the chapel by closely observing and depicting its interior – the site of the hysteric performances. Séance IV depicts an altar presided over by a statue of the Virgin Mary in her iconic pose, head at a gentle tilt, hands loosely by her side with palms facing upwards. A large painting, of which the subject matter is undecipherable, dominates the wall space of the chapel. In the repetition of these compositions, Nugent simultaneously clarifies and obscures certain details within the chapel to consider various aspects of its architecture. Within the series Nugent also directly references phases in the development of photography as a medium, including the inversion of negatives and the uniform colour of cyanotype.

This alludes to the manner in which the Camera was invested with the belief that it could shed light on the misunderstood phenomenon of hysteria. By creating an extensive archive, Charcot and his associates at the Salpêtrière hoped to find a common physical feature or expression that would help them to identify those that suffered from the condition. George Didi – Huberman in his book Invention of Hysteria, speaks about the ‘True Retina’, an emotionless gaze that presents the patient in the most neutral and objective manner possible through meticulous documentation of the women. The use of this new technology was believed to provide an unprecedented insight into the condition.

In Obscura III, Nugent creates a painted illusion of the photographic image –as though blurred by motion or poor exposure, a trompe l’oeil that denies its medium specificity. However in Obscura I this illusion is shattered. The spatial element of the painting and the objects within it are jarred by the application of thick bars of glossy paint in the uniform Van Dyke brown of the composition. These seemingly impulsive marks contrast with the controlled and nuanced application of paint that form the backdrop. Similarly in Hysteria the measured manner in which the surface has been applied appears to have been compromised by a sudden agitated gesture. The gesture however, is self-reflexive.

The works in Obscura consider the role of the camera in diagnosing and treating patients at the Salpêtrière. By referencing techniques in the development of photography, and in his depiction of various angles of the asylum chapel, Nugent considers the relationship between photography and painting to imply a presence or semblance of place associated with historical and institutional environments.

-Ingrid Lyons

Paul Nugent lives and works in Dublin. Recent solo exhibitions include NIGHTSHADE, Kevin Kavanagh, Dublin (2015), a solo presentation at VOLTANY, New York (2011), Remembrance Part I & II, Kevin Kavanagh, Dublin and Remembrance, Kerava Art Museum, Finland (2009). Selected group exhibitions include Many Worlds, Centre Culturel Irlandais, Paris (upcoming Sept, 2017), Golden Record, Galway International Arts Festival, Galway Arts Centre (2017), Trove, Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin, curated by Dorothy Cross (2015), In Darkness Let Me Dwell, Solstice Arts Centre, Navan (2015), Prelude Speaker, Group show, Castletown House, OPW in partnership with Crawford Art Gallery (2013), Last, Douglas Hyde Gallery, Trinity College Dublin (2011) The Painter, the Draughtsman, the Dealer and their Lovers, Voges Gallery, Frankfurt, Germany (2011) and What Happens Next is a Secret, Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin, curated by Marguerite O’ Molloy (2010). Nugent was awarded a residency at the Centre Culturel Irlandais, Paris in 2005 and he has been the recipient of the Visual Arts Bursary, multi-annual award, The Arts Council/An Chomhairle Ealaíon in 2004-2006 and 2008. His work is held in numerous public and private collections both in Ireland and internationally including the Office of Public Works, the Irish Museum of Modern Art and DCU (Dublin City University).

Written in Water, Shone in Stone | Richard Proffitt | 10.08 – 09.09 2017

Written by Harry on . Posted in Exhibitions

Opening reception: 6pm Thursday 10.08

Richard Proffitt

Written in Water, Shone in Stone, Lost in Light

Written in Water, Shone in Stone, Lost in Light is comprised of work in various media – installation, painting, digital collage and audio, forming a constellation of thoughts and ideas that relate to perception and awareness. Richard Proffitt is interested in the transition between personally significant events and those that express aspects of a collective consciousness. In the written pieces that form part of Proffitt’s practice, he traces a process whereby thoughts and observations become recurring memories, replete with symbols and metaphorical meaning. Within his drawings, the natural world is transformed into a realm of psychedelic journey in which knots in the bark of a tree can take on a peculiar anthropomorphic appearance and mountains from afar can appear as towering deities.

There are numerous references to gateways, portals and paths, inferring a journey – a personal journey perhaps – or one towards expanding consciousness. In his installation particular materials are imbued with a certain power to act as potential talismans, esoteric objects that help to guide the way and to ward off evil. Proffitt’s work seeks out universally relatable symbols, ideas and attitudes which act as unifying forces within society. The audio aspect of the work forms an important part of the exhibition, encompassing elements of psychedelia, folk, drone and ambient music.

Proffitt considers symbols and allegories that cleave to the collective consciousness, he does this by referencing both myth and folk legends as well as their contemporary counterparts such as alien visitation and abduction narratives. This alludes to a phenomenon whereby popular culture is often assimilated and recounted as personal experience and vice-versa. Within Written in Water, Shone in Stone, Lost in Light, Proffitt works across a number of media, drawing on a wide variety of source material to create a body of work that considers the role of esoteric symbols in both personal and universal experience.

Written in Water, Shone in Stone, Lost in Light will be accompanied by a vinyl LP of 7 songsThe vinyl, titled Ending Time, will be available for purchase at the gallery; the limited edition features 180g vinyl, digital download code, poster, 12 page booklet featuring extra artwork alongside texts by Mary O’Halloran and Michael Hill and is limited to 50 copies. The regular edition features 180g vinyl and digital download code.

Richard Proffitt (Born 1985, Liverpool, UK) Lives and works in Dublin. Recent solo exhibitions include Hold The Candle To Your Eye/Light the Criss-Cross On Your Chest, Sirius Arts Centre, Cork (2016), Wild Cries of Ha-Ha, Kevin Kavanagh, Dublin (2015), Eternal Spirit Canyon, The Joinery, Dublin (2013) and Saguaro, part of BAM BAM BAM, Wolstenholme Creative Space, Liverpool, UK (2011). Selected group exhibitions include Golden Record, Galway Arts Centre, Galway (2017), Ritual Play, Verkstad Konsthall, Norrkoping, Sweden (2016), Between Seeing and Blindness, Tactic, Cork (2015) and A Modern Panarion, The Hugh Lane, Dublin (2014). Proffitt has also taken part in art fairs and residencies including CAVE Art Fair, Liverpool, UK (2012) and Mobile Research Station, Skulpturen Park, Berlin, Germany (2009). Proffitt’s work has also been featured in numerous publications including To Seek Where Shadows Are, Edited by Padraic E. Moore and designed by Peter Maybury to coincide with A Modern Panarion, Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane, Dublin.

Atonal Supersound | Kathy Tynan | 06.07 – 05.08 2017

Written by Harry on . Posted in Exhibitions

Atonal Supersound | Kathy Tynan | 06.07 – 05.08 2017

Kathy Tynan’s eye for idiosyncrasies and her ability to distil an essence from daily encounters lends her paintings a profundity that is interspersed with self-reflexive humour. Each painting captures a moment in which a feeling or mood prevails. In the making of these paintings, Tynan proffers a world in which chance encounters and oddities are elevated through their representation. In recent work, Tynan has referenced her painting practice as part of a routine and within Laughter in the Blood, the artists own studio becomes the focus of analysis. In this painting the artist’s supplies – turpentine, brushes and ink are laid out on a frugal looking table. A bundle of brushes with split hairs peak tentatively over a laptop. On the monitor a talking head, subtitled in French, speaks of introspection in a spell of melancholy shoegazing. To the right of the table, near the skirting board, a scrunched leaf of paper torn from a ring-bound notebook politely beseeches the studio occupants, ‘please don’t unplug’.

In Clarice Lispector’s mystical novel, The passion according to G.H, the protagonist becomes preoccupied with the interior of her own apartment and remains there for the duration of the story. In her rigorous questioning of every aspect of her immediate reality she begins to dissolve its solid materiality into an array of psychical absurdities. While much of Tynan’s paintings follow a similar tact of dissecting the seemingly mundane, she also references the Brazilian writer directly in her painting, Thick and Black Roots of the Stars, in which Lispector’s words appear scrawled across a wall. In the painting, grey skies loom over a church and its grounds but the focal point is the richly embellished wall. Across its cement surface, alongside Lispector’s lines, there are messages to missing family members, initials in bubble font, proclamations of eternal love and witty quips. On this graffitied wall, marks made by many different hands are presented together in the composition.

Such a device harks toward the latent impulse within people to make a mark, to give visual expression to a thought. This concept crops up time and again in Tynan’s paintings, posing questions on the nature of institutionalised art production and on the divide between various forms of artistic expression. In her paintings, which revel in the colour, texture and surface possibilities of paint, Tynan reflects on inconsistency and imbalance. Her paintings are often witty and playful but also inquisitive – imbued with their own revelatory purpose. Together the paintings in Atonal Supersound converse with and often contradict one another. They exist as counter points reaffirming the idea that meaning is both deduced and created. It is somewhere between these two activities that Tynan’s work gathers its momentum.

Kathy Tynan (b.1984) lives and works in Dublin. She graduated from the National College of Art and Design (NCAD) with a BA in Painting in 2008 and an MA also from NCAD (2010). Recent group exhibitions include Hands Laid On with Aileen Murphy, Kevin Kavanagh, Dublin (2016), There Are Little Kingdoms (2016), Mermaid Arts Centre, Bray, What Is And What Might Be, Highlanes Gallery, Drogheda (2015) and The Sky Is All Changed, Hendrons Collider, Dublin (2014). Tynan’s work is held in public collections including the Office of Public Works as well as private collections in Ireland and abroad.

Crooked Orbit | Diana Copperwhite | 01.06 – 01.07 2017

Written by Harry on . Posted in Exhibitions

Crooked Orbit | Diana Copperwhite | 01.06 – 01.07 2017

‘As is well known, the word ‘orbit’ refers to a set route or path around a given point: we on earth orbit the sun, just as the moon orbits us. Perhaps less known, though, is that the word is etymologically coupled with a distinct sense of the optical: from a fourteenth century French word for ‘eye socket’. Seeing, in this understanding, is always underscored by a sense of movement or voyaging: when we look at someone or something, we simultaneously tread a track around it. Perhaps we come close to this object, but we don’t get to touch it.

I kept this double meaning in mind when thinking about Diana Copperwhite’s recent paintings. In this latest exhibition, Crooked Orbit, these are large and at least initially discordant works. It seems as though no colour has been left aside, from lurid fuchsias and cobalt blues, to neon yellow and swatches of minty green. Recurring throughout the canvases, there is also a gradient effect achieved by loading the brush with different shades of paint; and this has a consequence of suggesting that these paintings have almost outgrown the tools of their creation, those tools then being forced to convey, through colour, as much as they possibly can. Sometimes these gradient interventions are vertical and regular; at others, they are less uniform, cast in a halting semi-circle or upturned ‘u’. Throughout, they act to create the impression of space within the paintings: in one, a narrow swathe of grey, pink and white, has the look of an outstretched arm, a slight sag in the middle where the elbow could be; in another, a flat vertical plane of what looks like four gradient drags cuts a dint of architectural space. But, even when working in unison, each of these is just one gesture, loaded to capacity and worked until it dissipates, the paint run out or stopped short from further decline. Representation is at most, never quite; cast as it is though a series of distinct marks, the whole remains fragmentary, gestured towards but never quite pinned down’.

Extracted from Awkward Angle of Perception, by Rebecca O’Dwyer. The full essay will be available at the gallery from June 1st.

Diana Copperwhite (b. 1969, Ireland) lives and works in Dublin and New York. Recent solo exhibitions include Driven by Distraction, Royal Hibernian Academy, Dublin (2016), Depend on the Morning Sun, Thomas Jaeckal Gallery, New York (2016) and A Million and One Things Under the Sun, Kevin Kavanagh, Dublin (2015). Selected group exhibitions include Last Picture Show w/Mary Heilmann, Chris Ofili, Danny Rolph, Vanessa Jackson, Elio Rodriguez, Jill Levine, Rebecca Smith, Thomas Jaeckel Gallery, New York (2017) and Virtú, inc. Picasso, Giacometti, Henry Moore, Elizabeth Magill and Sean Scully at the Hunt Museum, Limerick, Ireland (2017). Copperwhite’s work is held in numerous public and private collections including: the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Arts Council of Ireland, Limerick City Gallery of Art, Office of Public Works, Contemporary Irish Art Society, Highlanes Municipal Art Gallery, Mariehamn Stadbiblioteque, Aland (Finland), Dublin Institute of Technology and The President of Ireland.

Rebecca O’ Dwyer is an Irish art writer, critic, and PhD candidate at National College of Art & Design, Dublin. Her writing has been published in Paper Visual Art Journal, Enclave Review, Frieze, Eyeline, Fallow Media, and the Visual Artists’ New Sheet, amongst others, and she has written catalogue texts for artists including Kathy Tynan, Fergus Feehily and Barbara Knezevic. She is a previous winner of the VAI/DCC Critical Writing Award, and the editor of the online art-writing platform, Response to a Request, which was launched in August 2016.

Rectangle, a written thing | Sonia Sheil | 04.05 – 27.05 2017

Written by Harry on . Posted in Exhibitions

Rectangle, a written thing | Sonia Sheil | 04.05 – 27.05 2017

Rectangle, a written thing, 2017, is presented in four ensembles. These painted works conjure theatrical tropes without motion, containing performative moments within the stasis and composition of painting. Such poles of action and inaction, recurring throughout the installation, are echoed in an accompanying script. This written thing provides a space to situate the work in a critical context by exploring its own real and imagined materiality – and it tells the story of an artist who, in being mistaken for a tree, learns what it is to be expressive.

Sonia Shiel’s work examines her protagonists’ attempts to survive the odds of nature and the illusory world around them, through laws of their own making. Many of her works engage with each other symbiotically or con/sequentially within mixed-media installations, creating surreal narrative sequences. Often taking the form of scripted video, audio and live performances, Shiel’s works synthesise object, image and sound in self-reflexive stories of construction, exploring how real things in the world can simultaneously declare themselves fabrications and yet compel a shared make-believe.

Sonia Shiel is currently the Arts and Humanities’ Artist-in-Residence at UCD for 2017 and a recipient of the DLRCoCo and the Arts Council Visual Artist Awards for 2017. In 2014/2015, she completed the Art & Law Fellowship Program at Fordham Law School, the International Studio & Curatorial Program, in New York, and an artist’s residency at the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin, with Arts Council Project Award support. Recent readings and performances include Temple Bar Gallery and Studios and ArtBox. She has had recent exhibitions at Rua Red, The Crawford Gallery, The Irish Museum of Modern Art, The Lewis Glucksman Gallery and the ISCP, New York, among others. Shiel has been the recipient of the Tony O’Malley and Hennessy Craig Awards, having had solo exhibitions at the Butler Gallery and the RHA Gallery I and II, which included a major publication and a collection of essays. Her work features in many international public and private collections, including the Arts Council, The City of Frankfurt, and the OPW.