Alice Maher is one of Ireland’s most established and influential artists and yet despite the long familiarity of her work she hasn’t lost the ability to surprise and unsettle. Her art is always mutating, fresh and dynamic. This new installation, Vox Materia, continues her sustained interrogation into the aesthetic potential of hybrid forms. Maher claims that her work is “not declamatory” but instead driven by a desire to “extend figuration into other realms” and offer a haptic as well as visual poetics of form. It includes a series of hand-made sculptural forms and largescale prints on paper. In common with a lot of her well-known work Maher began with a figure drawn from mythology and folklore. In this case it was a 12th century carving of a Mermaid from the neighbouring Kilcooly Abbey.
Maher describes the mermaid as a “hybrid creature that transgresses boundaries between human and animal” making it an exemplary figure for embodying many of the themes and motifs that frequently appear throughout her rich and exquisite oeuvre. As a site for projecting both human desire and fear the mermaid offers the promise that the body can become reconsidered and reconstituted through relationships with unfamiliar forms. It also serves as a powerful political and ethical metaphor for the general ways in which identities can be subsumed. In particular it refers to the contemporary conditions of female identity and the possibilities offered the female voice. It also reminds us that erotics and aesthetics are often inseparable.
Above is an excerpt from a text by Francis Halsall for Irish Arts Review