Gary Coyle: Hello Darkness

31 May 2012

“ It might be better to stop talking about the sublime completely seeing that the term has been corrupted beyond recognition by the mumbo jumbo of the high priests of art religion” Theodore Adorno.


Hello Darkness has taken up where Gary Coyle last left off. Returning to familiar territory  (South County Dublin) or in Coyle’s case terroir – a theme he has explored consistently over the past decade, throughout various exhibitions  (Ad Marginem (1999), Death In Dun Laoghaire(2005), Southside Gothic (2007)  At Sea (2010) – and through various media, -including photography, drawing and spoken word performance).

Coyle examines various aspects of The Gothic, Sublime’s trashier more unstable younger relation, which he has filtered through his neighbourhood, thus providing the setting for most of this exhibition.


 “One of the enduring characteristics of the gothic can be found in its emphasis, on fragmentation, inconsistent narratives and an excess of morphological, disjoined and decentralized forms & shapes”.[1] Digitally morphed heads are proliferating in the sky of Algae Bloom, viruses sweep through, Twilight Forest. The Final Final Girl (a modern day Cassandra) is a figure Coyle has used before. She is making what we hope is her last appearance. She has endured untold disasters, come back from the brink to tell us her news, and it’s not good.


The inconsistent narratives are an element we also catch sight of within the drawing of the hooded, track suited figure (another re-occurring character who featured prominently in previous drawings). Part Friedrich’s poet visionary – eavesdropping on the end of the world / part Dublin Skobie – up to no good. Illustrating that classic trope of The Gothic, the divided self, hero/villain, like Philip Gustons hooded KKK men. This duality is taken up again in The Bridge which sees the Berkowitz quote rendered into binary text, (one of the fundamental building blocks of our modern world,)  imbedded into the drawing of the Stillorgan Dual Carriage.


Another key tenet of The Gothic is the conflict between nature & man. There is a tension here which is played out in various ways throughout the exhibition. We see this in the aforementioned Twilight Forest, The Bridge or in the ubiquitous screen which has taken over the Final Final Girl. In all of these drawings the natural has largely withdrawn and been replaced by the synthetic, a place where nature is experienced as an image or via a screen. A world in which according to Thomas Mc Elvilly, “ The techno sublime, the culmination of developments in capitalist globalisation will be the terror sublime of the next 50 years”.[2]

Scattered throughout the exhibition are several more straightforward drawings. These attempt to examine the psycho geography of places, which have significance for the artist such as Moran Park, and The Stillorgan Dual Carriage Way. Locations in which Coyle has returned to again and again.


So far so serious yet at the same time The Gothic has always been playful – with its tongue firmly stuck in its cheek, “Almost all art that could be called gothic has an ironic edge, its aware of the absurdity of its position.”[3]


In Haunted, a ghost? – a figure with a sheet over its head – is posed against a gloomy Southside landscape. Registered Trade Mark  mocks the artists gloomy preoccupations. In the drawing Arrggh, a man leaping off a high building, exhausted by the past decades endless rethreading of minutia of high modernism, whose investigation in some quarters has become almost holy writ.


“Don’t think since you haven’t heard from me for a while that I went to sleep. No, rather, I am still here. Like a spirit roaming the night. Thirsty, hungry, seldom stopping to rest, anxious to please…”.   David Berkowitz, Son of Sam


[1] Christoph Grunenberg. Gothic: Transmutations of Horror in late 20th Century Art.. (MIT Press 1997) p 169.

[2] Thomas McEvilley. Turned upside-down & Torn apart. Sticky Sublime Edited Bill Beckley, (Allworth Press, 2001) p75

[3] Jerry Saltz, Modern Gothic 2004, Village Voice, The Gothic, Edited Gilda Williams, (Whitechapel London, MIT Press 2007) p 48