Mark Swords

Tribuna | RHA Gallagher Gallery

Tribuna, the title for this exhibition of new works by Mark Swords, references the octagonal gallery in the Uffizi in Florence. A room where the Medici collection of High Renaissance paintings are displayed. The paintings in the Uffizi gallery are hung from floor to ceiling, the floor space sprinkled with neoclassical sculpture - the atmosphere is more overwhelming than rational.


Mark Swords’ strategy subverts the main gallery of the RHA and the conventional display its architecture offers. We enter a seemingly empty gallery and then discover a raw construction in the center of the space. Swords has built his own Tribuna, but not of marble and stone but of wooden studs, plaster boards and wooden buttresses for support. There is a reveal here, an insistence on the artifice of architecture and an awareness of spatial context when viewing art.


Inside, the artist offers a convention of sorts. The walls hold paintings hung in a salon style, but these walls are made of different forms of plaster board - the silver of insulation board, the pink of damp proofing, the dull grey of the regular product. The floor is also made from this material, the space is as familiar as it is unsettling.
The artist presents a range of paintings where technique, scale and content all vary and jostle for our attention. There is an anarchic nature to the display and we must work to access a point of engagement. Swords refers to ‘the suspension of disbelief” an act of the viewer to trust the artist’s authenticity no matter what the circumstance.


In writing about his response to Alan Garland’s film Ex Machina (2014) Swords remarks on the workstation of the robot inventor having several monitors and a wall completely covered with post-it notes. He discovered a caption underneath an image of this wall that reads “when the accumulation of his ideas are taken together they make up his larger observations”.

Mark Swords’ work evokes in the active viewer, an awareness and attention to all of the parts of the presentation and from their sum to engage and enjoy the communion with the art and the artist.


Text written by Patrick Murphy, Director of RHA

26 November 2021