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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: August 9, 2011 @ 5:47 pm

    Short, sharp shocks from the KAF

    Laurence Mackin

    I have a real soft spot for the Kilkenny Arts Festival. Maybe it’s the atmosphere in the medieval Marble city; maybe it’s the magic of seeing (or indeed playing at) concerts in St Canice’s Cathedral; or maybe it’s all those lovely pints and fantastic conversations in O’Riada’s, Tynan’s or the Hole in the Wall bar.

    So far, I’ve only managed a fleeting visit at the weekend. After playing a gig with 3epkano, I managed to shirk any amp-carrying duty to hotfoot it to the Set Theatre for TrioVD’s explosive set (stop sniggering at the back, they are so-named because they formed on Valentine’s Day).

    It’s a long time since I’ve seen something this creative, inventive and confident. This is not easy, accessible music – I wouldn’t throw it into a simple jazz box, because it will only climb out and crawl towards the punk and funk cupboards. The musicianship and the communication is fluid and physical, and the pace is relentless. There’s theatre at play too, and Chris Bussey, Christophe de Bezenac and Chris Sharkey certainly know how to entertain a crowd, from ripping out the riffs at breakneck speed to stopping a song in its tracks and pulling cables out of guitars to stop and scratch their heads awhile. If you get half a chance to see this band, grab it with both hands.

    Sara Keating was covering the festival for this newspaper, and had much more opportunity to catch the opening highlights, while Michael Dervan has been getting to grips with the classical programme.

    One other thing I did manage to see was Jacco Olivier’s two large-scale works in the hushed foyer of the Kilkenny Courthouse. Both works are projections. Olivier films his paintings in close up and then tracks these shots in long loops, over which he layers other filmed and animated elements (also painted). This creates a lenticular effect of very slowly animated paintings that unfold in deeply dramatic fashion on these huge projected screen.

    Far out, dude

    There are two works, with different hues and flavours. The first is all greens and blues, earthy tones that give the feeling of a satellite skimming along the surface of the earth. Mountainey ridges appear and disappear, weather systems unfold in clusters of cloud, and dark pools of water shimmer and scroll in reflected light.

    The second piece is more epic in conception. At first it appears biological and atomic in scale, small details appearing to re-occur fractally, but the neutral tones give way to oranges and reds, and before you know it, the flight of fantasy has given way to full-blown solar systems, planets dancing across the screen’s star-studded back drop, lights winking on and off as planets turn on their errant axes. We tend to think of planets as spherical and smooth but Oliver’s rough blobs remind us that these are knotted, rutted lumps of earth and life.

    These are very beautiful and very effective pieces. At times I thought little insertions, such as shooting stars in the latter piece, were a bit clumsy and detracted from the overall effect, but what they do show is that the artist has a solid sense of humour, and a pure sense of wonder.

    Perhaps the best bit about these pieces is just how simple the concept is – which makes them all the more original. I spoke to several artists afterwards who were in a good-natured funk after seeing the work. Not because they disliked it (both said they are terrific pieces), but because they were suffering from the age-old artist’s lament: now why didn’t I think of that first?

    If you are planning a trip to Kilkenny, there’s plenty to take in for the closing weekend. On Thursday night, the hot ticket is for Agnes Obel – I’ve seen her play before and she is very good indeed, but for something a little more off-kilter Mari Kvien Brunvoll is a real treat and an extraordinary voice that really has to be heard to be believed. Request Programme is continuing it’s run, and two Northern Irish poets will be going head to head in St Canice’s when Paul Muldoon and Michael Longley share a stage on Saturday. I expect nothing less than a good old Nordie ruck.

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