Boyle captures the new and noteworthy


VISUAL ART:Boyle Arts Festival Exhibition 2010 King House, Boyle

Until July 31

FOR ITS 21st exhibition, the Boyle Arts Festival invited all the artists represented in the Boyle Civic Art Collection to exhibit. The Civic Collection has grown in tandem with the annual shows and is substantial and impressive. Still, as Fergus Ahern notes in his brief introduction this year, many, though by no means all the artists responded. “Some artists were unable to participate due to other commitments,” he says, and presumably others were away or didn’t have an appropriate work to hand. But there’s a parallel show as well, featuring “new and emerging artists” – that’s artists new to Boyle, something that’s been a strong point of the shows.

Over the years something else has come to characterise Boyle, and that’s the desire among exhibiting artists to produce something new and noteworthy, rather than simply sending off something that’s been hanging around the storeroom. That still holds true. Many artists show outstanding new works.

Nick Miller’s energetic, even turbulent painting To the Metal Mannods to the spirit of Jack B Yeats without being in any way diminished by the association. Ronnie Hughes shows a terrific small painting, Bodice, a complicated network of angles and patterns delivered with aplomb. KK Godsee’s standard composition, an abstracted still life involving interlocking curvilinear forms, is a particularly good example of his work. TP Flanagan is one of the great Irish artists of the 20th century and Shining Stone, here, is a great river landscape, not in his favoured medium of watercolour but in acrylic.

Landscape tends to dominate most group exhibitions, and sure enough there is a great deal of excellent landscape work on view.

Helen Gaynor, Martin Gale, Joe Dunne, Mary Lohan, Blaise Smith, Keith Wilson, Bernadette Kiely, Neal Greig, Gwen O’Dowd and John Moore all excel. Add in abstract or semi-abstract works with links to landscape and you end up with a formidable role-call of contemporary artists.

That is, paintings by Joseph O’Connor, Mike Fitzharris, Padraig MacMiadhachain, Eddie Fitzgerald and Eamon Colman and Veronica Bolay whose Clew Bay, Summer’s Night, Co Mayois a series of sonorous horizontal bands of colour that recalls Rothko. More analytical approaches to landscape are evident in paintings by David Crone, Michael Caning and Blaise Drummond.

There is a substantial body of very good abstract painting and printmaking by Sheenagh Geoghegan, Makiko Nakamura, Fiona Joyce, Margaret O’Hagan, Sineád Ní Mhaonaigh, Bridget Flannery, Katherine Boucher Beug, Maria Simmonds-Gooding and Philip Flanagan. Also striking are Fionnuala D’Arcy’s Sixteen Paper Flowers, Barrie Cooke’s watercolour from a 2008 trip to South Africa and Con Kelleher’s photograph of a wet window in November.

Genieve Figgis’s small, whimsical portrait Bess is a gem, and Allyson Keehan’s two paintings are beautifully meditative reconsiderations of still life. Fergus Ahern, incidentally, says that he is going to bow out with this year’s exhibition. The personality and quality of the annual exhibitions, and the collection, have much to do with him and one wonders who could take his place.

Fading not Ending

Maggie Madden. Roscommon Arts Centre, Circular Road, Roscommon Until August 5

PRETTY MUCH every piece in Maggie Madden’s exhibition Fading not Endingat the Roscommon Arts Centre is made with painstaking care from waste and discarded materials.

Madden is from a rural background. She was brought up in Connemara and studied at Limerick School of Art and Design and NCAD. Her graduation installation was memorable, an endlessly proliferating mass of empty packaging, from tiny to large boxes, all interconnecting and extending upwards and outwards. There was a relentless quality to it, the feeling that it might continue forever. It brought to mind constructions both natural and manmade: the city as an invasive organism, perhaps.

Although she has taken part in several group shows and projects, this is her first solo. Presumably that’s because of the exceptionally slow, labour-intensive character of her work, even when it is not especially big. The largest piece in Fading not Endingis called Stack and is quite modest in scale. It recalls a jagged rock formation protruding from the sea and it definitely refers us to the contorted blocks of ice in Casper David Friedrich’s painting Sea of Ice (Arctic Shipwreck)and a closely related work by him, Rocky Reef on the Seashore.

Madden’s sculpture is composed of lots of decayed wood fragments, recovered from demolished buildings or along the seashore. From this meticulously organised mass of rotten wood she’s made a paradoxical and rather beautiful image of precarious endurance. That precarious quality comes into much of her work. In Another Unitshe makes an architectonic construction from a bunch of discarded laminate sample cards. Suspended on the wall, the structure brings to mind urban developments such as shanty towns.

A Tree-like Networkpursues a similar dialogue, with strands of fibre-optic cable tracing a network of internet connections, resembling and combined with the spindly structure of a desiccated plant stem. Landis a collage made from tiny fragments of foil on black paper. Madden’s work refers to a wealth of subject matter , to correspondences and differences between natural and synthetic structures and processes, to networks and systems, to consumerism, waste and decay. She works with a poet’s intuition for images charged with several layers and dimensions of meaning, inviting contemplation rather than dictating meaning. Among Irish artists, Kathy Prendergast is a good point of comparison.