Future proofing the arts
Pretty much everyone feels at home with a camera these days – it’s a means to an end. At DLIADT you could find everything from Monika Chmielarz’s moving exploration of her relationship with her father (using video interviews and archival photographs) to Henning Koestler’s intricately detailed, objective documentary photographs of the Liberties area, via Lynn Rothwell’s impeccably staged, cinematic celebrations of moments from everyday life.
Add searching autobiographical essays (Megan Gallagher), more conventional photo-essays (Diarmuid O’Riordan’s Erris, Amy Petherdridge’s Firefighters), romantic landscape (Jason Lowe), fashion, surrealism and a great deal else, all impressively well formulated, and you begin to get the picture.
At DIT, the projects were equally impressive and diverse.
Brendan Grimes’s survey of disused golf courses is a fascinating approach to contemporary landscape, as is Brian Cregan’s survey of our fondness for cordyline trees.
Rachel Hegarty looked at the personal histories behind individual tattoos, Ieva Baltaduonyte forensically examined personal experiences of exile and return and Lyndsey Putt ingeniously treated the ways women negotiate personal space for themselves in a specific public arena.
At LSAD, under the heading of painting, Patsy O’Brien’s photographs of the Irish Cement plant in Limerick excelled, as did Amy Hanrahan’s remarkable, prize-winning photo-essay on a family’s inner world, The Heart if Deceitful Above All Things.
Also noteworthy was Louise Corry’s work on taxis and Niamh J Ryan’s Domestic Space. Declan Casey, a sculptor whose work incorporates performance, showed a terrific, tragicomic video piece, River Walk.
In Cork, Rhianna Cox and Sarah Ryan used photography extremely well. Several NCAD media graduates made very ambitious works, including Brendan Fox, Jonah King and Hannah Mooney, as did Mike Heffernan at LSAD. We should see a great deal more of the works each of them exhibited.
Where do changing times leave the traditional departmental categories of painting, sculpture and printmaking?
The simple fact is that painting does not have the centrality it once enjoyed in art schools.
People can work effectively and pertinently without going near the discipline. Equally, it’s painful to see people paying it lip service without any real engagement or ability.
Yet, while sculpture in the traditional sense has all but disappeared into myriad forms of installation, video, performance and relational aesthetics, painting continually reinvents itself within broadly traditional terms. The younger generation of painters in Ireland is probably the best ever, in terms of breadth and quality, and this holds true for the graduates coming through now. Print media have likewise retained a certain core identity.
In terms of painting, at NCAD Amanda Doran, Genieve Figgis (an MA), Michael Fitzgerald, Sorcha Gorsuch, Joan Kirby and Helen O’Dea all impressed.
In Cork, Aaron Holten, Olivia Bridget O’Mahony (beautifully layered drawings) and Norma Walsh stood out in a generally good showing.
At LSAD Kinga Bireccka, Megan Gorman, Ben McKernan, Donal Sorohan all did very interesting work.
Cork, incidentally, retains its reputation for sculpture, with a number of very accomplished artists. All of these institutions have become highly competent at what they do. The trick will be to develop without undoing what has been achieved, and to create a context in which both students and staff can flourish. It’s one thing to pay lip service to the creative industries, it’s quite another to encourage real creativity.