Mark Garry’s show of many threads
The artist’s exhibition at Sligo’s Model incorporates thread installations, photographs, film and a musical collaboration featuring Cillian Murphy
An installation built up from tightly spaced bands of coloured thread from Mark Garry’s exhibition A Winter Light at Sligo’s Model gallery.
Work from Mark Garry’s exhibition A Winter Light at Sligo’s Model gallery
Cillian Murphy, one of the musicians uniting in Sligo this week to develop an album-length body of work in just four days
The artist Mark Garry is most closely identified with his thread drawings: fragile, painstakingly made installations built up from tightly spaced bands of coloured thread. Spanning gallery interiors, they can virtually disappear into the background, only to burst into kaleidoscopic life when touched by the light. You’ll find several at the Model in Sligo, where Garry, as artist in residence, has made an exhibition, A Winter Light , partly based on a response to the gallery’s Niland Collection.
Nora Niland was Sligo county librarian from 1945. Almost single-handedly, she set about establishing a collection of work by artists with links to the region, including Jack B Yeats and his father, John. From its beginnings in 1959, the collection has grown to include fine pieces by Paul Henry, Mary Swanzy and many others.
“I’d never researched it in any detail before,” says Garry. His exploration left him with two ideas that inform the work he is showing. “One is class. Looking back, you get the sense that only a certain layer of society has a voice in art. So you think of what’s not there, who’s not heard or documented. The other idea is that, with so much work made prior to or following independence, I thought of the kind of Ireland people at the time had in mind, and how we, as citizens, could have been more careful, more considerate of the country we were making.”
Photographs and sadness
Among the works he shows is a series of photographs of the moon and streetlights in Sligo. They are muted images, filtered through heavy mist. There’s a sadness, a sense of loneliness and estrangement to them. He agrees with that reading. It reflects, he suggests, a lack of consideration, on all sorts of levels, from the political to the personal, an ongoing failing in Ireland. It’s clear that in his own work he aims for care, attentiveness and patience. Any virtuosity – and there is often a level of virtuosity in what he does, not least in his beautiful basswood carvings of blue-eyed grass – is lightly worn.
“There’s no smoke and mirrors,” he says. “I like it that people can see how things are made.”
For the most part they are made very slowly: each pin, each strand of thread, is fixed by hand. It’s incremental, and often social, involving working co-operatively with others.
“I think the fact that you can see what’s involved, that a lot of labour has gone into it and that it is fragile, affects how people treat it,” he says. The work invites care, like the canary in a wooden cage that shares a room with silk-screened images of singer Karen Dalton. “She was a musician in Greenwich Village in the 1960s. Bob Dylan described her as his favourite singer at the time. But she was troubled, she had a difficult life, and she didn’t manage to do all she should have. I had this idea of the song of the canary with the silenced singer.”