Virtuoso displays from masters of their craft
Much of the work in ‘Five into Four’ inhabits an in-between zone where craft becomes artistic
Sara Flynn plays audaciously with that formal boundary in her thrown porcelain vessels. Flynn graduated from Cork’s Crawford College in 1998 and her work has since been acquired for several major collections at home and abroad.
She takes the idea of the technically perfect vessel and subverts it by “manipulating, pushing, pressing, cutting and reassembling freshly thrown forms to highlight movement and volume”.
Her feeling for form is crucial. Though they are deliberately distorted, the symmetrical, classical shapes still have to look right, and they do. Her subtly coloured glazes are outstanding.
Flynn says that initially she was inspired by “the curves and contours of the local landscape” and, close up, the roads, pathways and hedgerows.
Occasionally there are also body-like echoes in some of the shapes she creates, though she feels that, increasingly, her work emerges not from observation but from process. Still, associations with natural forms are inevitable.
‘Regularly irregular’ patterns
Lambe alludes directly to her interest in marine organisms and Nuala O’Donovan develops her incremental, constructed porcelain sculptures in a way that references growth in nature.
She is particularly interested in masses made up of repeated forms that are similar but vary slightly individually and, by extension, patterns that are consistent but “regularly irregular” in the way that most plants and many other organisms are.
Even her more geometric works are based on natural engineering as encountered in skeletal structures of radiolaria seen through the microscope. Works based on Australian banksia and teasel flowers are more overtly plant-like.
In Cóilín Ó Dubhghaill’s silver Ritual vessels, the “legs” give the bulbous forms an udder-like as much as a cauldron-like quality.
His squared gold-copper alloy containers, Ceo, are beautiful, though he is best known for circular vessels in unusual combinations of alloys.
He is fascinated by the range of colours and surfaces alloys can produce and has studied the subject intensively, including the completion of a doctorate in Japan in 2005.
To paraphrase Pye, craft is a word to start not just one but many arguments. One that habitually comes up is the art-craft question, with craft traditionally being consigned a lesser status.
While it’s true that some work clearly aspires to be craft, there is a curious, in-between zone, a zone in which craft makers find themselves in artistic territory, sometimes by design, sometimes by accident. It isn’t remotely a question of better or worse. Much of the work in Five into Four is in that zone.
Five into Four, featuring Sara Flynn, Liam Flynn, Frances Lambe, Nuala O’Donovan and Coilín Ó Dubhghail, is at Oliver Sears Gallery, 29 Molesworth Street, Dublin, until July 26th, oliversearsgallery.com