High grade art from this year’s graduate crop
Inventive, ambitious, engaged and curious, art students from various colleges have produced work as diverse as it is excellent
Graduate: Hannah Moore’s NGC 2289, Heavenly Body Nebula installation
Graduate: Declan Graham’s David Crow installation
Graduate: from Susan O’Leary’s triptych Tara, Three Times
Graduate: a detail of Amorphous III by Gwen Wilksinson
Graduate: a detail of Qualia by Lisa Burke
There are terrific things to see, and on occasion hear, at this year’s art-school graduate exhibitions. You never know what to expect.
At Dún Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology, for example, Declan Graham ushered visitors into a school counsellor’s office and into the mind of an imagined, troubled boy, David Crow. The walls were embellished with clusters of Crow’s densely worked drawings, in which he tries to make sense of inner and outer worlds that seem equally strange and disturbing to his mind. The counsellor’s notes lay on the desk. Graham’s bravura installation vividly conveyed the complexity and perplexity of mental life and the strategies used in attempts to understand and cope with it.
At Cork Institute of Technology’s Crawford College of Art and Design, Mark Buckeridge’s tremendous performance piece is a rich musical meditation on suicidal thoughts. Historically, many musicians have art-school backgrounds, and one can see Buckeridge heading that way, but at the same time he likes the license that the fine-art context allows, mingling composition, performance, audience involvement and theatrical spectacle without being pinned down as any one thing.
Also crossing boundaries, at Dún Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology (IADT), Janna Kemperman devised and filmed a powerful piece of physical dance theatre, Performer, about how identities are fashioned to fit social structures and conventions. Conversely, Michael Dignam’s compelling performative video installation at the National College of Art and Design features individuals exercising quirky personal, expressive skills in fairly brutalist urban, architectonic spaces.
Another NCAD sculpture graduate, Eva Richardson McCrea, ambitiously films sections of Incident at Antioch, a play by the French philosopher and theorist Alain Badiou. Badiou is a darling of cultural theorists, in the mould of Michel Foucault or Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari. Not so much a drama as an extremely solemn political dialectic, his play explores the possibility of generating a new political reality through revolution.
Drawing on the theoretical framework laid out in his best-known philosophical work, Being and Event, he has very specific ideas about what is possible politically, and how, and why. Richardson McCrea’s stylised treatment, with high production values, and implying links to Ireland’s recent history, inescapably recalls Gerard Byrne’s elaborate filmed re-enactments of cultural texts, while not being overshadowed by them.
It has become almost customary to berate graduate artists for not dealing with contemporary political or cultural events, or indeed with whatever else anyone feels they should be dealing with. This year it would be hard to make any particular charge stick. US military flights feeding through Shannon, the ban on cutting blanket bogs, surveillance technologies and practices, the legacy of the Magdalene laundries, global unrest: all are tackled very well, most of them repeatedly.
Identity, from every point of view, is perennially popular with young artists, in ways that range from the playful (Melissa Breen’s Cosplay photographs at IADT) to the historical (Deirdre McGing’s account of an Anglo-Irish family, at Dublin Institute of Technology) to the deadly earnest (Robert McCormack’s consideration of the African migrants who sell newspapers at traffic intersections, at DIT; Matthew Ashe at IADT; and Anna Dudek at CIT).