A fresh start, over and over
Visual ArtsA recent New Yorker piece referred to the plight of a man whose recall extends only to the last few minutes, writes Aidan Dunne.
Caught in this terrible state of perpetual arrival, he started to keep a diary, which consists chiefly of repeated statements that he is now, finally, fully conscious and aware.
Imagine that man is an artist and his name is Martin Creed who, judging by his exhibition at the Douglas Hyde Gallery, aspires to something very similar to that state, in art if not in life. To make your way through his show is a strange experience, partly because the work imparts a sense of continually starting anew. It's as though, for him, art happens in that tenuous open space between forgetting and starting again, with a blank slate.
Obviously that is not, in fact, what happens. Some strategic thought has gone into installing the show, which looks very well, co-ordinating the pieces in terms of scale and mass. The huge end wall is cut down to size by means of a diagonal grid of broad yellow lines. A tall stack of eight-by-four plywood sheets stands in the middle of the main space, as though awaiting the arrival of a carpenter, the top sheets becoming progressively more warped. And perhaps Douglas Hyde director John Hutchinson is making his own Creed- like gesture in scheduling this show as the first to benefit from the gallery's new lighting system. Creed is most famous as the artist who won the Turner Prize for his piece The lights going on and off which was, or is, exactly that.
An early work here sees him making small tasteful abstract studies using lined paper as a template. He was having an Agnes Martin moment, but the moment, like all others, passed. He resists the development of nuance and self-referentiality in the sense that they are normally understood in the body of an artist's work. It's as if he gives himself the freedom to do anything, anything at all, when the moment comes to make the next piece. But, since he does give himself that freedom, occasionally he grants himself permission for some level of consistence: neon mottos, for example, and an ongoing series recording people vomiting. Every piece is numbered, forming an ongoing inventory.
Often he'll decide on arbitrary rules of structure or procedure to determine the nature and scope of a work and, when he does, the results can seem paradoxically stifled and constrained. It's reasonable to ask how you can tell a good Martin Creed from a bad one, or whether one is better than another. Even with his disruptive methodology the answer is that some surely are better than others, by a long shot. His open air neon piece EVERYTHING IS GOING TO BE ALRIGHT struck a chord in a way that his Turner Prize-winning light-switch piece did not, for example. Neither is included in this Douglas Hyde show which, it has to be said, makes a very good case for itself, once you give it a chance or, to put it another way, accept that Creed is acting in good faith.
Perhaps because there is a Zen aspect to his whole approach, the accompanying show in Gallery 2 is particularly apposite. Boro features what might be described as accidental works of art. In Japan, Boro (meaning "ragged") textiles began life as worn, patchwork cotton fabrics used for clothing and bedding, out of necessity. Over time they have become collectors' items. Their aesthetic of impoverishment and humility is surprisingly effective.
YOU MAY ALREADY be familiar with Paul Mosse's work. If you are not, and equally if you are, his Green on Red show St Thomas's Legacy is well worth a visit. He makes constructions that fall somewhere between painting and sculpture. They hang on the wall but as often as not have an emphatically sculptural presence. He has invented his own way of working, a protracted, labour-intensive, amalgam of mark-making, construction, destruction and recycling. He begins with a blueprint of sorts, a drawing that maps out an intricate pattern and initiates a sequence of actions, usually involving sawing and drilling through manufactured wood panels until they are fretwork mazes, filling, nailing, gluing, injecting paint and paper, and the preservation and incorporation of off-cuts and sawdust along with other debris.
These procedures are arbitrary to a large extent, though many of them are analogical in the way they relate to the physical world. It is as if Mosse establishes models of geological, environmental and other processes, sets them in motion and sees them through, following the logical accidents of development and seeing what emerges. What emerges are usually dense, concentrated networks that have an air of being worlds unto themselves. They evoke maps, scale models, wiring diagrams, but always they incorporate detritus, decline and ruin.
Given the development of his work, which extends over many years, it's safe to say that he is not a late arrival at the great climate change banquet, but what he does can obviously be viewed in relation to environmental degradation.
St Thomas's Legacy is presumably one of doubt and scepticism. As it happens, Mosse has never looked more in tune with his own processes.
The show features several extraordinary pieces, including one that bears an unsettling resemblance to a human skull, and others that are a bit like stumbling across a lost city in the jungle: you can't quite believe what you're seeing.
Good things turn up at Monstertruck Gallery at 73 Francis Street, and 4mation II was one of them. It had a very short run, but it featured memorable work by four young artists all of whom are recent graduates of St Martin's Fine Art programme. Another connection they cited was a common interest in addressing the human presence. One could add their subtlety. Paula Naughton's photographic works presented us with a series of highly charged sites of absence, including scenes of dereliction and decay. Lisa Flynn's video and photographic pieces used images of an evanescent, uncanny female figure in a way that recalled - fruitfully - the late Francesca Woodman's ethereal work.
Bethany Murray's Avoided Spaces, in some of which she doubles as performer and photographer, allowed us spaces to populate with our own narratives. Samantha Mogelonsky's works, including an amazing manual typewriter sculpture, made visible and tangible the detailed, habitual patterns of manual work. Just ended, as well, is Jack Donovan's latest solo show at the Cross Gallery in Francis Street. His habitual themes - still life, Christian and mythological iconography, the Jacobite wars in Ireland and the comedy of relationships and sexual desire - were all treated with tremendous verve and wit in a series of excellent paintings.
•Martin Creed - Works. Plus: Boro Japanese patchwork textiles. Douglas Hyde Gallery, Trinity College Until Nov 28.
•St Thomas' Legacy - Paul Mosse. Green on Red Gallery Until Nov 17. 4mation II at Monstertruck Gallery (concluded)