Reviewed Symptoms of Fetishism, Paintings by Allyson Keehan and Frances Jung, Draíocht, Blanchardstown until Oct 14 (01-8852622)Sea Series Angie Grimes, The Bridge Gallery until Sept 30 (01-8729702)Fotofest 06, Draíocht until Oct 14
Symptoms of Fetishism at Draíocht brings together paintings by Allyson Keehan and Frances Jung. The psychoanalytical idea of a fetish is an object or part of the body that is, for the fetishist, exclusively invested with sexual desire, though the term is also used in a more general way to refer to an obsessive attraction to particular objects.
It's still about desire, but perhaps in a wider sense. Jung (appropriately named given the show's title) and Keehan have different approaches to painting but, as observed by Draíocht's visual art curator, Carissa Farrell, who suggested their joint venture, they complement each other usefully.
Keehan addresses herself to objects of desire in the form of shoes, bags, jewellery and perfume, so her paintings are essentially still lifes, although not quite. Often the nominal subjects are diminutive within the overall compositions, which are otherwise, and sometimes entirely, devoted to luxuriant swathes of drapery, usually considered as background and here promoted to centre-stage.
Most of the objects refer to body adornment. Self-image is also invoked in the form of the mirror included in one painting, and pleasure in the form of references to alcohol. More, though, the beautifully painted fabric is invested with a sensuality that suggests the absent body, an echo of its traditional role of accentuating by concealing.
There are bodies in some of Jung's paintings though again, her pictures are no more figure paintings per se than Keehan's are still lifes. The women in her compositions are at one remove, sourced from mass media imagery. Furthermore, their faces tends towards the pale blur of a glimpsed photographic reproduction, in a mode inaugurated by Gerhard Richter.
Here the suggestion is that their individuality is compromised and diluted by the generic roles they choose to play, or in which they are cast. They are, Jung implies, representations of sorts to begin with.
That is, we look at a picture and are inclined to ask: what it is a picture of? Presuming a neutral reality that is there to be depicted. Both Jung and Keehan start from the modified premise that we live, more than ever before, in a world of representation and commodification. Rather than aiming to depict things within the codes of generic convention they are, as with many contemporary painters and visual artists, interested in investigating the codes, in dismantling habitual modes of representation.
As titles such as Event indicate, Jung builds a cumulative sense of a world contrived to be seen. Yet it is shot through with a certain ennui, as though what we imagine we desire in myriad images of affluent lifestyles is something ultimately false and unsatisfying. Keehan personalises her imagery by identifying the owners of the objects she depicts, thus bringing them down to earth, so to speak, tying them to day-to-day experiences. It is a good, well-made exhibition that rewards careful attention.
To date, Angie Grimes's work usually springs from her impassioned engagement with a particular kind of environment, married to a corresponding exploration of the possibilities of her medium, which has been, predominantly, oil paint. So far, garden, cliff-top shoreline, and woodland have inspired a series of paintings, and this time around she returns to the shore, in several different regions of the country, for her Sea Series at the Bridge Gallery.
The difference is perhaps her enhanced confidence in using paint boldly in terms of both colour and texture. In fast-paced, flowing compositions, the rough and tumble of gestural marks reflects the immensity of the natural forces and materials she describes, as tides fling brimming masses of water against jagged walls of stone.
But the mood is not always so extreme: there are much more mellow scenes treated in as texturally rich a way. In these calmer moments, flushes of warm colour seep through the generally chill expanses of water and stone. Sun, Sea and Sand is, as the title suggests, a celebration of its subject, vibrant and sparkling.
At the moment, Draíocht also hosts the Sixth International Photo Festival Fotofest 06: Capture a Moment, organised by Fingal Co Council. The idea is that the show is open to amateur photographers from Fingal and also from abroad. In this it has more than succeeded, drawing some 242 entries from an impressive roll-call of locations, including the US and, notably, a number of Eastern European countries. This entry was whittled down drastically to a mere 20 images by a panel comprising photographers Tim Durham, Tom Jenner and Orla Murray.
Amateur photography has changed radically with the advent of digital photography and the internet. Given that, Fotofest is a surprisingly conventional exhibition in which a predictable propensity for visual jokes and puns features perhaps a little too prominently, and traditional pictorial genres are well represented. Yet the standard is high, not least in specialist areas: both Charlie McCartney's Arctic Tern, caught on the wing, and Kerekes Istvan's Preening Dipper are outstanding.
The overall winner, Magdalena Jelonkiewicz (who is Polish though based in Ireland for the past four years), shows a beautifully atmospheric image of a group of boys playing soccer on a dusty piece of ground in golden evening sunlight. It's a skilful study of movement and stillness, in which the joyful mobility of the players is accentuated by the strong verticals and horizontals of the overall composition.