Art in Focus – Eva Rothschild with her work Amphi

Ireland’s show at the Venice Biennale reflects an uneasy world

Eva Rothschild with her sculpture Amphi (resin, fibreglass, wood, spray paint, dimensions variable), 2019 Photograph: Robert Glowacki

Eva Rothschild with her sculpture Amphi (resin, fibreglass, wood, spray paint, dimensions variable), 2019 Photograph: Robert Glowacki

 

 What is it? Artist Eva Rothschild with her work Amphi. It is a sculptural installation that makes up part of her exhibition The Shrinking Universe at the Venice Biennale.

How was it done? Rothschild is known for her use of both traditional sculptural materials such as bronze with more contemporary, synthetic alternatives, often bridging the divide between fine art and utilitarian construction, jesmonite being one notable example. Amphi, though, which resembles a heap of blocks of cast concrete embellished with graffiti, is described as being made from resin, fibreglass, wood and spray paint. The surfaces are scuffed and scraped, and stained with paint marks. Rothschild may have had in mind a dismantled barricade, especially given the uneasy vibe of her exhibition as a whole. Visitors are able to climb on to Amphi, which offers a view of the other three works in the show.

Where can I see it? The Shrinking Universe represents Ireland at the Venice Biennale 2019, May You Live In Interesting Times. The Irish Pavilion, curated by Mary Cremin, is in the Arsenale (one of the two main venues of the Biennale, with the Giardini). Publicity usually peaks around the time of the opening of the Biennale back in May, but the entire, vast exhibition, basically a world survey of contemporary art, runs throughout the summer and into the autumn, until November 24th. And it is far more pleasant to visit once the art world throng that flocks to the opening has dispersed. If the heat of August seems a bit daunting, end-of-season Venice is usually quieter, calmer, cooler and perhaps a little more melancholy – an essential aspect of the city’s appeal. Entrance to La Biennale de Venezia is €25, but “Plus” tickets, at €35, allow multiple visits to the venues over three days, probably a necessity if you plan on getting an overall view. (labiennale.org)

Is it a typical work by the artist? Amphi is typical, in the sense of the same but different. Rothschild rarely duplicates and her approach is usually guided by the nature of the venue and the possibilities it presents. She is highly regarded for her ability to deliver ambitious, challenging installations that engage energetically with whatever the architectural setting may be. The four pieces in The Shrinking Universe make up one coherent environmental installation. They map out a terrain of unease and uncertainty. In fact, the exhibition could be read as a response to the current historical moment. Not that it is overtly symbolic, but it does seem to evoke a world of abrasive discord, shrinking horizons and obstacles. Born in Dublin though long resident in London, where she runs a busy studio, Rothschild has in the past commented on the tone of her work, pointing to the way its minimalist, formal qualities are always undercut by irrational, magical impulses. Also, she finds the root of this feeling lies deeper than that past two decades, specifically in the demise of the counter-cultural potential of the 1960s and 1970s.

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