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  •  A solo show of new work by Margaret Corcoran, Emergence will open on Sept 30th at 7.30pm 

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Island Living
Island Living is an exhibition of new paintings by Aidan Crotty, Beatrice O'Connell, Paula Pohli, Peter Burns, Jennifer Cunningham and Ann Quinn. Show opens on Saturday April 8th at 7.30 and runs for two weeks until Friday 21st, Wed to Sat 1-6pm and any time outside of that by appointment, (087) 7912337

This show came about when the gallery's program was reshuffled and a window opened in the diary. Group shows can be like jumble sales; mixemgatherems of disparate works taken from artists with little common ground.  I invited these artists at short notice, without any curatorial premise or idea, but whose work I intuitively felt would hang together well, both thematically and visually.




 
So over the last few weeks as the works arrived and intermingled in the gallery a theme began to emerge.  The idea of an Island and in particular, Ireland as a small wet, moss covered rock at the edge of a continent.  The show presents the individual in isolation, in solitude.  Peter Burns’ figures are alone in the vast epic phantasmagoria which he creates for them and from which he then stands back.  Ann Quinn, hides in her work like a nature photographer waiting to get the perfect shot, the artist alone in her own world into which she drags us unwittingly.
Given their faithful and meticulous rendering, Paula Pohli's egg tempera paintings could be consigned to the genre of vintage ornithology and etymology illustrations.  However, in her piece, Little Fellow, for example, the character of a lonely island dweller is conjured by an expression which stops shy of sentimentality and offers a true and intimate portrait.  It suggests an empathic connection between the artist and her subject. 
Storm Frank is a frank testament to the storm, a monument, isolated from its surrounding, floating on a white page, proof that it happened, the dead tree a classic symbol of nature's destruction, a witty wink at our mortality and our human insignificance. Throughout Pohli’s work in this show we find winter scenes of isolation; birds eking out their survival; the boreen devoid of human life, wild grasses devouring its tarmac, a cool glimpse by Pohli at the way in which nature, in the end reclaims us.
Beatrice O'Connell's Cherish the Children depicts a dormitory in an orphanage in which infants sleep in cots and nuns in white garb tend to them.  It is entitled Cherish the Children II (Tuam) and it references the Galway town, in which unspeakable atrocities lay buried for decades.  Now, years later Irish society faces the inevitable purge, so vivid are the daily depictions unbottled in our media, and so raw.  Memories of abandonment, depravity and cruelty are flooding out and so the dark irony implicit in the notion of nuns "cherishing" children is deliberate on the part of the artist, perhaps heavy handed in a time when Tuam is nothing but an open grave, an opened tomb.
O'Connell's painting complicates all of that.  The scene is serene.  The nuns appear angelic.  The babies appear to be sleeping.  The scene looks "heavenly".  A nostalgic, solemn atmosphere prevails.  The sense of the scene as a memory conjured is heightened by the focus which is murky and remote: an otherworldly island. The figures though indistinct are gentle in their expression, isolated from one another, uniformed in an assembly line of little cots. 
Aidan Crotty's work reflects warmly on rural Ireland. His beautiful paintings observe innocuous signs time passing in small town Ireland. "The old niteclub" sign could be in any market town.  It is just a decrepit sign about to fall down.  But thirty years ago it was doubtless a swinging spot. The piece conjures a social scene that is quaint to us now: a venue frequented by several generations of country people who arrived in small towns by the busload and clambered for drinks to a bar four people deep.  Crotty's work quietly contemplates small town rural Ireland, and his pieces pay sensitive homage to past generations of Islanders who lived and breathed there.
Ann Quinn's work is magical.  It is full of familiar imagery in unfamiliar terrain. In Temporal Terrain a cow stares at the viewer.  It is dusk, a time when the fading light just about gives way for a brief time to the vibrancies hidden in the daytime glare.  In Rooster Moment, the artist faithfully depicts a lone cockerel in a field.  We recognize the scene at once, and don't tend to think anything odd of the surrounding from which this animal surveys us, which could be the ocean floor or the surface of another planet. Quinn transports us to her fantasyland but makes us think we never left home.
Jennifer Cunningham’s practice is anchored within the parameters of self and becoming self-aware. It also deals with our surroundings, the notion of ‘das unheimlich’ or the uncanny and how familiar environments appear strange to us.  Central to her work is an ongoing exploration of identity, liminal space and personal subjectivity. Cuninghams work in this show engages directly with the notion of Island Living, having made these works on residence in Innislacken.
 

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