Ian Wieczorek: Cas McCarthy

Cas McCarthy, ‘Silent Land’.

A show that this year encompasses both the final graduates of the part-time BA in Art and Design programme and the first graduation show of the BA (Honours) in Fine Art, GMIT Mayo Campus Graduate Exhibition 2017 displays an impressive level of ambition and confidence. A graduate in the former category, Cas McCarthy presents Silent Land, four imposing large-scale works rooted deeply in the artist’s personal experience that are reflected through materials familiar to Irish rural life. McCarthy’s palette – polythene sheeting, fertiliser bags, potato sacks, bitumen and ‘galvanise’ (galvanised roofing sheets) – immediately roots the work in the rural vernacular, evoking the spirit and ethos of the Arte Povera movement and its associations with the past, locality and memory, and also the environmental concerns of the Land Art movement. These tropes coalesce in Silent Land 1, a grid created out of fertiliser and animal feed bags. The work is stratified into layers, with each bag bearing a roughly painted pictographic element – part of a pared-back vocabulary of symbols embodying the rural experience. Prominent are the words IN OUT, alluding to the reciprocity required for a sustainable existence, and a poignant repeatedly scrawled I love in a lower corner. Silent Land 2 is a more meditative work comprising potato sacks, polythene and spray paint, which finds an astute formal awareness in its elegiac presence, as does Silent Land 4, a work based on a tarpaulin from a tarmac truck. And finally Silent Land 3 presents an imposing and violent composition of polythene, rusted ‘galvanise’ and roughly applied household paint, a catastrophic Icarian descent emphasised by holes burnt in the plastic support. Epitomising McCarthy’s intuitive approach, this final work has an undeniably raw texture while retaining articulacy. In his seminal characterisation of Arte Povera, Germano Celant describes a movement concerned with contingency, events in which the artist becomes a guerrilla warrior. In this work McCarthy would appear to have taken up that mantle, reflecting a rural experience that is both universal and personal.

Written by Ian Wieczorek

Ian Wieczorek is an artist, curator and commentator based in County Mayo.