The group show it goes on at TBG&S left me in something of a quandary. I could defer to general art-critic banter and talk my way around the work, describe in intimate detail the theories espoused by the artists and allocate a challenging aspect to the arrangement, all the while ignoring the fact that I did not like the exhibition. I could do this, but I won’t. The title of the show, ‘it goes on’, quotes the poet Robert Frost. The referencing of Frost, in an attempt to give credibility to the work, did little but acknowledge the lack thereof. The premise here is that the artist makes what they want to make, irrespective of the chaos surrounding them; this is a little unrealistic, especially when framing the work within the thinking of the realist Frost. In saying all that, some of the work featured managed to offer up valuable insights.
The collective ‘soft blonde moustache’ delivers the product of their artistic meets – a group of child-like sketches on left-over pieces of paper stuck tenuously and randomly upon a wall. Their work is playful, innocent, and has managed to access the unnerving world of the woman-child. If one approaches these works in the context of ‘it goes on’, we can imagine each sketch as the removal of self from the horrors of post-boom Dublin. Because of this, however, the work appears delusional, and like its own situation, about to become unstuck. If one ignores the lunatic-asylum premise, some pieces were well done and will provide a viable template for further exploration of each individual artist’s work. This is perhaps a good lesson in not always doing what your friends do.
Ivan Twohig’s installation was sleek; the referencing of origami is certainly of the zeigeist. The work was well done, the form echoing nature, the structure having tree-like associations. The falsity of representation and the Platonic futility of an art that mimics nature are referenced here. The cardboard blocks fit tightly together as if done by a well-trained mechano-expert. In fact, it was a well-trained computer program, but hey, I still liked it. I would try to ascribe in-depth theoretical attributes to the piece, but computers don’t have that capability yet, so I won’t bother.
James Merrigan’s installation provided a mutated post modern icon of torture. The intermittent flash of the small screen attached to the upper cross-bar visually stuttered the word NOW. The audio was the buzz of electronics that presciently proposed the word and reminded one of the electric chair. Merrigan’s installation added an interesting aspect to the spiritual referencing in Twohig’s origami: one nirvana, the other a dramatic way of reaching it. I also thought this piece would have worked extremely well in an isolated showing with soft blonde moustache – the terse expressionless structure against the anathema of soft blonde moustache’s suffocating frivolity.
Alan Butler’s piece The image factory stood oddly in isolation, yet its pertinent referencing of artistic clichés is amusing in the context of this show. The image factory is a painted diptych; one canvas is a painting of a multitude of people painting a portrait of the same man, the second canvas, hung alongside, is the portrait itself. Butler questions the prevalence of sameness in the wake of globalization and the audacity of mimesis. The work proffered the notion that artwork without the brave step-into-the-breach can be sterile; a bit of mess is always required.
Other works included were Ellis McDonald’s computer installation and Brendan Flaherty’s large painting. McDonald’s screen-roll on a rather antiquated PC looked…antiquated. A stream of well-known images roll up and over the screen in a discombobulated strip of net-art jump-started by the viewer’s approach. Each image has a moving water attachment – for want of a better description – which is supposed to add an animation element to the images we are used to seeing on the computer. Flaherty’s large painting includes rainbows and ill-defined humans, it may have worked elsewhere but is illogically placed here amongst the giant origami, girl-doodles and portraits.
Unfortunately for the artists shown here, there was little or no unity upon which to base a group show. If the only cohesive element is just that these artists all know each other, it isn’t enough. Certain works could have been placed together and created a thoughtful enterprise, yet the adding of a host of disparate elements let them all down. It goes on…it certainly does.
Hilary Murray is a writer and MA student at the National College of Art and Design, Dublin.