Ramon Kassam: Siuán Ní Dhochartaigh
Somewhere between gallery and archival space, NCAD painting department student Siuán Ní Dhochartaigh simulates her own distinctive artistic universe. In so doing she addresses conditions of practice, and creates platforms of visibility in a really thoughtful and witty degree show Gallery 287. In the space the artist displays archives, works and the activities of Gallery 287’s supposed affiliated artists, Maureen Horgan, Deirdre Ní Argáin and Ní Dhochartaigh herself. Playfully there is also a little peephole in one of the walls that allows you to peer into a space behind, labeled as ‘Gallery 287 studios’.
In the main space, the staged history of a private domestic gallery that has been in use since 1976 is reflected through various items, such as artworks attributed to each of the artists, photographs, documentation and texts (including doctored art publications). Of the artworks attributed to the artists, a highlight for me was the video on a small monitor Eating Chinese Food and Watching Trisha Paytas on Youtube, with an accompanying clip of Ní Dhochartaigh being interviewed projected on an adjacent wall of boxes. The video documents her doing exactly what the title suggests, while sitting in bed, in the interview she performs the role of herself as an established artist talking about the making of the video work. In it she unpacks the video with such insight that it could easily hold its own as a stand alone work outside the rich fabricated universe of the gallery she has created. Documents relating to the background and practice of the two other affiliated artists, Maureen Horgan and Deirdre Ní Argáin, are just as intriguing. Horgan the apparent founder of 287 declared her bathroom a work of art, images of which are projected onto another wall of boxes. Ní Argáin is represented by a sequence of photographs that, we are told, sets out to “explore the occupation of a room within the conditions of a body”. To further revise the history of this series of photographs, the project turns up again in an altered EVA 85 catalogue placed on a table with other convincing archival materials relating to Gallery 287, such as two sets of paper files with images of archived paintings, ‘Paintings 2015-17” and ‘Paintings 2003 & Unknown’. It took a minute to register, but many of these were the same paintings already glimpsed through the peephole, adding yet another captivating layer to what was already a dense and fascinating show.
Such was the ingenuity of these presentations, the specificity of their histories and seeming plausibility of the artworks and characters brought together in Siuán Ní Dhochartaigh’s degree show, it is hard to tell at times if elements are fictional, real or even somewhere in between. Having seen three VR works by MFA students just prior to my visit to the BA painting department, Ní Dhochartaigh’s degree show reminded me that, regardless of technology used, in essence all art proposes some form of virtual or alternate realities. The virtual world which Gallery 287 absorbed me into was immersive, topical, funny and engaging.