*Thing, 2010,

purple embossed leather remnant,

77 x 84 cms

Image courtesy the artist.

Once the Irish were good at political and religious segregation: there actually existed a political left and a right, no centre, no grey area. We were also good at land demarcation: it seemed divisiveness was in the blood. But then capitalism entered the mix, with a smidgin of feminism, a dash of democracy, and the ‘anything-goes’ cherry of postmodernism, and ‘truth’ went a shade of grey. The stone walled fields to the West are quirky remnants of our obsession with land ownership. The current economic crisis is blamed on the banks, but it was our ingrained desire to possess good auld ‘blocks and mortar’ that was the genesis of this crisis.

Walking through Navan town centre en route to Solstice Arts Centre to see Alan Phelan’s solo show, ‘Cabbages and Things’, I notice the streets are static with, ironically enough, gobs of people for a midweek afternoon: it feels like a filmset between takes. One man wears plaster-splashed workwear, but he is just ‘hanging’, with false optimism―NO WORK HERE!

Phelan’s ‘Cabbages and Things’ is a temporal seesaw. The artist’s visual metaphors, built on the unusually textured back of one ugly superhero, and formed from the printed matter of our economically sunk era, slips between boyhood nostalgia and adult crisis.

Semantics is as good a place as any to start discussing Phelan’s textually layered work. Words can sometimes be powerful conduits for latent memories when constructed from sensory experience. The word ‘Cabbage’ was an unpalatable word for me as a kid: I can smell the sweaty steam (with a hint of BO) from the pressure cooker. It could be a rural colloquialism, but for those of you not from such a backwater, ‘cabbage skin’ refers to the unpleasant skin odour you might get from drinking too much the night before. Contextually apt, the loitering Navanites that I passed on the way to the arts centre could be described as ‘cabbaging’, combined with a tangible staleness in the air.





ALAN PHELAN_Cabbages and Things_Solstice Arts Centre_Navan_

October 30 – November 27_2010_

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