Mounting the steps towards The Dock, I was confronted by a multitude of ambiguous portraits which effectively activated the glass-fronted foyer. With feelings of anticipation, I crossed the threshold, receptive to this declaration that graduate artists had, as of now, occupied the building. Kerry Cunnigham’s portraits - obscured, reductive and reproducible – were further manifested as a singular image in a large-scale projection onto the mezzanine wall above the staircase, although the daylight diminished its cinematic impact. With facial recognition rendered alarmingly irrelevant, this subversion of the portraiture canon speaks more in the vernacular of online culture, commenting on voyeurism, profile pictures as networked meta-data, and the filters through which the self is concealed from the outside world, with the prospect of gratification becoming ever distant. Although rudimentary in some aspects of its execution, the artworks (particularly the receipts as counter-portraits) signify an engagement with sophisticated current discourse (data-mining, surveillance, consumption) revealing areas that the artist should synthesise further and make her own.

Continuing left along the mezzanine, photographic works of wild animals situated within domestic interiors proved visually striking. Pitched as a journey into the absurd, Kevin Skinnader’s experimental photography represents a departure from painting which is rather successful. A higher quality print finish with greater colour saturation would do greater justice to these quirky, appealing compositions, providing an arena for further playful juxtaposition that seems less attainable within his realist painting.

Entering Gallery 2, I paused to take in the view: A panoramic of experimental, inter-disciplinary work, coupled with some carefully considered yet playful curation, attested to the reasons why the ‘degree-show time of year’ is so rewarding for the art audience. A ceiling-to-floor textile work by Melissa Smith gracefully commanded the space, providing a point of navigation from which to circulate the rest of the artworks. Monumental presence shifted to a more intimate reading, when tiny drawings concealed within the threads of the crochet work became visible. Supported by a tangible interaction with some competent painting, the artist’s body of work was one of the most professional exhibits of the group show, and could be happily incarnated within any contemporary art space.

Executed with a muted palette, and received as a cohesive series of durational studies, Margaret McKenna’s ink drawings provided a moment of calm reflection in an active space. Due to the artist's command of the medium and an awareness of composition, her investigations of flora and fauna of the ocean provided more than just still life studies of organic detritus. The use of antique pen nibs and ink (as a gesture towards liquidity or fluidity) provide an insight into more traditional functions of drawing as documentation and archive; methodologies which could be consolidated in future work, supplemented by discourse surrounding the museum aesthetic.

Amy Keeley’s concise artist’s statement describes her encounter with some fundamental ongoing issues within drawing discourse. Can a methodology (i.e a method of research, a process of doing) become the art object (i.e the finished product)? In this case, the work offered access to both. In providing an assemblage of architectural studies – drawing, collage and photographic works – secured haphazardly in place with brown-tape, strewn across two walls of a corner (which included a closed door) the viewer reads a work in progress, which in turn becomes an art object – a monument, perhaps, to rumination. The large textile and paper collage which was displayed to the left, further blurred the boundaries between drawing as a noun or a verb, and was effective in this regard.

Vibrant paintings of last year’s London riots by Maelisa Regan provided an insight into production trends in contemporary painting. The street culture aesthetic has surfaced in other degree shows this year, strangely enough in the work of other female painters. Based on imagery extracted from the internet, the work alludes to the dubious role of online media platforms in circulating news reportage, including the use of social networking sites in the orchestration and mobilisation of social dissent. More work in the technical and art-historical aspects of painting would further enhance the artist’s inquiry.

Geraldine Tighe’s robust, almost masculine ‘Regrowth’, was a sculptural assemblage of manually rendered driftwood and other found materials, which provided a meditation on the natural landscape. The work was accompanied by a well written statement, but a little editing would be of future benefit. Generally the artist’s statement requires a delicate balance between clarification and concealment, and often artists do themselves a dis-service by over-explaining, or forcing a conceptual framework onto their work, either limiting its reception or over-generalising its intent. For process driven work, it is often better to let the material qualities of the work speak for itself, sparsely framed with some cognitive insight, in the form of drawings or a minimal commentary.

In the absence of other artworks, I can only judge Pamela Byrne’s body of work on the basis of one oil painting entitled ‘Corvids’, which I read as a reference to birds. Certainly crows, as a symbol of folk-lore, superstition and mythology could be the subject of a significant body of work, but in this artwork any reference to birds has been obscured by equine hooves and some technically problematic painting. Perhaps oil paint is too cumbersome, and a more agile, water-based medium utilised in small -scale studies on paper could prove liberating for the artist, so that the essence of this potentially sophisticated and unique inquiry might be revealed and consolidated.

LEFT: Kerry Cunningham, Installation View, The Foyer, Sligo I.T.; courtesy of the author.

RIGHT:Melissa Smith, Cellular Structure, oil on canvas; courtesy of the artist.




As Of Now

Sligo I.T Fine Art Graduate Show 2012

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