Half Empty/ Half Full


26 April - 22 June_

Project Arts Centre_Dublin_

Excuse the following preamble but these were the thoughts and criticisms I had in anticipation of Niamh O’Malley’s solo exhibition ‘Garden‘ at Project Arts Centre, Dublin.

The Dublin art scene has a tendency of late to get saturated with the same artists solo exhibiting at the same commercial and public art spaces with (in some cases) only six-month intervals between exhibits. Is this another latent side-effect of the economic crisis? No room for polarised opinion or taste in neither politics nor art: just flatline consensus? Can private and public art institutions only afford to lazily follow local trends? Perhaps better scouting is needed, not just a quick dash to the neighbouring art gallery or arts centre to help those decide their borrowed taste for the coming year. It cannot be the case that directors and curators are in collective agreement about what shows are necessary and what artists are deserved of their place in the spotlight at the exact same moment and place in time. It could have more to do with directors and curators being on trend (which every accomplished art professional should be!) than coincidence. There is one good excuse, however, as all art spaces, whether private or public, plan their visual art programme years in advance, and it is quite possible (rather than believable) that an artist under the local radar is coincidently selected to solo exhibit twice in one year at two different spaces in one city. Especially when you consider the small art scene and the visibility that an artist on a vertical trajectory gets in one fell swoop when plucked from the herd. If that is the case shouldn’t the onus be on the artist to really consider what it means for them to produce work in such quick succession in the one city? For the other artists in the community this causes no small amount of begrudgery: something we don’t need anymore of, thank you! More importantly, it leaves artists who are doing the rounds in such a fast-track manner open to criticism, as observers can compare, contrast and judge the artist’s work tied or untied from art market strings. The variation of this trend that usually produces the most intriguing results is when a gallery represented artist shows outside of their usual haunt, which can go one of two ways: the artist sticks to their guns and repeats what they do on their home turf, or they try something out of their norm, challenging themselves, their audience, and their gallerist. What invariably gets cut first is the supplementary wall drawings for those artists who work in video and sculpture, while ‘wall artists’ such as painters go Gung-Ho, conceptualising what was a strict formalism in their usual gallery stable. However, some artists are more suited to being directed, others curated, and the few exiled stragglers are best left to their own devices.

As mentioned, these observations came to the surface in excited anticipation of Niamh O’Malley’s solo exhibition Garden’ at Project Arts Centre. Not because O‘Malley is one of those artists that hops, skips, and jumps from private-to-public venue—the exact opposite is the case. Even though I saw her work for the first time outside of Green on Red Gallery at Dublin Contemporary (2011), followed by eva International (2012), this was her first solo show at a significant public venue in the heart of Dublin since exhibiting at The Hugh Lane in 2007.




Foreground: Window (2013)

glass, birch plywood, oak, oil paint.

Background: Garden (2013)

dual channel HD video installation, silent.

Project Arts Centre, Dublin, 2013.

Image by Ros Kavanagh.

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