If you agree with the Bulgarian artist Nedkow Solakov, that “architecture is always first; you – the artist – are the second!”, then, Butler Gallery set within the grounds of Kilkenny Castle offers a few ambient and architectural challenges for the artist. In the five adjoining rooms linked by a doorless corridor, Magnhild Opdøl’s artworks foldout like a fairy tale pop-up book, one leaf of the story leading to the next.

Opdøl’s is known for her cutesy taxidermic sculptures of deer, lamb, birds, bunnies that make you go ‘AWW..!’ then ‘EWW..!’. Although the Norwegian artist has managed to stay the course between sentimentality and seriousness, in the past there seemed to be a little too much taxidermy and not enough escape from the ‘issue’ of taxidermy; what is generally thought of as a primeval, ritualistic tradition, that has more to do now with the sociological and psychological markers for the ignorant hick and serial killer. Steve Baker, author of The Postmodern Animal and the man who devised the term “botched taxidermy” [...] a “catch-all phrase for a variety of contemporary art practice that engages with the animal at some level or other” – observes that artists whose subject is the animal, often use taxidermy to invite aggression and criticality into what can be deemed as a little Hello Kitty, without the skinning, tanning, and mounting. At Butler Gallery, however, we get to see less taxidermy and more of what Opdøl refers to as the ‘stirring’ of narratives instead of storytelling: the latter device would only revert back to sentimentality.

It is between the cracks of Opdøl’s veneered reality that another reality peeks through. No better illustrated than in the artist’s installation of sixty-six vintage ‘Greeting From....’ postcards entitled We’re afraid to go home in the dark, wherein the artist performs a cheap and quick chiaroscuro by partly filling in the woodland backgrounds with a black marker, so the deer inhabitants are foregrounded. Each framed postcard abuts the next; creating a uniform backdrop that oozes the atmosphere of a nighttime forest, with the gnawing feeling that the Teddy Bears’ Picnic got out of hand.


The Art of Idleness

Magnhild Opdøl
‘point of no return’

Butler Gallery, Kilkenny

15 June  – 28 July, 2013.

©Magnhild Opdøl, We‘re afraid to go home in the dark, black marker on vintage postcards, 2013, courtesy of Butler Gallery.



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