The Irish Times’ binary argumentation on art reached a new low in Gemma Tipton’s recent article ‘A man’s world? Sexism and gender issues in art’. Using such old guard conservatives as Graham Sewell and Georg Baselitz – with the combined grace of ‘Spitting Image’ – to argue a point about the sexist artworld is unhelpful to say the least (all that was missing was Roy ‘Chubby’ Brown to build a convincing, chauvinistic trio of pigs – see endnote response1). However, the article did suggest to me an opportunity to revisit two exhibitions (one currently running – the other recent) under the notion of the genderized artwork that was touched upon by Tipton:

    I could immediately tell which work was “male” and which wasn’t. It’s not an infallible talent, but I get it right often

    enough to realise that there are differences, both subtle and more evident, in the art made by men and women. It    

    becomes more obvious when you think about it: we perceive the world in part through our bodies and through the way

    the world responds to us.2

Both Tracy Hanna’s ‘Everything's moving below the surface’ (Saint Mary's Abbey, Dublin [ended November, 2013) and Mark Durkan’s ‘I’m astonished, wall, that you haven’t collapsed into ruins’ (The Lab, Dublin [runs till 25 January, 2014]) utilization of markedly similar creative methods, but with distinctly differential aesthetics, may suggest, but not define, some artistic traits of the genderized artwork.

I first experienced Tracy Hanna’s inventive and playful use of digital projectors in 2011 at SOMA Contemporary, Waterford (read review here). Back then, and still today, there was an element of process taking place right before your eyes in the gallery. In one instance a digital animation of a bouncing, silhouetted figure was projected onto a bed mattress, while in another a romantic film vignette of swimmers was refracted off one mirror onto an irregular, polygonal screen as an intimate back-projection. The small scale of the animated figures and three-dimensional objects on which the projections where thrown broke the Fourth Wall.

Not knowing of twelfth century Saint Mary’s Abbey – the Chapter House of which being the site of Hanna’s Dublin City Council commissioned artwork ‘Everything's moving below the surface’ (curated by Ruairí Ó Cuív and Clíodhna Shaffrey) – I was led down a narrow Dublin backstreet by my phone; a route that I had walked a thousand times before as an art student due to Evans Art Supplies being located on the same street. Discreetly tucked behind a gated entrance and stage-set building facade, the air grew cold the second I pulled over the heavy entrance door to step down a stone winder stairwell into a subterranean, gothic rib-vaulted cloister, that was blacked out by the artist by a method disguised by the sonorous, cavern-like environment, verging on Stygian. As eyes became slightly accustomed, Hanna’s installation came almost into view, and almost is where it stayed. Fumbling through the space, ridges of raw peat – “taken from sites where ancient bog bodies were found“ of “sacrificed kings” – came underfoot, buckling one’s path. Planted amidst a peat bed that drew a half-turn arc on the ancient stone floor, projected images filtered through glass disc lenses that seemed to transform into voluminous, trompe l’oeil crystal balls. Animated with an an iridescent grey/green vegetable biology, but animal organ action, the lens-projected images created an organicist system of malformed, or mutating life: Mary Shelley’s gothic sensibilities would approve. The additional sounds effects compounded the sense of life bubbling under the surface – sounding like air being released from sweaty bogland. As if expelled from the dark below, light nestled in the vaulted ceiling overhead – residues from what was refracted off the lenses.


11 DECEMBER_2013_

Adam from Eve


'Everything's moving below the surface' Saint Mary's Abbey, Dublin

14 - 23 November, 2013


'I'm astonished, wall, that you haven't collapsed into ruins', The Lab, Dublin               15 November, 2013  – 25 January, 2014


'Everything's moving below the surface'

Saint Mary's Abbey, Dublin

14 - 23 November, 2013

Photos: Michael Holly

Courtesy of the artist.



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