Prior to the 28/3/2014 opening of Mark Swords’ solo exhibition at Kevin Kavanagh Gallery, Dublin, the artist sent two emails on the 17/2/ and 10/3/. The emails contained links to textual/visual presentations on Swords’ website 2, that considered the term ‘hinterland’. With references to George Orwell’s Animal Farm (1945) and Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa's The Leopard (1958), what came across from the artist’s notations – other than the political pendulum swing from left-to-right left wing ideology performed in both novels – is Truth is found in the topography of the ‘hinterland’. Truth, in this edited context, being something that is intentionally obscured by political officialdom. In other words, the scrub behind the polished veneer of civilization is where Truth exists. For Hegel and Badiou, Truth can only serve a purpose at the fall of civilization, when Minerva’s Owl takes flight at dusk. Then, and only then, can Truth achieve a renewed politics to guide a refreshed body-politic. (Back to these philosophical musings regarding Truth in the concluding paragraphs).

Speaking of Truth, on entering Kevin Kavanagh Gallery, a folded screen zig-zags perpendicular to the wall – perhaps concealing some lie. Lacking any significant aesthetic information face-on, towards the back the object is more generous. Made up of five panels, each panel is composed of five painted canvases – similarly abstract – that form a uniform whole of decorative browns and peachy/pink pastels towards the front. The screen displays weight rather than functional elegance. It also chronologically flips the hypermodernic page back to turn of the nineteenth century modernism, when the folded screen was a kind of oriental fetish or colonial inheritance for many Western artists of the time. Jean Baptiste Camille Corot, Charles Daubigny, Paul Cézanne, James MacNeil Whistler, Pierre Bonnard, Edouard Vuillard and Paul Klee all had a go expanding their walled horizons via the folded screen.

Ironically, Swords’ paintings are more surefooted floating on the gallery wall than his aesthetic leaps onto the gallery floor. Alongside the folded screen, Window is composed of Swords’ signature lozenges and triangles, that describe a latticework of ultramarine/red tracery, with one, and only one, diagonal stroke of pure red highlighting an angle of lattice against a motley backdrop. Hiding its modesty behind the folded screen, From Where I am From implies autobiography. Perhaps it’s the rural idyll that meets the artist’s gaze everyday en route to his studio; or, the accumulative aesthetic essence of where Swords calls home, or hinterland. Whatever its inspirational spring, the painting’s silvery green and ochre blocks of foliage are held in place – on the extreme vertical edges of the canvas – by almost unnoticeable fingertip corners, suggestive of concrete posts from a window or open door. The lighted, patched, or coloured edge is a repeated and intentional hinterland in Swords’ painted aesthetic.

12 April_2014_

To the Cosmopolitan in the Scrub – Cheers!


‘The Hinterlands’

Kevin Kavanagh Gallery, Dublin

28 March – 26 April, 2014

...recent years have seen the upsurge in the number of artists for whom the condition of twinkling enigma appears not only desirable but pretty much the whole point. (Martin Herbert, The Uncertainty Principle)1

(starting from foreground):

-Screen, acrylic, fabrics and wood, 2014

-What Remains


oil on canvas


Kevin Kavanagh Gallery, Dublin

Photo: Peter Rowen

Courtesy of the artist and gallery.



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