‘The Pinking’

Ruth E.Lyons

Kevin Kavanagh Gallery, Dublin

8 – 30 AUGUST, 2014

Ruth E. Lyons' art is a balancing act between subject and matter. Her subject is too big to contain in a mere sentence here. When push comes to shove, however, Lyons does touch upon the spirit and history of the Irish landscape by constructing psychical and physical landmarks in the wake of the pixellated storm-cloud of technological progress. It's a bit like a child flying a kite in stratospheric winds – either the cord breaks from the exertion, or the child gets swept away in the cosmic ether. But, somehow, Lyons succeeds in containing what could be perceived as metaphysical hot air with sheer physical endeavour. Scale, weight, motion, light and no small amount of muscle being the anchors for her expression.

Island hopping, a lighthouse beacon, water towers, wetsuits, Lyons' ongoing fabrication of her "aquaculture"1  as a solo artist and one half of The Good Hatchery 2  has cumulatively grown to Sims-like proportions over the last five years. On the day of visiting the artist's solo exhibition 'The Pinking' at Kevin Kavanagh Gallery, Dublin, rain was bucketing from the grey heavens. Once inside the door the sound of diverted rainwater could be heard gurgling in some blind gutter outside. Lyons' aquaculture aside, Kevin Kavanagh Gallery was already awash with, well, water, before the artist's five watercolours, one C-print and a vertiginous installation were even considered.

The title of the exhibition, 'The Pinking', sounds like the sexual coming of age of the daughters of some island tribe. Sex and gender is immediately implied by the colour pink. Over the course of the twentieth century pink was culturally typecast as feminine by the clothing industry. Hard to fathom that the recommended colour for infant boys Pre-World War I was "stronger" pink. While for girls, a "sweeter" blue.3  Chroma-profiling also bridges philosophy. Jacques Derrida's 'deconstruction' theory was described by literary theorist Geoffrey Hartman as 'pornosophy' or 'pinking philosophy': "To paint philosophy pink means to highlight the relationship between philosophy and sexuality".4

Not since Homer's "rosy fingered" dawn caressed the majority of Brendan Earley's drawings for his solo show at the RHA in 2012 has pink, or its inference, been so prevalent in an Irish artist's exhibition.5 Lyons' five watercolours – all titled The Pinking like siblings, and individually time-stamped on the gallery works list – are deceivingly twee when removed from the contexts that shape the artist's previous work. I'm not sure I would give them a second glance without the accumulative experiences of Lyons' art. But they draw you in if you give them a chance. Pastel blues, yellows, greens and pinks suggest soft landscapes that float between sky, sea, bogland, sunset and dusk. The best of which suggest rather than describe. Very 1980s dreamy (if you are of that generation), they bring to mind Morten Harket, lead singer of the Swedish pop band A-ha, being pulled through a mirror in the music video for Take On Me.

Lyons' single C-print of an aerial banner with the expression SKY IS THE LIMIT against a grey diaphanous sky-scape is the residual trace of a public art commission by the artist from 2011.6  Minus the original context, the C-print still activates the gallery. The beautifully depicted hair-thin lines of the banner's towing-bridle are almost invisible to the eye. This is representation at its utmost delicate and suggestive.

It seems that water and mirrors go hand-in-hand in the visual articulation of boundless otherworldliness.  Andrei Tarkovsky’s The Mirror (1975) is one such example. Mark Durkan's recent solo show at The Lab is another.7  Lyons sculptural centrepiece for her waterlogged exhibition at Kevin Kavanagh Gallery is composed of two large, circular mirrors that face each other on the gallery ceiling and floor. The use of Mylar sheeting rather than glass-backed mirror creates the effect of a discombobulated infinity mirror: it's no Versailles. Neatly puncturing the ceiling mirror, six rusted chains hang the height of the gallery with a pink buoy tied to each end. The buoys bob low just above the mirrored floor like old old men's testicles, creating the sensation of water as you gaze down the illusive portal of repeated circular chambers. As a viewer I found myself caught between the vertigo of immanence and the agoraphobia of transcendence.   

'The Pinking' feels like an immaterial tracing of Lyons' elegant but brawny materialism: as if the artist's brow remained dry during the making. Although the chains and buoys lend some corporeality, my initial criticism was there's not enough 'body' in the exhibition for the long-term memory to hold onto. I struggled with this at first. But, afterward – removed from the gallery – the exhibition began to gain some muscle, arm-wrestling uneasy first impressions into submission.

Through 30 August.

(Keep an eye out in the coming months for The Douglas Hyde ‘Gallery 3’ events in which Ruth E. Lyons will go off-site within the grounds of Trinity College Dublin ~ Ruth Clinton/Niamh Moriarty, and Rhona Byrne will also produce work for Gallery 3 soon).


1    “Aquaculture” description by Aoife Tunney in the exhibition text.

2    [http://www.thegoodhatchery.com/]

3    Jeanne Maglaty, 'When Did Girls Start Wearing Pink?':


4    Lorenzo Fabbri, The Domestication of Derrida: Rorty, Pragmatism and Deconstruction, Continuum, 2008, p. 35.

5    Read +billion- review of Brendan Earley’s ‘A Place Between’, Royal Hibernian Academy Dublin, 15 March – 29 April, 2012.


6    SKY IS THE LIMIT was a public art commission for Scoil Naomh Eoin in Navan Co. Meath as part of the Percent Per Art Scheme 2011. Sky is the Limit was curated by Clíodhna Shaffrey and Sarah Searson.

    The event took place on the 26 October 2011 to mark the opening of Scoil Naomh Eoin’s new school building. An airplane towing a banner reading SKY IS THE LIMIT flew from the National Flight Centre in Leixlip to Navan and circled over the roof of the school a number of times. A second airplane tracking the first plane had a photographer Alan Dwyer on board – to capture the event from the skies. A live feed of the take off was relayed via webcam to the school where the children assembled to watch the airplane’s progress before gathering outside to see the planes pass overhead. A second photographer Alex Synge documented the event on the ground.

SKY IS THE LIMIT was created and directed by artist Ruth E. Lyons, the event and the lasting artwork are intended as a celebration of the limitless potential of children’s minds and an escape from the daily reality of the breeze block school building.

7    Read +billion- review of Mark Durkan’s ‘I'm astonished, wall, that you haven't collapsed into ruins’, The Lab, Dublin, 14 November – 25 January, 2014. [http://www.billionjournal.com/time/69.html]

15 Aug. 2014.

Arm-Wrestling Transcendence

Ruth E. Lyons, ‘The Pinking’ (2014).

Courtesy of the artist and Kevin Kavanagh Gallery, Dublin.

Photos: Evan Buggle



HOME             ABOUT               REVIEWS                 VIDEO                PRINT             COMMISSIONS           WORKSHOP         MAKING FAMILIAR       EVA INTERNATIONAL 2014