Clarke, Chris, Art Monthly
Temple Bar Gallery * Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane * Douglas Hyde Gallery * Irish Museum of Modern Art
Starting Over is the title of the group show at Temple Bar Gallery and, as such, it makes an appropriate opening for a trawl through Dublin's summer exhibitions. After all, one must begin somewhere, and this selection of works curated by Mark O'Kelly for the gallery's 30th anniversary emphasises the ways in which hindsight and retrospection affect interpretation. The artists here share a preoccupation with moments of prior artistic activity, in their own practices and those of their forebears, although, like the exhibition's conflating of past and present, these distinctions tend to collapse within each other. Thus, in Scott Myles' appropriation of works by the late Cuban-American artist Felix Gonzales-Torres and in Gerard Byrne's photographs of works by the 17th-century painter Cornelius Gijsbrecht, their position as distanced, detached observers is readily acknowledged. In both cases, the artists utilise the reverse-side of their subjects' images--applying swathes of mirrored screen-printing ink to the back of one of Gonzales-Torres' prints; documenting the wooden stretcher, frame and catalogue labels of Gijsbrecht's canvases--and this tactic highlights the discrepancy between the original moment and the reflective, revisionist interpretation. Elsewhere, Alan Brooks reworks found traces of crudely profane graffiti into painstakingly rendered miniature drawings and paintings, building up his copies over several months and imbuing them with a delicacy and dedication far removed from the originals, while Tacita Dean's Sixteen Blackboards, 1992, recalls an earlier conversation with Cy Twombly and a transformative stage in her own practice, an instant of self-evaluation that, nevertheless, suggests ambivalence, uncertainty and the potential to be effaced with the single swipe of an eraser.
'Looking back in order to move into the future', states the text accompanying 'Starting Over', and this ethos might equally apply to the artist Sean Lynch, whose previous works have delved into moments of historical and cultural significance as source material. While possessing an irreverent, anecdotal quality, Lynch's new exhibition, a blow-by-blow account of stone carving in Oxford at the Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane, follows a more thoughtful line of enquiry, exploring the sculptural motifs of 19th-century artisans John and James O'Shea. Their carvings of monkeys on the facade of Oxford's Museum of Natural History led to suspicions of Darwinist leanings, with James O'Shea parodying the authorities as parrots and owls in his subsequent designs. Lynch adheres to an academic, museological display in his installation--photographic documentation, a slide projection and a stone carving of a monkey by Stephen Burke in the presumed style of the O'Sheas--but, like his subjects, he covertly subverts the expectations of his setting. His projection, narrated by Gina Moxley, is anything but dry and dusty, playfully experimenting with the correlations and disjunctions between the chosen imagery and scripted commentary.
Lynch's exhibition is part of The Hugh Lane's 'Sleepwalkers' series, inviting artists to engage in research within the gallery spaces. Lee Welch, whose two exercises in awareness and observation occupy another of The Hugh Lane's spaces to very different effect, presents an elegant display of mirrored shelves, everyday objects, invitation cards and video works. Welch uses the space well, responding to the Italian classical style of the interior with a charmingly wonky pattern of painted vertical stripes, while his organisation of cards according to the 'golden ratio' might allude to the mathematical precision of the gallery's architect William Chambers. At the same time, his arrangement of disparate components, which change throughout the show and which direct visitors to other programmed events and activities, suggests a critical refutation of the traditional museum as a repository of outmoded categorisations and sanctified objects. …