Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Review of WaterLand Exhibition

Roger Bennett reviews WaterLand


Themed exhibitions are often contrived affairs, with the artists straining to make their work fit the brief, and trying awkwardly to justify tenuous connections. This most definitely is not the case with 'Water Land', an exhibition of sculpture and craft curated by Sarah Ross in Waterways Ireland's visitor centre on Grand Canal Quay.
Most of the exhibitors are residents of the neighbouring Design Tower, and therefore in daily communion with the waters of the canal; they are joined by a number of invited guests. Water is utterly essential in and for our lives, so it is not surprising that all the exhibitors have responded imaginatively to the theme.

For some, the inspiration is local, as in Elizabeth O'Kane's watercolour snapshot of the dock and its buildings, and Alan Ardiff's spiky youth diving confidently into the blue canal water, the splash cleverly created by three concentric bowl rims.  ​
Grand Canal Quay III, Watercolour, Elizabeth O'Kane
An invitation to take part in an exhibition such as this can free an artist to depart from their usual practice. Michiel De Hoog forsakes his precise violin-making, and comes up with an exuberant frieze-like painting which sets canal-bank warehouses dancing to the rhythms of the waves. Or, signature pieces can be given a fresh twist: an Ayelet Lalor head is topped by a wild swell of hair, a play-place for tiny figures to sunbathe and dive. Flowing curves are a recurring shape in Seamus Gill's jewellery and sculpture; here, he has hammered them into a gorgeously voluptuous waterlily.  
Water Lily, Bronze, Seamus Gill
For some exhibitors, the challenge was to capture the shape and texture of water – exquisitely realised in Da Capo's waterdrop pendant, and in the undulating tactility of Elizabeth O'Kane's limestone 'Flow'.

Flow, Kilkenny limestone, Elizabeth O'Kane

Emmet Kane, Zelouf and Bell, and Joe Hogan have investigated our historical relationship with water. Kane's 'Grinding Water' is turned and carved from ekki wood, an extremely hard timber used in lock gates: it is a very assured piece, and demonstrates his growing confidence as a sculptor. Zelouf and Bell's haunting famine larder references Rowan Gillespie's Liffey-side starving figures, and Hogan's Heaney-inspired bog boat is a robust example of his basket-as-sculpture series.
Craft is perennially under-exhibited in Irish galleries. This is an uplifting exhibition: playful, thoughtful, full of beautifully-made pieces. Quite simply, a must-see. 

Water Land runs at Waterways Ireland's visitor centre on Grand Canal Quay from 6th - 30th November.
Opening times for visitors are from Wednesday to Sunday, 10am – 6pm.
Roger Bennett is a woodturner and writer about craft; he has been published in Irish Arts Review, Ceramics Ireland, Sunday Miscellany.​

For more information contact the following:

www.waterwaysirelandvisitorcentre.org



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