Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Review of Klimt and Antiquity: Erotic Encounters at the Lower Belvedere, Vienna

12/09/17
Klimt and Antiquity: Erotic Encounters
Lower Belvedere, Vienna
23 June – 8 October 2017

In 1898, Gustav Klimt (1862-1918) designed the poster for the first exhibition held by the newly founded Vienna secession, of which he was a founding member and president. The depiction of the Greek hero Theseus wrestling the Minotaur symbolised the intention of the young avant-garde movement to break with the past and rebel against the out-dated structures of the Künstlerhaus. On the right-hand-side, standing watch is the figure of Pallas Athena, the goddess of wisdom, craft, and war in ancient Greek mythology. Turned thus into a sphinx-like demon, an image that was repeated on the catalogue for this first exhibition, as well as on bookplates for the movement, the goddess emerged as the patron saint and symbol of the Vienna secession. Klimt’s use of symbolism embodied one of its key ideals.



Read the full review here






Interview with Ian Hoskin

12/09/17

Interview: Ian Hoskin


Ian Hoskin: Ladies First

Atom Gallery
16-30 September 2017    


Ian Hoskin had the embryonic idea for his latest photographic project, Ladies First, shortly after finishing his degree in 1981. He began identifying areas of gender difference that interested him but was unable to find the right way of translating the idea into a coherent series. Some three and a half decades later, he has designed a workable format and structure for the body of work, namely 50 composed scenarios making up 25 pairs of contrasting gender images. Each image of each pair is displayed above a line of text; the texts within each pair are almost identical, differing only with regards to the gender they relate to: “she” or “he”. Anna McNay spoke with Hoskin ahead of his forthcoming exhibition at Atom Gallery.



Read the interview here



Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Essay: Aisling Drennan

05/09/17
Essay: Aisling Drennan


‘It's absolutely impossible, but it has possibilities.

These words from the film producer Samuel Goldwyn might equally have been uttered by the painter Aisling Drennan, whose colourful, layered Abstract Expressionist-style canvases are a series of endless possibility, of unresolved experimentation, of contumacious contradictions. Constructing and deconstructing, concealing and revealing, Drennan’s mark-making creates both chaos and structure, a concoction of intuition and organicness, submitted to analysis, until some form of resolve is determined. Never a fixed conclusion, however, or, as Samuel Beckett writes: ‘Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.’[1]


But, to the viewer, Drennan’s paintings are far from being failures. The vast, freewheeling swathes of paint sweep you up, taking you, willing or not, on a stormy journey, a rollercoaster ride, across and deep within the canvas, destination unknown. As painterly, or malerisch, as Drennan’s surface brushstrokes might be, there is nevertheless a depth to her canvases, with their partially visible geometric lines and boxes, drawn in charcoal, à la de Kooning, leading you within, underneath the waves, drowning you in the intense primary colours that ‘pop’ against one another in a playful, sometimes seemingly reckless, way. ‘You have to have colour and light,’ Drennan exclaims. ‘My god! And yellow is just a feel-good colour, really. It physically makes me happy to look at it.’ But reds and blues, ochres, and sometimes blacks, rear their heads as well, like animals from within, each opening a dialogue, interrupting, rejoining, and drawing the others into a spirited conversation, a song, or maybe even a dance. The choreography is free, but there is an underlying internal logic, a set of steps and movements that may be exploited and utilised in infinite combination. Drennan paints always at arm’s length, from the shoulder and elbow, avoiding the contrivance of anything produced too painstakingly close up. Nevertheless, there is a beautiful concentration as she works steadily, aiming for the marathon, not the sprint. ‘Without leaps of imagination, or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning.’[2]

The lyricism of a painting extends beyond the individual canvas, with one work leading on to the next, which is born, inevitably, out of a ‘niggling’ point of its predecessor, begun before its parent is fully matured. The process is empirical, as Drennan takes, reappropriates and develops: ‘There is no performance – it’s all one big rehearsal’. The subject she seeks to explore is the very stuff of painting itself: its materiality and physicality. The only narrative is a narrative of process, of exploration and development from one work to the next – from one layer to the next – building up memories and traces, a series of wounds and scars, with new life blossoming afresh at each turn along the way. A work may take months to complete, as she applies masking tape, charcoal and coats of oil paint, before removing the tape, applying more paint, often time and time again, ever reassessing, redirecting, accepting the inevitable but entirely unpredictable happy accident. In an age of digital perfection, Drennan is an artist to whom the term ‘practice’ – with all the inherent hope, failure, and possibility – truly applies. 


© Anna McNay, 2017






[1] Samuel Beckett, Worstward Ho, 1983
[2] Gloria Steinem, American feminist, journalist, and social and political activist



Image:

Aisling Drennan
Seeking Common Sense
2017
oil paint on canvas
60x60cm



For more information, see Aisling's website