Wednesday, September 03, 2008

The Potentiality Exhibition

I Can / Can I?
on painting and potentiality

The current exhibition at Temple Bar Galleries sees three artists explore their relationship with painting. Sonia Shiel and Michael Coleman from Ireland and Hanneline Visnes, a Norwegian artist based in Scotland, ask questions of the medium that move from formal interrogation to downright cheeky.

Each artist examines their work in the context of Potentiality – a concept originally framed by Aristotle – which concerns itself with the potency of possibilities – ‘What if?’, ‘Where does this lead?’ and ‘Why / Why not?’. The exhibition is not an answer to these questions, but a process of investigating what it means to be a painter working in visual arts practice in 2008.

Coleman shows a calm, fixed installation of related canvases in juicy hues – a restrained progression from his body of compulsive, stylised painting. Visnes shows the most ‘traditional’ work here. A surreal motif involving raptors and jewellery is riffed out at various sizes, on unprimed MDF or paper, with an emphasis on controlled rendering. One larger piece is a very satisfactory resolution of deftly brushed filigree.

Shiel appears to have grasped the bull by the horns and wrestled it into a kind of submission. One of Ireland’s finest young painters (winning the Hennessy Craig award in 2004), she has long exhibited technical fluency. Recent years have seen her practice absorb increasingly experimental contexts. This is certainly true of her work here, to the point where paint is subverted, as in the case of Sal-on (shown above). As well as incorporating small canvases, paint also skins this assemblage, creating an almost theatrical construct.

There is risk here, in subverting the reverence which conventionally applies to gallery paintings. But this show is about risk – and questions. The biggest one of all? Are these the right questions?

I Can / Can I?
on painting and potentiality,
continues at Temple Bar Galleries until 20th September

This review originally appeared in the August 28th issue of Evening Herald HQ Magazine.