Art review: Fieldworks — Animal Habitats in Contemporary Art

Lewis Glucksman Gallery, UCC

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Animals are a valuable subject for artists, who have striven to capture their power, grace and beauty — or used those attributes to convey the status of kings and heroes, or the wealth of the aristocracy.

‘Fieldworks’, however, examines the more utilitarian question of how we view animal habitats — including the natural and urban environments in which they dwell, or the enclosures we create for their study and observation.

Thirteen Irish and international artists are brought together by curator Chris Clarke, with a visual narrative rooted in the contemporary lexicon of appropriation and economy of artistic intervention.

Detailed representations are found in a parallel exhibition of animal artefacts from UCC’s Zoology Museum (and Vanessa Safavi’s taxidermy budgie installation), which satisfies our curiosity for creatures close-up — albeit posthumously in glass jars and cases.

Secondary sources and found objects feature prominently and are appropriate for themes of impermanency and the transience of nature’s rhythms and cycles. For example, Petra Fernancova’s photographs, taken by her aunt in 1970s east Africa. Their grainy, documentary matter-of-factness is engaging and oddly nostalgic.

Other photo-based pieces include Ruth van Beek’s disarmingly simple paper collages and Jochen Lempert’s remote black-and-white images. Adam Chodzko’s night-vision photos have a stark, eerie quality and contrast with Chris Marker’s charming film Cat Listening to Music and Flo Maak’s quirky Photoshops.

At the more traditional end of the spectrum are Ciaran Murphy’s paintings, which have an iconic directness and are arguably the highlight.

Petrit Halilaj’s sculptural piece, which features a mixed-media bird held together with excrement — but has the contrastingly beautiful title ‘Poisoned by Men in Need of Some love’ — has a poetic elegance that is in keeping with its conservation message.

Runs until Nov 2

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