Art review: Brian Eno at the RHA, Dublin

Brian Eno: Art on display.

“A few million years,” is how long it would take to see the same combination of images in his work 77 Million Paintings, Brian Eno once said. The couches provided in the large upper gallery at the RHA, where the work has been installed, are comfortable enough for a durational experience, though perhaps not that durational.

77 Million Paintings was first seen in Tokyo in 2006 and has traveled much since then, including to Venice, St Petersburg and Beijing. In 2009, it was projected onto the sails of the Sydney Opera House.

The piece is based on individual images painted on glass by Eno, around 300 of them. Several of these at a time are arranged in backlit, geometric display of overlaying, interlocking panels. For the Dublin audience, the centre will be evocative of two St Brigid’s crosses.

As the viewer sits on watches, the images in these panels gradually shift and change, often so slowly and subtly that you only realise the extent of what’s different a while after seeing it. This has the pleasing effect of making you re-see what you’ve been looking at for a long time.

The sequencing of the images is an example of generative art. The constituent materials are put in place by Eno, but randomly and algorithmically combined thereafter. A computer program by Jake Dowie selects several images at a time, combining them in unique, shifting, temporary ways.

Eno, of course, is best known for his work in the field of music, especially as a pioneer of what is referred to as “ambient music”. Yet, he has always, from his earliest days at art school, strived to combine the aural and the visual.

77 Million Paintings is emblematic of that approach. Its musical or aural elements, from voice, bells, distortion, emerge, like the visuals, in self-generating patterns. One difference, however, is alluded to in Eno’s note at the exhibition entrance: there is an effective inversion of the expected roles for the installation’s two elements. While the pictures move and change through time, the music aspires towards a more “static” condition.

- Until February 24

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