Exxit: Degree Show

The highlight of this year’s Degree Show at the Crawford is undoubtedly Olivia O’Mahony’s installation in and around the staircase in the college.

A metal frame — a sculptural piece called ‘Architectural’ — is suspended from the ceiling above the stairs, while a series of ‘symmetrical studies’, drawings in ink on acetate, adorn the walls about it. A second metal sculpture is hung on the wall nearby.

O’Mahony’s pieces are beautifully made, and their arrangement suggests that the artist is also keenly aware of the importance of presentation.

Several other installations are almost as impressive. Rory Mullen’s Chiral is a low-ceilinged, claustrophobic apartment — complete with living-room, kitchen and toilet — made of cardboard, a material whose impracticality can be read as a scathing comment on our pre-occupation with living spaces.

In her installation, Laura Crotty explores our pre-occupation with food. Laid out on the floor is Eat Yourself, a pattern of vinyl records, test tubes and tiers of black buns. The young woman in the photographs Blade and Pinch is pictured in the act of cutting her cheek and tongue with a large scissors. The video, Ravenous Identity, presents first a pair of hands frenziedly arranging and re-arranging cereals in a bowl, and then a young woman babbling incoherently.

Both installations are disturbing and topical.

Gillian Walsh’s Hard Lie — a mattress of concrete with a broken bed-frame — is shown in a darkened chamber that serves to highlight its sombreness; Rebecca Cook’s ‘Retreat’, an assemblage of wooden boxes on stilts, has a ramshackle charm all its own; while Colin O’Connor’s ‘blocks’ of paper are also rather fetching: some are made from Argos catalogues.

Is painting dead? One might well conclude that this is so from the degree shows around the country this year. Students seem unwilling or unable to finish their canvasses, few of which resemble anything that might be shown in a commercial or public gallery.

There are exceptions, of course. Derick Hegarty is a worthy winner of both the Eli Lilly Purchase Prize and the Alliance Francaise Exhibition Award for his dark, subtly coloured works in oils, while Emily O’Flynn’s paintings have an engaging rawness and urgency: the best of them has an angry blue zigzag mark across it that extends along the wall on either side.

The work of the ceramics students at the Crawford is always a pleasure. Carol MacGabhann’s series of dogs in raku fired ceramic are among the most endearing pieces in the show, particularly the one that seems so enthralled by the tennis ball suspended from the ceiling above it.

Marc O’Sullivan

Until June 23

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