Something in the air

Aether, at Macroom Town Hall, sees four artists explore the idea of liminal space, says Tina O’Sullivan

AETHER is the summer exhibition in Town Hall Gallery, Macroom, and features work by artists Debbie Godsell, Lorraine Neeson, Catherine Hehir and Noelle Noonan.

The theme is liminal space, with catalogue essays by Theo Dorgan and Dara Waldron.

The four artists are established in Cork and have memberships of Cork Printmakers and Backwater Artists Group. They hold teaching and lecturing posts.

Debbie Godsell lives outside Macroom, hence the Town Hall Gallery.

Ms Godsell began the work on ‘liminality’ before inviting the others to contribute. Ms Hehir and Ms Noonan collaborated, but the work evolved without the artists knowing what the others were developing.

The final works reference each other and do not appear to have been made in isolation.

Ms Godsell works in printmaking, but her ideas for Aether dictated a more textile medium. Ms Godsell’s grid format depicts a myriad of inky, figurative images evoking twilight. In Winter, Ms Godsell works with the silhouette of trees and lunar depictions to create a haunting, nostalgic atmosphere. She uses repetition in Enfol. The circular form, be it ringed or solid, is a recurring motif in her imagery.

This motif of the circle is also employed in the collaborative work of Catherine Hehir and Noelle Noonan.

“We first collaborated on a show in Cork Public Museum,” says Ms Noonan. “It was called Excavate. Cork Printmakers were invited in to do a curated show in response to the museum’s permanent collection. We made work in and around the great exhibition.”

Trapper 2 is one of the two major works by Ms Hehir and Ms Noonan. They have filled the gable wall of the Town Hall Gallery with towering stacks of small and medium white birdhouses, with spewing bundles of shredded matter piling up on the floor underneath.

“The Birdcage piece was instigated in Cork Public Museum and expanded for Macroom,” says Ms Noonan. “It is about being trapped and incarcerated.”

The shredded matter consists of hundreds of prints made by various artists in a 24-hour marathon of printing, which were shredded as part of the work in the old glass-fronted Frank Clarke building a few doors down from Cork Printmakers.

Ms Noonan and Ms Hehir’s Breach is a 2D installation. “We spent a year taking photographs around the country,” says Ms Hehir. “Then, we’d come back and discuss what we had and set off again.”

Breach is made up of hundreds of various-sized photographs. Some are repeats on horizontal lines, while others are sprayed over, leaving a circular peephole to the original image. “We were looking at landscape and environment in its depressed state, the dereliction of abandoned Ireland,” says Ms Noonan.

Lorraine Neeson works with light, video, sound and installation. Her work often references literature and picks up on the looping, repetitive aspect of the show. Threshold is a sound installation in which a vinyl record is played, stuck in a loop of repeating: ‘I can’t go on’. This is taken from the closing lines of Samuel Beckett’s novel The Unnameable.

Still Life Looped is a video piece presented in a darkened space. “The work is a moving still in which an ephemeral wisp of smoke appears momentarily in an otherwise empty bell jar, before dissipating again,” says Ms Neeson. “There is definitely a nod to Sylvia Plath. When I was making the work, I was reading her book, The Bell Jar, and was struck by her analogies and descriptions of confinement and alienation as being akin to being trapped underneath a bell jar.”

Ms Neeson’s final piece is a neon sign that subverts notions of light and darkness. “In traditional neon signs, a blackout varnish is applied to the back of the sign to prevent light leak,” says Ms Neeson. “With my piece The End, I reversed this process and applied the blackout varnish to the front of the sign, so that the light bleeds out at the back of the sign and is eclipsed by the black varnish at the front. The sign is flashing and oscillating between on-and-off states, literally hovering on a threshold. It is, essentially, an ending that never ends.”

* Aether is curated by Norah Norton, and runs at Macroom Town Hall until Aug 3

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