Carol O’Callaghan says a new exhibition explores the relationship between craft and mathematics.


THE sun is shining and it’s time to get out and about and be inspired by nature and to dispense with routine window shopping. Delight the eye instead with a visit to some of the latest art, craft and design shows where you can just browse and ease away the tension of everyday life, get some ideas, or make an affordable purchase of a practical object or artwork to fill that empty wall space.

Beauty is the First Test is a new exhibition exploring the relationship between craft and mathematics, is the Design and Crafts Council of Ireland’s new show taking place at the National Craft Gallery, Kilkenny until July 9.

Just think of how much craft in our environment has its roots in mathematics — the geometry of patchwork quilts, and the repetition of pattern on a grid with the endless counting of threads that goes into weaving.

Curated by Liz Cooper, it brings together a group of craft makers working in a variety of disciplines from textiles to copper who have employed mathematical concepts as the basis of their artistic expression. And it’s probably well timed seeing as it’s taking place when there is so much debate surrounding how the teaching of the arts and sciences is prioritised, and is a reminder that the two are inextricably linked together.

While strolling around this show, watch out for Lesley Halliwell’s work. She has taken one of the best loved creative toys of the last 50 years, the Spirograph, and using the everyday ballpoint pen made a seven metre long contribution to the show. For anyone brought up in the 1960s and ‘70s who loved making kaleidoscope-style images with this little tool, Halliwell’s work is likely to be a nostalgic encounter.

Meanwhile in Carlow, the latest band of up-and-coming designer-makers to form a mutually supportive collective are operating under the banner of FORM and will show their work on June 14 and 15 at VISUAL, Centre for Contemporary Art. It’s worth a visit just to experience the design of this custom-built arts’ venue.

The show will feature traditional crafts like wood-working and textiles but with a twist. It’s clear these designer makers have been influenced by new technology and it’s exciting to see they’re not afraid to blur the boundaries of the disciplines of craft, design and art.

One such maker is Cillian Ó Súilleabháin whose furniture is rooted in obtuse and acute angles and executed with perfect craftsmanship and precision. Check him out while he’s still affordable, if you’re in the market for a little side table, or a sideboard. For a little art on which to rest a jaded gaze, the inventive 2020 Art Gallery is running a show until July 7 in their space on North Mall, Cork, and a sister show in Sheen Falls Lodge, Kenmare.

It’s a hotch-potch of contemporary mixed media with a smattering of applied textiles inspired by springtime and the changing of the seasons. Organised by keen-eyed gallery director Sheelah Moloney, it follows her pattern of showing emerging artists and craft makers while prices are within reach.

* Next week we’re shopping for design for under €50.

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