Category Archives: Responses

Public launch opening remarks from Catherine Fehily

Thanks to fire safety regulations, New Work from Glasgow got to have not one launch but two. We’ve been really lucky with our support for this exhibition and have been greatly encouraged by Catherine Fehily, new head of the Crawford College of Art and Design.Catherine’s engaged and thoughtful comments were a fantastic endorsement of New Work from Glasgow. As such we were very pleased that she agreed to allow us to reproduce them below.

(Not ten things I like about this show, but five things I love about it)

I love what’s happening here because:

  1. It didn’t need to happen – nobody asked for it, commissioned it, ordered it or paid for it.  It wasn’t part of anybody’s job – it happened, or rather it was made to happen, simply because two people thought it should happen.  It is, in that sense, a great example of the generosity of the curatorial act.  Rachel and Sarah (Pluck) found something that they thought was exciting and decided to share it with the rest of us.  They didn’t impose a pre-determined theoretical thematic on the work they selected but simply responded – openly, intuitively and with pleasure, to what they were seeing and experiencing when they chose the works and artists to be represented here.
  2. It’s full of magic – once the process had begun, they carried on in the same vein – open-minded, responsive to opportunities, resourceful, creative, patient and tenacious in the pursuit of something that it seems, was never quite pinned down or defined.  This lightness of touch, this confidence in their own instincts and trust in the qualities they sensed in the work they had chosen allowed for the intervention of serendipity at every stage.  The venue, for example, this building, with its dramatic echoes of past use and its beguiling spaces, offered the possibility of accumulated references and meanings through the juxtaposition of artworks with the signs, structures and surfaces of the building.
  3. It’s sumptuous – when I asked Rachel and Sarah how they had chosen the works they told me that they had responded mainly to formal qualities – light, colour, material, and so on, and to work that played in the spaces between the physical and virtual worlds, rather than to any overt content or concept.  I came to the conclusion, looking at the exhibition, that they’re actually a pair of raving formalists and I’m delighted by that because I thought formalism had gone out of fashion.
  4. It’s utterly contemporary, which means that as an audience, we don’t quite know how to approach it – it’s new.  The work resonates with references to other things, but again there’s a lightness of touch, a playfulness that seems to position us, the audience, in a very pleasurable, if not a comfortable, place.  The work is seductive enough, beautiful enough, to invite us in and once in, we can join in the play, adding our own layers of association – all we have to do is to relax, to be open to what we see and hear and to see what happens – the work is thought-provoking, but subtly, gently, never stridently so.  
  5. It’s welcoming – there seems to be an absence of judgement here.  Will Kendrick’s orchid, anthurium and yucca may be kitsch but in here, they are allowed to be themselves – the whole question of taste is sidestepped and they become as endearing, in their way, as Christabel Geary’s uncanny rubbery or feathery creatures that squat on the floor nearby, or Sara Moustafa’s glistening tarmac and bright yellow no-parking line that hang enigmatically from the ceiling.  Ross Birrell’s elegy to the burned down Mackintosh buildings provokes a poignant, emotional echo in our sense of the building in which we now stand and James McCann’s visceral film and performance span the realms of the intensely physical and the spectacularly virtual. Meanwhile, much more quietly, in what I’ve come to think of as the corridor of ghosts and apparitions, Paul Deslandes responds to the “Multidisciplinary Teaching Laboratory” by populating it with enigmatic equations, vaguely fleshy manifestations and boxed-in spectres and further on, Heather Lander’s hypnotic, ethereal light manifestations scintillate as gloriously as the Aurora Borealis or some other celestial kaleidoscope, whether or not anyone is watching.

Finally, the fact that we can enjoy all of these connections, echoes, synergies and juxtapositions brings me back to the curators and to all of that (often invisible) work that so generously provides us with this intensely rewarding experience.  Here, the role of the curator is as critical and every bit as creative as that of the individual artist we are more likely to celebrate.  I’ve witnessed the transformation of this amazing space from a collection of messy, neglected, unloved and unused rooms to this delightful site of intense sensory, emotional and intellectual experience and I know how much thought, work and sensitivity have gone into that process.  So I’d like to say a very warm thank you and offer many congratulations to all of the artists and especially to Rachel Warriner and Sarah Kelleher – whose names don’t appear in the catalogue – for bringing this delightful spectacle from the real capital of Scotland to the real capital of Ireland.

Catherine Fehily

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Preview opening remarks from Fiona Kearney

We were delighted by Fiona Kearney’s opening remarks at the UCC launch of New Work from Glasgow. We have been hugely encouraged by Fiona throughout this project and her support, professional, material and emotional has been incredible. Her opening speech was so generous that we wanted to share it and she has very kindly agreed to let us reproduce it here.

Earlier in the summer, I had an enthusiastic email from a colleague of mine in Buildings and Estates, Michael O’Sullivan, about a proposal he had received from Pluck Projects to present an exhibition in the Windle Building, the old Anatomy Theatre, which is currently under development by architects O’Donnell and Tuomey as a new student hub for the university.

Cork City Council had wisely invested in the curatorial vision of Rachel Warriner and Sarah Kelleher, who were expanding on their previous presentations at the Wandesford Quay Gallery and the Land of Zero project at the Crawford Gallery. So from the outset, I am pleased to see that both UCC and the council recognised the ambition of Pluck Projects as a really significant creative presence in our city. 

As someone who previously curated an off-site festival for Triskel Arts Centre, I remember the giddy courage that comes with working beyond designated art spaces and it is not for nothing that Pluck projects earns its name. Pluck, of course, also means to strike a chord, and in this case, one that stretches from Cork to Glasgow and back again.

In selecting the artists for this exhibition, Rachel and Sarah, have created extraordinary synergies with the scientific and anatomical history of this building. In describing their approach to the exhibition, the word visceral seems to reoccur. It is more than appropriate given that we are in the former dissection room of the university, which is one of the earliest academic gathering places of observation and understanding. Where learning happens beyond text, and through visual attention, material substance and symbolic forms.

Collectively, then I recognise the resonance of this work as something to be first felt and experienced, of conjuring an education from our bodies that happens in this space, and which perhaps, is only slowly and subsequently articulated in language. And of course, each individual artist deserves opening remarks of their own:

Sara Moustafa’s extraordinary flayed sculpture,

Ross Birrell’s elegant and elegiac film

Christabel Geary’s mesmerising dimensional drawings,

Will Kendrick’s strident and whirling spectrum of digital and physical forms,

James McCann’s pulsating, collage and challenge of identity,

Paul Deslandes thoughtful abstraction of scientific illustration

Heather Lander’s exquisite, perceptual projections,

and fortunately, Pluck have been as intrepid in their recording of the exhibition, producing a catalogue with a fascinating, language-bursting essay by Sarah Hayden, and a reflection on each of the artistic practices included in the show.

My admiration for Rachel and Sarah is curatorial, educational and personal. It is challenging to make an exhibition on this scale with limited resources, and to do so with such thoughtfulness, care and critical attention – for me the key attributes of the curator – is a tremendous achievement. 

Pluck have created a memory for this place that will last far beyond the run of the exhibition but I encourage you all to return over the coming 2 weeks, and to join me know in congratulation the curators and the artists on the opening of this spectacular new show.

Fiona Kearney

New Work from Glasgow visitor information

The exhibition is based in the Windle Building, UCC and will run until the 29th November.
Opening hours: Friday – Wednesday 11-6, Thursday 12.30-8.

Catalogues featuring an essay by Sarah Hayden are available for €5

The Windle Building is located behind the West Wing of the Quad. If you go to the back of the West Wing it is the building on the other side of the car park. We are through the right hand door, upstairs above the Film and Screen Media Dept, UCC. Look for the signs around campus.

The Windle Building

Map to the Windle Building

Opening of In Pursuit of Leisure

Here is the opening statement from Dr. Ed Krčma of History of Art, UCC. The full text is below.

Dr. Ed Krčma

I was delighted to have been asked to say a few words to open this excellent exhibition by Stephanie Hough, In Pursuit of Leisure, presented by Pluck Projects. Previously I’d known Stephanie as the engine behind the impressive Basement Project Space, an artist-run initiative in operation here in Cork between 2009 and 2012; but it is more satisfying still to have the chance to see a full presentation of her own work, and especially one that has been so carefully and intelligently put together. So I would like to take this opportunity to offer a few initial ideas concerning the exhibition; and for some more developed and substantial commentaries, you should all make sure to acquire one of the limited edition catalogues with essays by Kerstin Fest and Sarah Kelleher, as well as a statement by Stephanie herself.

Stephanie Hough takes as her object of inquiry the subject of leisure: its appeal, its demands, its supplements, its conventions. Hough appropriates existing images and signs, and for this body of work she has sourced numerous instructional VHS tapes from thrift stores, as well as tag-lines from more recent IKEA catalogues, and images from gardening books.

Hough appropriates found signs and materials rather than using art as a space to invent ex nihilo or as a vehicle for self-expression. Some artistic skills are abandoned, therefore, while other newer ones are cultivated. Indeed, Hough’s work is full of the evidence of precise decision-making: regarding the selection of source materials; the scale and duration of the resulting pieces; the removal of the audio dialogue and the preservation of other more creaturely noises (something that you will probably find difficult to appreciate in the noisy atmosphere of a private view); and the precise cuts and jolts made in the continuity of the instructional narrative.

The results offer up a cast of characters and scenarios that are as comic as they are ominous, as zany and maniacal as they are imploring and sympathetic. Witness a particularly creepy and joyless invitation to flower arranging; or the frankly sexual gasps, sighs and grunts of our meditating new agers; or the fixated and spasmodic clappings and smiles of an apparently unbalanced keep fit instructor!  The removal of comprehensible dialogue in favour of a kind of creaturely residue of communication makes the weirdness of being hailed by these dubious ciphers all the more comic and unnerving.

There are certainly shadows cast by important art historical precedents here: Dada works of the 1910s and 20s, Situationist strategies of détournement from the 1950s and 60s, Pop Art appropriations from the 1960s, and the thoroughgoing interrogations of advertising and popular media by Pictures Generation artists in the late 1970s and 1980s. Hough takes a place within a coherent trajectory, then, and is able to make deft, original and compelling contributions to it.

One issue around which this exhibition seems to me to turn is the tension between the idea of leisure as a chance to re-group, re-charge and enrich oneself after the demands of working life, and the idea of leisure as having become basically an extension of the alienated labour process: just as full of a generalized banality, regulation, mystification, and enforced obedience. Stephanie’s work seems to me to lean more to the second characterisation: leisure as the bad conscience of a society that first drove a separation between labour and recreation by taking the fulfillment out of work; and one that has now more recently harnessed technology to ensure that our activities of consumption and self-disciplining can continue unabated after our hours at the office. Indeed, one interesting aspect of these videos is their distinctly low-fi, retro quality; we might even feel nostalgic for some of these woefully untempting efforts to seduce us to explore more self-improvement products. Surely today’s marketing gambits, delivered by way of an utterly pervasive media network, are much more sophisticated and insidious, rendering these efforts rather quaint?

But Stephanie’s work is more speculative and playful than satirical and dogmatic, and it is I think more interesting for resisting the temptation to condemn in any straightforward way. Rather, the spectacle of modern leisure is held up for our inspection, analysis, and, I suppose, enjoyment. And it raises the question, I think, or the relationship of art making and art viewing to the subject of leisure. After all, as we are gathered here this evening, are we now practicing work or leisure, and what would be at stake in the difference?

I’ll just end by saying a few words about the presentation of the exhibition and the people involved. Firstly, I find this event especially satisfying as it constitutes an example of genuine, organic collaboration between some of the most skilled and dynamic graduates of both the Fine Art programme at Crawford College of Art and Design, and of the MA in Modern and Contemporary Art at UCC. Both Stephanie and Sarah are CCAD graduates, and both Sarah and Rachel are now studying for their PhDs in History of Art at UCC. And again it is worth reminding ourselves of what a fantastic job the Crawford have done in maintaining the Wandesford Quay Gallery as one of the few spaces in which such exhibitions can take place in the city. It has become a really important asset for Cork I think.

So, firstly, we look forward to many such collaborative efforts in the city; secondly, this being the first event staged by Pluck Projects, we eagerly anticipate their future offerings; and, third, and by no means least, this being Stephanie’s first solo exhibition we very much look forward to more exposure to the strange and compelling challenge of her work. Many thanks.