Monday, July 24, 2017

Ana Maria Pacheco

An edited version of this piece was published in the Sunday Times Culture magazine on the 23 July 2017.     

Ana Maria Pacheco is a Brazilian artist who moved to London over 40 years ago when her homeland was ruled by a military dictatorship. She is the first non-European artist to become an Associate Artist at the National Gallery. This auspicious show, her first in the Republic of Ireland, is dominated by the sculptural installation Dark Night of the Soul. It’s a depiction of the martyrdom of Saint Sebastian, no doubt influenced by her immersion in Renaissance art at the National Gallery, especially the painting of the same subject by Antonio and Piero del Pollaiuolo. It also has echoes of the painted wooden sculptures of Antonio Francisco Lisboa from her native land. This dramatic work consists of nineteen life-sized polychrome wooden sculptures showing the naked saint pierced by arrows surrounded by brutal enforcers and grieving women.The black mask covering the victim’s head has a contemporary resonance - suggesting Abu Ghraib and and the continuing appetite for inflicting pain and humiliation on those from whom we differ.   

 Festival Gallery,  Galway  

 John P. O'Sullivan

Saturday, July 01, 2017

Vivienne Dick at IMMA


This review appeared in the Sunday Times Culture magazine on the 25 June 2017.

Dick has been described as the “quintessential No Wave filmmaker”. This will be seen as a
compliment in some quarters and an indictment in others. No Wave was punk with added dissonance and nihilism. These days the Donegal-born erstwhile darling of the New York avant garde is lecturing on film in the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology. The show is a survey of her work from her Super-8 beginnings in 1978 to Augenblick, a new piece filmed in 2017. Although the production values have improved over the years, as have the visual aesthetics, the concerns remain the same: social and sexual politics, street life, and the history of ideas. Despite a faint whiff of didacticism the films succeed in being both entertaining and thought-provoking. Dick’s work is presented  alongside photographs by Nan Goldin – a fellow-traveller in her No Wave days. There’s a resonant early image of Dick as wide-eyed ingenue sitting next to Trixie, one of the undead from the New York club scene.

Irish Museum of Modern Art

John P. O'Sullivan

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

John Shinnors - New Paintings


This review appeared originally in the Sunday Times Culture magazine on the 11 June 2017. 

 John Shinnors, the Chiaroscuro Kid, is back in town after a lengthy hiatus following a serious car accident.  He has rounded up his customary entourage of animals for our delectation. His fondness for Friesians, ideal subjects for exercises in light and shade, is again in evidence and there are a number of nocturnal creatures lurking in the shadows. There are assorted cats, a badger, and a fox rapidly exiting the picture as foxes do. His familiar motifs of lighthouse and scarecrow are also employed, warnings for the unwary that there’s danger out there. You can have fun identifying the figurative elements within these ostensibly abstract paintings. His Figure at a Bustop is the most overtly sinister piece, featuring a dark silhouette against the blood-red vertical of the signpost. Thirty years after his first solo show in Dublin, Shinnors continues to be a distinctive and original voice with his unique blend of the playful and the eerily portentous.            

 Taylor Galleries
 Dublin 2  

 John P. O'Sullivan
 June 2017

Thursday, June 08, 2017

De Profundis


I would like to issue an apology to all logophiles and finely tuned aesthetes who were offended by a piece I wrote in the current (summer) edition of the Irish Arts Review. In my review of the photographer John Minihan’s work in the Under the Hammer section there is a reference to his infamous photograph of the young Diana Spencer in a “transparent dress”. The dress of course was “translucent” and not transparent. To state it was the latter is to infer that the sainted Diana was parading around brazenly in a see-through dress – a profound calumny on the blameless ingenue. A writer struggles daily for the mot juste – the exactly apposite word. In the context, translucent was that word. Transparent is a semi-synonym that just won’t do.         

John P. O'Sullivan

June 2017

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Barrie Cooke - Works from the Studio


This review first appeared in the Sunday Times Culture magazine on the 4 June 2017.

The National Gallery showed good judgement in purchasing Big Hot Tub from Barrie Cooke’s current show at the Oliver Sears Gallery. Not alone has it got a signature painting by a major artist, but it has also acquired a depiction of another distinguished figure in Irish art, Camille Souter. She was a friend of Cooke’s and the inspiration for the nude emerging from the tub. The works in the show are from his studio (from which apparently more paintings will emerge next year) and compromise a mini-retropsective – spanning his career from 1960 to 2008. The quality and diverse range of the work will come as a pleasant surprise to many Cooke admirers who had grown disenchanted with his late career obsession with rock snot and pollution. There’s a glowering Sheela-na-Gig from 1960 that emanates primitive energy, a number of intimate nudes and some evocative water colours from a visit he made to South Africa in 2007. 

Oliver Sears Gallery
Dublin 2
John P. O'Sullivan