The current exhibition in the galleries on the ground floor of the East wing at the IMMA features works in several media – paintings, sculpture, pottery, text and even weaving – by the Irish artist Isabel Nolan.
It’s a themed exhibition – rather like a “concept album” by a 70’s Prog-rock group. The IMMA website tells us
The exhibition explores how light manifests as a metaphor in our thoughts, obsessions and pursuits and includes text, sculpture, drawings and textiles.
The exhibition’s title is taken from Thomas Hardy’s poem The Darkling Thrush (1899),
in which the sun, described as ‘the weakening eye of day’, is a dismal star drained of its force by a gloomy pre-centennial winter afternoon. As the sun’s gaze weakens, so flags the spirit of the poet who, until interrupted by birdsong, sees only the inevitability of death in the cold world around him.
So the works tell a story, beginning with the birth of the earth and formation of it’s rocks and finishing with the death of the sun. So as a blend of art, science and science fiction, so it was bound to appeal to me.
I wasn’t sure how some of the works, such as this sculpture, linked in with the theme,
but overall I found it an interesting experience and liked many of the works on display.
This painting rather reminded me of an Impressionist painting by Monet
The second room is dominated by a large hand-tufted wool rug, hung on the wall and folded onto the floor. The Sky Is Not Bound by a Fixed Edge!: An Illuminated Rug Arranged to Accommodate a Medieval Mind (2014). Brightly coloured with geometric patterns it rather reminded me of a stained glass window.
These two drawings, from a group of seven, were created using colouring pencils, which are realistic representations of astronomical features. But they could also be viewed as abstract patterns. To me this showed how works of art can be both figurative and abstract and also that nature itself can be abstract.
One of the works in the final room was this sculpture The weakening eye of day (2014), a coil of mild steel wire covered with wadding, taking the same title as that of the exhibition itself.
The final work is a large scale photograph of two donkeys
I’m not sure where that fits in with the birth and death of the Solar System – although the idea is rather like one of the surreal elements of a story Douglas Adams might have dreamt up.
There’s a recording of a guided tour by the exhibition curator on Soundcloud as well as a talk by the Astronomer and Popular Science Author Dr Stuart Clark – titled The Sky’s Dark Labyrinth – that opened the exhibition.
And Isabel Nolan has also written an “audio work” – effectively a radio play –The Three Body Problem – about a world orbited by three suns.
In this world where night rarely falls, art, science, language and knowledge are recognizable, yet play utterly different histories and roles than in our own society. Nolan uses this to reflect upon our relationship to light as a means by which the world is framed. She provides an opportunity to reveal the contingency not only of our own world, but also of our myriad ways of knowing and being in it.