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Lorg Print-makers Annual Bursary Award Exhibition, Visual Artists’ News Sheet Nov/Dec 2012.

December 17, 2012

In producing exhibition reviews for the Critique section, writers are deployed in unexpected places, armed with little more than willingness for critical engagement and a disposition towards artistic appraisal. This commissioning process has proved relatively successful, allowing reviewers to engage with artwork that they might not have otherwise chosen to write about, with a degree of honest reflection beginning to emerge out of art-writing in Ireland. Best practice suggests that criticality is not defined by ‘good’ or ‘bad’ reviews and ‘taking a stance’ potentially releases us from the voids of neutrality or cronyism. On this occasion, I left the exhibition in question feeling disappointed, but also grateful, because now I have the opportunity to explain why.

Lorg Fine Art Printmakers Ltd was established in 2005 by a group of print-making graduates who identified a need for a 24-hour-access professional printmaking workshop in Galway City. Lorg (which currently operates out of premises in Ballybane Enterprise Centre) has developed a diverse education and community outreach programme. This includes the provision of an excellent Annual Bursary Award for print-making graduates, which offers access to the print workshop for a year. This commitment to supporting graduate artists demonstrates a willingness to maintain links with the New Centre for Creative Arts and Media at GMIT, a resource for the city that many other local initiatives and organisations fail to recognise.

The recipients of the Bursary Award for 2011 – 2012 were Norah Brennan and Claudia Keegan, who both graduated from the BA Fine Art Printmaking course at GMIT in 2011. The artists had the opportunity to present their new bodies of artwork in a joint exhibition which ran from 24 August – 24 September 2012 in Galway City Hall. It was Lorg’s decision to utilise this wholly unsuitable venue that disappointed me most. But, despite its inadequate show-casing, the artwork proved interesting, and was created using an array of traditional and contemporary print-making techniques.

Norah Brennan’s ‘Imagined Landscapes’ was a series of 12 prints produced using a number of printmaking techniques. Wood and lino cut, mono-print and screen-printing processes were combined with collage techniques, producing layered and colourful compositions. Aesthetically, the body of work was reminiscent of Modernist geometric painting, with angular shapes intruding upon the dream-like landscapes.  In some works, repetitious circular orbs – gestures of solar, lunar or planetary bodies – became increasingly threatening in their invasion of the sky. Claudia Keegan’s new body of work, ‘A Path I Slowly Followed’, utilised landscape as a more self-reflexive site, with a compelling “visual monologue of internal conflict”. This activity produced an almost psycho-geographic depiction of human interaction with the external environment. The series comprised seven black and white digital prints depicting semi-abstract imagery including tree-silhouettes, paths and railway tracks. These physical manifestations of journey proved graphically striking, but a counter-dialogue also existed within the work in the form of blanks spaces which appeared to be almost erased from the surface of some prints. This carving out of space provided reflection on the moments when internal freedoms can be identified within the everyday grit.

Contemporary printmaking continues to occupy a versatile but insufficiently defined position in proximity to design, commerce, industry, craft and the visual arts. As a fine art organisation, Lorg are well placed to identify suitable venues, exhibition-making strategies and audiences for their members’ work. Is contemporary print really best placed in adorning the corridors of civic amenities? Spaces such as these present a number of aesthetic and practical problems. Firstly, the lights were off. Whether this was a money-saving initiative or whether someone simply forgot to switch them on is not the issue. The fact that the viewing area was severely impinged upon by a wall-mounted radiator and an array of institutional signage, and the building was closed during culture night, further entrenched my view that the space was not suitable for exhibition purposes.

As well as providing access to contemporary printmaking workshop, Lorg Annual Bursary Award also provides the recipients with a valuable opportunity to interact with other printmakers in a professional studio environment, allowing them to make the transition from student to practicing artist – these important benefits were highlighted by the two artists when I contacted them about their experience. This fidelity to professional practice should therefore, in my view, also permeate the stage of public presentation, in order to showcase not only the high standard of work produced during this period, but also the merits of  the bursary itself, in order to further enrich and challenge the parameters of print-making, with the aim of moving thinking forward.

 

Lorg Print-makers Annual Bursary Award Exhibition

·        Norah Brennan – ‘Imagined Landscapes’

·        Claudia Keegan – ‘A Path I Slowly Followed’

City Hall, Galway

24th August – 24th September 2012

 

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