Exhibition Research Point:
Enniskillen: Recent work of David Rankin.
Hazelhurst Regional Gallery & Arts Centre (Gymea, NSW, Australia)
I went to see the above exhibition, with some trepidation I must admit. Ireland and the IRA in the 1980’s is not a subject I feel comfortable with. I was brought up in England, was fully informed by the British media on all affairs occurring in Northern Ireland at the time and quite obviously have an extremely limited idea of the actual truth behind many of the IRA bombings, protests and other killings. Looking at the recent media fracas in England makes me nervous about commenting on anything where they have been my main source of information.
Having said that, Hazelhurst Gallery is renowned for good quality exhibitions, excellent catalogues and an abundance of information regarding their events. Oh, and it does have a superb restaurant!!
After being in the gallery for two minutes I realised that I needed to buy the catalogue. The works were huge, compelling and unusual. I needed to have a record of them to keep. This was an exhibition of recent work by David Rankin which confronts Ireland’s 1982 Remembrance Day attacks.
Taken from the Hazelhurst Gallery website with permission from the gallery staff:
The Enniskillen paintings and murals integrate photographic news images from the 1987 bombings on to black paper with paint. The brushstrokes emulate ash, dust and ruin making the images appear to be shrouded in a cloud of dust. Rankin grapples not only with the chaos of the shattered buildings and the scatter of human victims, but with his own Irish heritage. Rankin’s father, who is from Enniskillen, lost two family members during the bombing. In this moving series of works, Rankin attempts to reconcile his history and heritage.
In undertaking to respond to the Enniskillen bombing, Rankin draws on different areas of his past and addresses four decades of pre-occupation with mortality and regeneration. The characters in the Enniskillen paintings are an acknowledgement of the destruction and carnage that took place and a tribute to those that were lost. They also promise a sense of rebuilding and regeneration. ——
Research questions responses –
The theme is as detailed above.
The work was extremely well displayed with plenty of space between exhibits and strategically placed seats.
Yes, the lighting was appropriate.
The explanation of the exhibits came from both the catalogue and a couple of wall plaques with details. Smaller plaques were by each piece with name and techniques used listed.
Yes it was visually stimulating and interesting.
The 3 pieces I have chosen to detail are as follows:
The left hand picture is detail from the catalogue and on the right is a close up of a small area. The piece measures 160 x 475 cm and is acrylic, charcoal and collage on black canvas. I would consider it an abstract piece although there is a representational aspect within the collaged areas depicting scenes of bloodshed and other relevant images. I find the line work extremely expressive in that it feels to me like bars or barriers, even concentration camp fencing with horrors happening within. A personal and frightening visual reminder of the times. I wouldn’t hang it in my living room but I would, without a question, hang it in my workroom. Although it portrays a violent time the message I received, from all the work, is that we must be more civilised, be better people and never forget the lessons of history.
Enniskillen -Sketchbook pages 2010-2011
This display was made up of 144 reproduced sketchbook pages. They were shown in a grid of 18 across and 8 rows down, all abutting the next in portrait format, total size 236 x 378 cm. They were inkjet printed on to Strathmore ultimate white wove paper, in grey tones.
Much of the content was very expressive with short narratives whilst the drawings themselves were mainly symbolic with multiple workings of the same theme as they developed from page to page. David repeated town landmarks throughout which ended up as background images on the final works. It was easy to see what a personal journey this was for him with the final artworks encompassing collaged images of bombed buildings, the covered dead bodies strewn on the ground and the sifting through debris by local people.
Husband and Wife 2007
It was described on the plaque as mixed media and kiln dried bamboo, measuring about 210 x 80cm (this wasn’t stated). It was a free-standing sculptural scaffold looking piece.
The bamboo poles were inserted into a wood looking base, hard to see as the whole exhibit had been white-washed in some manner. On close inspection I could see that the bamboo was lashed together at the intersections using either cotton or bandaging then white-washed. I did wonder if a pickling process had been used or even if it was some kind of emulsion paint but I could detect white grainy lumps on the surface. It then appeared that a medium to light grey paint had been applied to the intersection areas so attention was drawn to these.
Personally I’m not fond of the description ‘mixed media’. I think it’s a cop-out when artists either can’t be bothered to write what they used or don’t want you to know. I liked the simplicity of the piece, the clean lines and the minimalist look but was disconcerted to find a work such as this in an exhibition with a strong theme where it didn’t seem to fit. There was no write-up, no explanation of it and the public is left wondering. The mood it gave was out of sync with the remaining very large and powerful works and I’m left wanting to ask the artist why it was there.
Note: On a personal note, I saw Gerry Adams, the Sinn Fein MP on television a day or two ago. I was shocked to hear his voice because I remember a time in England when both he and Martin McGuinness were banned from being allowed to be heard on mainland TV. We saw their images but never heard them. Gerry was reading a religious text. How the times have changed.