WHAT LIES BE­NEATH

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Living - - ART & MUSIC -

Niall Mac­mona­gle

A De­picted Horse is not a Cri­tique of a Horse/ Con­sump­tion Chan­nelled

by Liam Gil­lick Matte black vinyl on wall/ pow­der-coated alu­minium. Courtesy of the artist and Ker­lin Gallery

LON­DON-BRED, New York­based Liam Gil­lick de­cided to study law and phi­los­o­phy, be­come “an ac­tivist lawyer or some kind of highly-ed­u­cated trou­ble­maker” — but in 1982, aged 18, he “shifted his ide­o­log­i­cal fo­cus”, chose cul­ture over pol­i­tics and com­mit­ted com­pletely to art.

Mu­sic, de­sign, punk, fanzines, “hav­ing your own band and mak­ing posters and strange pro­jec­tions” all helped. As a teenager, Lon­don’s ICA was “in­cred­i­bly im­por­tant” and remains “a big fan of ‘arts’ cen­tres, their mixed pro­grammes suck in dis­af­fected young peo­ple look­ing for some­thing new. Paint­ing once in­ter­ested him. “I did some at col­lege. Pretty bad. A very large kit­ten’s head. A self-por­trait from be­hind, driv­ing a car with my ears on the rear-view mirror to see if any­one would no­tice. Coal min­ers break­ing the 1980s strike won­der­ing where all their friends had gone.”

A part of him thinks that “paint­ing op­er­ates best in re­la­tion to all other paint­ings whereas I am more in­ter­ested in the ques­tion of what art

could be in a much broader sense”.

Though he found paint­ing “too lim­it­ing, too end­less or too pompous” he was “com­pletely in­tox­i­cated” by art col­lege. Gil­lick tried ev­ery­thing — “a cow out of an of­fice desk, a film of me cut­ting up a chair while sit­ting on it”, and his de­gree show was a wall of cut-out wooden pan­els rep­re­sent­ing all un­in­hab­ited Amer­i­can-oc­cu­pied is­lands in the world that have mil­i­tary bases.

The Gil­licks were Ir­ish Catholics, from Ca­van, Meath, who em­i­grated in the 19th Cen­tury. Liam re­lates some fam­ily his­tory. “One grand­fa­ther, a La­nark­shire coalminer, later worked in Har­row on a Ko­dak pro­duc­tion line and ac­tu­ally died at work de­vel­op­ing some­one’s hol­i­day snaps,” he says.

(And as a boy, Gil­lick used to draw on “lots of weird yel­low pa­per, used to sep­a­rate the pho­to­graphic pa­per”.)

His other grand­fa­ther was an Ed­war­dian Lon­doner and en­gi­neer.

Gil­lick’s metic­u­lous new Dublin show, a play­ful con­ver­sa­tion be­tween past and present, was partly-in­spired by Siegfried Giedion’s “amaz­ing” 1948 book Mech­a­niza­tion Takes Com­mand — in it, a me­dieval monk dreams of Volvo, an ar­moured knight imag­ines a fu­tur­is­tic steely shape (which ap­pears next to it in the ex­hi­bi­tion). Graph­ics and tightly-com­posed min­i­mal­ist works are side by side.

For Gil­lick “his­tor­i­cal char­ac­ters in tension with re­cent mod­els of pro­duc­tion and aes­thet­ics lengthen our un­der­stand­ing of moder­nity” and the works are in­flu­enced by “pro­cesses of ren­o­va­tion, de­vel­op­ment, and up­dat­ing that we see and feel all around us”. Us­ing note­books, his com­puter and two engi­neers, “we work to­gether on the sculp­tures. I

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