Declan Long

  • Eithne Jordan

    Since abandoning the energetic, expressionist style that characterized her early work—cultivated while studying in the mid-1980s in Berlin at what was then the Hochschule der Künste—the Irish painter Eithne Jordan has prioritized contemplative stillness and calculated understatement. Over the past twenty or so years, she has worked in a coolly reserved realist mode, generally focusing her inquisitive gaze on workaday city spaces and nondescript industrial hinterlands. Many of her best paintings catch moments of fleeting calm within the routine commotion of urban experience: waiting

  • Duncan Campbell

    Duncan Campbell’s breakthrough film, the remarkable mini-documentary Bernadette, 2008, is an inventively intimate portrait of a public figure. Focusing on the life of left-wing activist and politician Bernadette Devlin—a magnetic, motivating presence in the Northern Irish civil rights movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s—Campbell constructed an unorthodox, and perversely intrusive, style of filmic biography. Principally assembled from fragments of news footage, Bernadette shows its young protagonist (born in 1947) rallying crowds and railing against authority with astonishing,

  • Phillip Allen

    Until about five years ago, Phillip Allen’s paintings had two distinct—and dramatically contrasting—characteristics. One was an energetically inventive, frequently cartoonish style of colorful drawing. In each of his ebullient oil-on-board works he would essay illusionistic depictions of strange spaces, shapes, or structures—envisioning fanciful 3-D forms within the flat confines of a painting’s surface. The other hallmark of Allen’s art, however, was a preoccupation with the actual three-dimensional properties of paint: an interest declared in his prodigal application of heavy,

  • Liam Gillick

    Liam Gillick’s art is often emphatically placeless. His most familiar sculptural works merge forms adapted from Minimalism with the faux-cheerful design styles of present-day corporate or commercial meeting areas, from boardrooms to bars. His typically CAD-drawn, RAL-colored, precision-made Plexiglas-and-aluminum structures recall labor or leisure spaces that we might pass through on a daily basis almost anywhere in the world. At the same time, Gillick’s design decisions are frequently informed by progressive art movements from earlier eras (De Stijl, the Bauhaus): varieties of functional,

  • Ciara Phillips

    Asked to write a job reference for the industrious Canadian-Irish artist Ciara Phillips, I might choose to praise her as a committed team player. Much of her work to date—centering on the medium of print, which she employs in the production of images, installations, and interactive situations—has been determinedly collaborative. Phillips is a believer in the democratic accessibility of printmaking, utilizing its tools and processes in ways that emphasize open, experimental situations of communal creativity. Her 2013 exhibition at London’s Showroom—“Workshop (2010–ongoing),” a

  • Charlotte Prodger

    Charlotte Prodger’s Stoneymollan Trail, 2015, the sole work in her first Dublin show, is a dense, elliptical, fitfully autobiographical film essay. It is the Glasgow-based artist’s most substantial moving-image production to date, but throughout its fifty-one restless minutes, it remains a work in search of a finished form. Pieced together from a media-miscellany of HD camera clips, iPhone videos, and older footage found in Prodger’s personal archive of camcorder cassettes, this is at once a tightly packed montage of recorded memories and an insistently inchoate account of the artist’s recent

  • Anne Hardy

    Two site-specific structures in two near-identical rooms: Anne Hardy’s TWIN FIELDS, 2015, shared a similar architectural starting point, but the outcomes could hardly have been more different. Drawing on the dimensions of the Common Guild’s domestic-scale galleries—ground-floor and second-floor front rooms of a converted Victorian town house—Hardy designed and assembled a contrasting pair of voluminous, made-to-measure constructions. These bulky, rickety forms—fashioned from basic builder’s materials such as timber beams, plasterboard, and concrete blocks—were unlikely

  • Vittorio Santoro

    In a 1969 interview, Vladimir Nabokov declared that teachers of James Joyce’s Ulysses should ignore “the pretentious nonsense of Homeric, chromatic, and visceral chapter headings” and instead “prepare maps of Dublin with Bloom’s and Stephen’s intertwining itineraries clearly traced.” For Nabokov, “any ass” could assimilate a book’s general ideas. It was the “sensual spark” created by a text’s uniquely combined details that truly mattered.

    Swiss-Italian artist Vittorio Santoro shares something of this zeal for literary detail. The minimal forms and elliptical content of his drawings, actions, and

  • Eoin Mc Hugh

    A curious meeting of man and beast was central to the keyed-up drama of Eoin Mc Hugh’s “the skies will be friendlier then.” Dominating one end of the room was a grotesque quasi-equine sculpture titled the ground itself is kind, black butter (all works 2014): a headless hybrid animal made mainly from wax, black sheepskin, and steel. It was an absurd and somewhat frightening creature: part staggering newborn foal; part menacing, mutant four-legged ostrich. The sculpture’s title—taken from Seamus Heaney’s 1969 poem “Bogland”—was surely meant to highlight how this unsteady, deformed animal

  • Dennis McNulty

    One way to begin decoding Dennis McNulty’s tech-savvy, aesthetically impersonal work might be, perversely, to consider two key aspects of his biography. First, McNulty’s main training was not in art but in engineering, and across an expansive range of subsequent artistic activities—installations, sculptures, films, sound works, performances—he has continued to develop interests arising from that discipline. Second, during his postcollege years in the 1990s, McNulty’s engineering talents were channeled into the production of electronic music: recording as part of an acclaimed duo, Decal,

  • Caoimhe Kilfeather

    As one of the more admired young Irish artists of recent years, Caoimhe Kilfeather has, naturally enough, featured in a good number of respectable group shows. At such gatherings, however, her minimal sculptures have often stood out—or rather stepped back—as notably undemonstrative, even somewhat morose presences. Included among the up-and-coming talent selected for “Holding Together” at Dublin’s Douglas Hyde Gallery in 2010, Kilfeather chose to show a modest early work, Scheflerra Arboricola, 2007: an apparently fragile geometric representation of a household plant, constructed from

  • Isabel Nolan

    Italo Calvino once argued that writers had to “set themselves tasks that no one else dares imagine.” Artistic vitality becomes possible, Calvino believed, by having “immeasurable goals, far beyond all hope of achievement.” Exemplary in this regard is Goethe’s 1780 declaration that he planned to write “a novel about the universe.” Isabel Nolan’s “The weakened eye of day” was no doubt conceived in a similar spirit of absurd overambition. Its title adapted from a description of the dimming sun in Thomas Hardy’s poem “The Darkling Thrush,” this was an exhibition about the universe—or at least

  • Nicholas Keogh

    At the 2005 Venice Biennale, Northern Irish artist Nicholas Keogh took to the waters of the Grand Canal in a homemade motorized gondola. Constructed from a crude jumble of domestic and industrial junk, including a bulky outdoor garbage container, a stained and battered bathtub, and some rusty oil drums, Keough’s Bin Boat, 2005, was a ridiculous but nonetheless viable vessel. The artist and his creative partner Paddy Bloomer piloted through the city with noisy, impertinent disregard for the decorum and tradition of the Venetian waterways. Bloomer and Keogh’s amateur boat-building venture—essentially,

  • Jennifer Tee

    Jennifer Tee’s installations are marked by a deep psychological ambiguity. If often seemingly designed to stimulate psychic serenity or spiritual uplift, they nonetheless advocate no clearly defined paths to inner peace and higher consciousness. Indeed, Tee’s works often leave the viewer with persistent doubts about the possibility of reaching such enlightened states. But this equivocation may be precisely the point. As with other contemporary artists concerned with assorted forms of mystical yearning—Eva Rothschild and Francis Upritchard come to mind—it is in the tensions between

  • Niamh O’Malley

    Staged concurrently at five different venues—separated by significant distances over a sizable countywide area—Niamh O’Malley’s multipart exhibition for the inaugural Mayo Arts Collaborative was a dispersed retrospective, a strategically decentered survey. This project was partially born of straitened funding circumstances in Ireland: an imaginative resource-sharing attempt by several regional arts centers to experiment with a locally untested model of joint presentation. But by programming their exhibition in a manner that encouraged venue-to-venue travel across subtly varying rural

  • Aleana Egan

    A tiny photograph from Aleana Egan’s recent exhibition “The Sensitive Plant” bears the title 13/1 Sunnypark, Ballygunge, Calcutta, India. Circa 1957 (all works 2013). This precise postal address and approximate date offer some basic context for an otherwise puzzling image: a found snapshot, more than half a century old, showing the unrevealing facade of a grand residence and its elegant, well-tended garden. Hanging directly alongside this image was a second such picture, identical in size and format, and broadly corresponding in content. And yet Egan offered only the following description:

  • Aurélien Froment

    You can learn a lot watching Aurélien Froment’s videos. The works of this Dublin-based Frenchman have a determinedly instructional disposition, showing and telling about a wide range of unrelated subjects. Consider two of his widely shown previous works: Rabbits, 2009, for instance, is a close-up demonstration of how to tie eight nautical knots—the stages of each nifty technique captured in an accompanying kid-friendly mnemonic device (“Build a well, a rabbit comes out of the hole, circles around the tree, and jumps back into the hole”). In Fourdrinier Machine Interlude, 2010, Froment’s

  • Johanna Billing

    The MAC (Metropolitan Arts Centre) is an important new architectural presence in Belfast, standing out starkly against the undistinguished design of other recent additions to the city’s fabric. While parts of the building pay redbrick tribute to Belfast’s Victorian heritage, the imposing granite-and-glass facade is ardently alien, staging an exciting contrast with the pallid neoclassical pastiche of surrounding developments. Will the appearance of such an architecturally bold exhibition venue in this city center in transition prompt artists to ask how the complex particularity of a place might

  • Jesse Jones

    An offbeat curatorial conceit—sleepwalking—formed the programming context for Dublin-based artist Jesse Jones’s recent exhibition “The Trilogy of Dust.”Aiming to provide audiences with what the gallery termed a “stretched-out” encounter with artists’ work, “Sleepwalkers: Production as Process,” a series of solo exhibitions and site-specific commissions at The Hugh Lane, has thus promoted projects in progress by creating space for inchoate, early-stage creative propositions as well as for presentations that have reached a much more evolved, gallery-ready state. (Follow-up installments

  • Brian Duggan

    Instead of a slick contemporary gallery, a high-beamed wooden barn; instead of twenty-first-century clothes, Wild West costume; and instead of solitary, contemplative observation, communal roller-skating. This was the mixed-up mise-en-scène proposed by Brian Duggan in Everything can be done, in principle, 2012, a participatory installation commissioned for the enormous main exhibition space at Visual Centre for Contemporary Art. Inserting a huge timber structure into this austere white box (part of a recently built venue that is therefore already a vast architectural relic of a more affluent