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Barbara Knezevic

Temple Bar Gallery & Studios
5-9 Temple Bar
November 25, 2016–January 28, 2017

Barbara Knezevic, Exquisite tempo sector (detail), 2016, mixed media, dimensions variable.

Three tall Perspex plinths are filled to varying heights with dark earth, from which grow robust green fronds of Monstera deliciosa, also known as the hurricane plant. They are like columns, punctuating sites of action or defining the edges of a film set. With them are a number of low, gray daises, and clusters of other objects, their import ambiguous.

With Exquisite tempo sector, 2016, Barbara Knezevic has created an environment in which nature and culture sit in delicate balance, although which is which isn’t always clear. A large photograph shows hands stretching a piece of dyed green leather, its surface also shown in close-up on an LED screen. The artificial appears natural, and the natural, strange. There are handmade terracotta pots that could be ancient but aren’t. Faint scents of oils—sandalwood, cedarwood, spikenard, vetiver—hang on the air.

In less confident hands, this seemingly random assemblage could be cluttered and chaotic, but Knezevic has a tactful eye for placement. In the same vein as Caoimhe Kilfeather, her objects invite speculation and charge the space. The plants, in their slow cycle of growth and decay, are placed alongside candles, molded to resemble their irregular alabaster stands. In this persuasive meditation on the nature of time, everything is gently changing: from the observable to the infinitesimal. The elements of the artist’s installation are so carefully placed that your own presence is disrupted, making you another temporary artifact as time becomes elastic around you.

Gemma Tipton

Daphne Wright

Royal Hibernian Academy
15 Ely Place
January 20, 2017–February 26, 2017

Daphne Wright, Stallion, 2009, marble dust and resin, 15' x 12' x 19' 8".

There is a satisfying frisson—aesthetic, emotional—that rests between the beautiful and the repellent. From a distance, Daphne Wright’s Stallion, 2009, is a glorious thoroughbred, rolling on the ground with abandon. Come closer and see that the beast, cast from a freshly slaughtered horse in resin and marble dust, has been partially eviscerated. A jolt of infinitesimal recoil follows before fascination takes over.

This midcareer retrospective, organized with Bristol’s Arnolfini art center, takes in the various strands of Wright’s practice: filmmaking, sculpture, drawing, and sound. While all her works exert a misleadingly peaceful pull, standouts are Kitchen Table, 2014, Where Do Broken Hearts Go, 2000, and Domestic Shrubbery, 1994. The latter, a room about sixteen feet square, is covered with an ornate plaster floral lattice pattern. Initially beguiling, it soon becomes oppressive. Small hearts are tangled in the design, while a cuckoo calls. One is strongly reminded of Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s 1892 story “The Yellow Wallpaper,” in which a woman, denied any creative outlet, goes mad and retreats into the pattern of her wall covering.

In Where Do Broken Hearts Go, large, tin-wrapped cacti shapes loom, while a woman recites lines from country-and-western songs. Also in this work is a series of eight anonymous photographs, found at a second-hand shop, which lend a sense of universality to the piece’s theme of longing and loss. Kitchen Table is a jesmonite cast of the artist’s young sons, appearing like funerary statues, at a table. There is something unapproachable about the intimate scene—we are forever held off, just by a moment, from connection. Life, death, love, belonging: Wright’s “ordinary” subjects make up all that is extraordinary in life.

Gemma Tipton