Interview with Christina Kennedy of IMMA – Hennessy Art Fund

Pictured from left to right: Ciarán Murphy, Mairead McClean, Christina Kennedy, Mark Garry & Elaine Cullen.

Hennessy Art Fund for IMMA Collection – Senior Curator: Head of Collections – Christina Kennedy of IMMA talks to Nomoreworkhorse – Written by Frank L.

Hennessy Art Fund for IMMA Collection – 13 July 2017 – 26 November 2017 – Courtyard Galleries, East Ground

Explain a little about the Hennessy Art Fund and what in particular is its remit?

Christina Kennedy: The Hennessy Art Fund for Irish Art was set up in 2016 to help IMMA purchase contemporary works of art for the national collection. IMMA has had very little support for the purchase of new work since the economic downturn and since 2011  has had no viable acquisition budget. A substantial gap therefore had been developing in the story of contemporary art in Ireland.  As a result art practice that represents the current generation of artists is in danger of being lost from artistic memory.  Therefore this funding by Hennessy is of great assistance to IMMA as it helps to address the situation as well as proactively helping Irish artists to continue to develop their careers.

The rules for the acquisition of work are: the artists must be Irish or based in Ireland, the work is to have been created within the last five years and the artist must not be already represented in the collection. Age of the artist is not relevant.  This years works were nominated by IMMA Director Sarah Glennie, myself as Head of Collections and a guest panellist, independent curator Linda Shevlin, and the selection was formally approved by the IMMA Collections & Acquisitions committee. The process begins several months before the final announcement.

It is vital that IMMA is in a position to acquire key works that relate to what is happening now, that help define contemporary life.  So we look to acquire works that reflect the extraordinary depth and quality of visual art produced in Ireland and that create opportunities for new dialogues and perspectives on society and culture.  Artists are attuned to what is going on in the world and can give powerful expression to ideas, emotions and situations not so easily expressed elsewhere.

IMMA collects all types of work –  paintings, works on paper, sculpture, installation, film, video, performance, photographs and various other media… no medium is excluded. IMMA is obviously conscious of the life and conservation requirements of artistic work. It is true to say that in some artworks the materials used can be quite ephemeral and capable of degeneration and in some instances that may be deliberate and an implicit part of the work.  In those instances artists make allowance for that in specifying that certain elements in their work may, at a later date, be reiterated.  It is important that such works are represented in the Collection.

So, the Hennessy Fund allowed us in 2016 to acquire four new works and then in 2017, coincidentally, another four new works.  However the entire fund could in any one year be spent on a single work. It depends on what art works are available within the time frame.

The criteria in relation to a specific art work, is that the work expresses excellence and innovation, that the artist is at a singular moment of their career, which has been recognised curatorially, nationally and perhaps internationally, through selection for exhibitions, acquisitions, commissions and awards.  The artist should be at a point where they are working with assurance and their profile is beginning to develop. The works this year are relevant to current international trends.

The blue-green celestial sphere rising by the painter Ciarán Murphy

Perhaps we can look in turn at the four particular works acquired in 2017.

Christina Kennedy: The work in the first room is an enigmatic painting by Ciaran Murphy called “L2” (2013). His starting point is a vast archive of imagery which he has collected over the years from various sources. This archive acts as an unseen spine or backbone in the creation of a painting such as this.  This particular piece is a large work created through a series of overlapping washes in cool blues and dark petrol tones.  The spherical form that fills the composition hovers between figuration and abstraction, seeming familiar and alien at the same time.  As you continue to watch, it almost apparently pulsates. It is particularly important for this work, as it is indeed for all art, that the spectator grants the work extended viewing.  It is only through lengthy observation that the work begins to unfold. Hanging alone it commands the space and seems to watch you as you move around.

The second work No More (2013) is by Mairead McClean and is a reflection on her childhood memories of her father’s internment in Northern Ireland in 1972. It comprises a screen that presents found video footage together with sound. The work interweaves two distinct videos: one of TV news footage of Brian Faulkner, Prime Minister of Northern Ireland in 1971, giving the reasons in a public address of the necessity for introducing internment; and the other of a dance training video by Polish actor Rhyzard Cieslak, filmed in 1972, in which he demonstrates body movements derived from Hatha Yoga, designed to help a dance student to go beyond their own limitations so as to be able to express their inner self. The latter has a shamanistic quality that stands in contrast to the repetition of the clipped words used by Brian Faulkner in his public address.  The dancer’s movements  are also in stark contrast to the inevitable physical restraints that will exist for the internees.  The artist found the dance footage in 1993 which she put aside until she began to re-investigate her family history. Gradually, the piece in its current form emerged. The piece also includes McLean’s voice-over in conversation with her mother as they share memories of that time. The installation includes four small works on paper which were created by the artist as a child: letters and drawings to her father in Long Kesh asking when the government would let him home. No More is a meditation on past trauma that carries universal meaning whether the viewer is familiar with that history or not.

Artist Mairead McClean with her work at IMMA. Installation View: Mairéad McClean, No More (2013). Found footage, vhs, digital video and sound. Duration: 16 min. Collection Irish Museum of Modern Art. Purchase, Hennessy Art Fund for IMMA Collection , 2017

Yuri Pattison’s work reflects on the increasingly permeable boundaries between social and work life and explores concepts of labour in the digital economy. He works in sculpture and digital media to explore the visual culture of digital economies and the nature of online/offline skill-sharing.

Transparency, hybrid viscosity (communal table v.00P), 2017 intuits a sort of organic connectivity within corporate work environments. It takes its inspiration from a communal work table common to flexible workspaces and synonymous with the digital economies that have emerged over the past decade: co-working spaces, the hot-desk, laptop café, tech incubators etc.  His work gives form to abstract concepts such as the internet, the Cloud and so forth through an architecture of forms that evokes modernist, utopic qualities of peer-led communities .

Work by Yuri Pattison at IMMA

This installation includes a glass communal table the underside of which is rendered opaque by a patterned film of dried water droplets.  Arranged around the table are two (unlicensed) Chinese replicas of Eames chairs and a third which is a projected render of the true Eames design on to a draped citrus infused polythene dust-sheet. Other elements include a Wifi router and overhead LED panel. All combines to emphasise the temporary, disposable and trend-driven nature of digital economies.

The fourth work, North of the West (2017), by Mark Garry is a film work accompanied by sound that is provided by a turntable with a vinyl record which the visitor can set in motion as they wish. The piece was created by Garry as part of a solo exhibition entitled “An Afterwards” which took place in the Luan Gallery in Athlone last summer.  The location is central to this suite of work in which the artist reflects on associated social, cultural and topographical aspects of his upbringing, close to Athlone. Amongst those influences were regular visits, which would have been typical for most Irish children then, to church, in his case the very substantial edifice that is Athlone cathedral. He was captivated by the spectacle of it all, the sheer scale of the cathedral, the lofty ceilings and the enormity of the spaces, the sound of the choir rising up and surrounding him.  In response, Garry shot this film, assisted by artist/cinematographer Padraig Cunningham, in which he uses images of the sea at Mullaghmore, Co Sligo to convey his memories of these childhood feelings and the scale, sound  and terrifying beauty of the tumultuous, rolling waves as they break against the coastline as a sort of allegorical parallel.  The vinyl soundtrack comes from another sea-inspired work, entitled ‘Drift’ produced in collaboration with composer Sean Carpio and resulted from a musical performance involving an Aeolian harp which they made from a boat, a hammer dulcimer and saxophone. Inspiration for the composition came from Carpio’s research of ancient Sumerian hymns, thus looping the work back to the ascending music in the cathedral.


From ‘North of the West’ (2017) by Mark Garry



Categories: Art, Header, interview, Music

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