John Hansard Gallery is excited to present recent and newly commissioned work by Niamh O’Malley, a contemporary Irish artist known for her highly crafted sculptures and moving image installations. In 2022, O’Malley will represent Ireland at the 59th Venice Biennale.
Niamh O’Malley uses steel, limestone, wood and glass to create a considered and purposeful sequence of forms. From polished wooden handles and sanded slivers of glass to stretched lines of steel, there is an assurance in O’Malley’s work of something still and solid. An exhibition which strives to produce successive moments of attention is perhaps timelier than ever.
A series of sculptures occupy the gallery at varying heights and scales, yet their proportions and configurations are vaguely familiar. As we enter, a polished handrail protrudes and subtly prompts us around a corner. In Canopy, a shelter of grey glass hangs overhead. These aren’t quite objects of use or architecture. There is an element of tableau, an assemblage in space to be inhabited. Steel rods dissect the room, allocating and apportioning the floor and the air for person and object, providing stances, stands and stature.
In the centre of the room a large LED screen flicks whipping grasses. There is a function on the iPhone called ‘live’; it’s not video, but rather it extends the moment where you thought you simply captured a still. It seems to give you back what you might have lost; it could be said to produce an encounter with absence. The grasses are transient, fragile and seasonal and somehow subject to the capture of a device we hold in our hands. The footage is edited by recording the movement of the artist’s finger, swiping through these images. Any slippage or shift in tempo also registers. It’s fidgety and distracting – even a little violent, conscious of the futility of this kind of witnessing.
O’Malley also presents a new work commissioned by John Hansard Gallery. A series of shaped and scored slabs made from fossil-rich limestone occupy the end of the ground floor gallery. Each slab is shaped into a gentle slope that falls away to the ground. The apertures carved into the stone are reminiscent of water ducts, harsh cuts in this ancient sedimentary rock, itself vulnerable to erosion and transformation by the flow of water. This artwork, titled Drain, is stone on concrete on ground, reminding us, ultimately, of the earth beneath our feet.
A John Hansard Gallery exhibition presented in partnership with RHA Gallery, Dublin. A new publication featuring texts by Claire-Louise Bennett, Isobel Harbison and Niamh O’Malley accompanies the exhibition, published by RHA.
The exhibition has been made possible through generous support from Dr Alison Steele, Stefan Cross QC, Culture Ireland, and Henry Moore Foundation.
Niamh O’Malley was born in Co. Mayo, and lives in Dublin, Ireland. She has made numerous major exhibitions in recent years including The Douglas Hyde Gallery, Dublin; Bluecoat, Liverpool; RHA, Dublin; Lismore Castle Arts; Grazer Kunstverein. The Ireland at Venice 2022 Curatorial Team, Temple Bar Gallery + Studios, will present Niamh O’Malley’s Gather at the Irish Pavilion, La Biennale di Venezia in 2022.