A cacophony of zealous chatter has been on the rise amid arty circles over the past few months and if you’ve eavesdropped on any of these frenzied talks of late you’ll no doubt have heard the words Dublin Contemporary. Described as the most ambitious contemporary art event Ireland has ever seen, the excitement has become palpable as we approach September when Dublin Contemporary is due to showcase the work of more than 90 artists both international and homegrown.
Tipping the hat to WB Yeats’ poem Easter 1916 and aptly capturing the zeitgeist, the title and theme of the exhibition is Terrible Beauty, Art, Crisis, Change and The Office of Non-Compliance. This striking title can be seen to preempt art’s continuing ability to make relevant commentary on societal and political issues of the day and a selection of the artists on show uphold this hypothesis. One among them is photographer Nina Berman whose sobering images of wounded American war veterans have won her international acclaim. Although the title may suggest that the works will air on the side of seriousness, a degree of whimsy is sure to be injected into the proceedings with the likes of Wang Du, famous for large scale sculptures carved from rubbish. Although renowned artists will feature at the event, it seems the curators Jota Castro and Christian Viveros-Fauné have made a conscious effort to include an array of less established names, affording emerging artists a much needed platform in the current chilly creative climate.
Of the Irish contingency artists such as Brian O’Doherty, James Coleman and Willie Doherty join the tier of those more eminent names. They will feature alongside a younger generation among them Niamh O Malley, Corban Walker, Nevan Lahart, Brian Maguire, Katie Holten and Eamon O Kane. As well as such burgeoning artists as Ella Burke, Ciara Scanlan and Conor Harrington.
The venue itself has elicited much commentary in recent times; Earlsfort terrace will rouse nostalgic memories for many as the former stomping grounds of UCD students and indeed it’s not the venue’s first brush with the art world. Playing host to the 1980 ROSC exhibition it seems the grounds already boast affiliations with pioneering art events. In a time when most contemporary art is exhibited within the sterile confines of the white cube, Earlsfort Terrace brings with it a certain comforting familiarity. Whereas the inexperienced gallery goer may be intimidated by the cold and often sacral ambiance that seems to permeate white cubes, Earlfort Terrace offers up a less daunting environment to experience contemporary art and perhaps by extension renders it more accessible to those novice art appreciators among us. However discontent to be restricted to just one venue, Dublin Contemporary will be stretching its roots to other established institutions such as The National Gallery of Ireland, The Royal Hibernian Academy, The Douglas Hyde Gallery and Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane.
It has to be said that in recent times contemporary art has acquired somewhat of a bad rep, primarily for its frequently obscure or inaccessible themes. More often than not this can be attributed to poor communication of artistic intent rather than absence of pertinent concepts or inherent lack of skill. However organizers of Dublin Contemporary have made a huge effort to engage the public and educate them on the showcased work. In addition to programs which are tailored to educate primary through to third level students, the dynamic hub for the majority of this learning will be the curiously titled Office of Non Compliance. Describing itself as a “promoter of ideas around a laundry list of non-conformist art proposals”, a plethora of discussions, seminars and talks will be taking place in the office over the course of the exhibition.
Dublin Contemporary will run from the September 6th – October 31st, so be sure to make the most of this landmark event which is certain to wind its way into the annals of art historical discourse and literature.
Words: Sarah Allen.