Rare Encounter With Sculpture In The Spotlight - Aidan Dunne reviews Wall & Plinth in The Irish Times


The Peppercanister Gallery's new show, Wall & Plinth, features small-scale works by 13 sculptors. That's unusual because we rarely encounter shows devoted entirely to sculpture. More often than not, sculpture is regarded as an optional add-on to paintings. There are economic reasons for this. By its nature, sculpture is relatively expensive. A bronze, for example, entails the specialised and costly business of casting. It's important to say relatively expensive though, because in absolute terms sculpture is not usually that pricy when production and other costs are taken into account, for the good reason that artists and galleries know they have a battle on their hands to sell it.

This is not to say that commercial galleries are necessarily run by idealists or that sculptors have something against making a living. But often sculpture entails a degree of dedication and commitment that is above the odds, and Wall & Plinth does reflect that fact. In a way, it is a small survey show that spans several generations of Irish artists.

Although the work included is all current, John Behan's pieces still reflect his pioneering use of Irish mythology in constructing an indigenous school of figurative sculpture, something elaborated in the work of Carolyn Mulholland. Equally, Breon O'Casey's treatments of staple themes - animals, the nude - recall classical European lineage.

Brian King is representative of a generation that embraced emerging art forms in the 1960s and 1970s, including minimalist abstraction and environmental sculpture. Michael Warren is well-known for his monumental work and, strikingly, that sense of monumentality translates convincingly on to a much smaller scale. He deals in terms of two basic orientations, the horizontal and the vertical, each respectively dominant in the two fine pieces on view. Sharon Lynch deals with comparable concerns in her sensitively poised, elegant bronzes.

Eilis O'Connell, Eileen McDonagh and Deirdre McLoughlin all possess impeccable feeling for sculptural form, something hard to define but easy to recognise. All have produced beautiful pieces for this show, McDonagh adhering to symmetrical geometric figures in her Black Star and White Star. Both O'Connell and McLoughlin depart from the geometric, moving towards the organic, with possible references to the human body.

Graham Gingles is known for his constructed, complex boxes. The three in the exhibition are really exceptional, even by his own high standards, and justify a trip to the exhibition in themselves.

It's not an all-Irish affair. Robert Janz's brilliantly visualised animal figures, here cast in bronze, are amazing. Sonja Landweer's voluminous, patinated bronzes are characterised by a sense of space within and, in the case of one ensemble piece, between. Adolfo Estrada's remarkable painted wood constructions are architectonic, occupying a space somewhere between painting and sculpture with quiet authority.