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Captivating Brightness: IMMA in Connemara for the 35th anniversary of the Clifden Arts Festival
Captivating Brightness, an exhibition from the Collection of the Irish Museum of Modern Art celebrating the 35th anniversary of Clifden Arts Festival, opens to the public on Thursday 20 September 2012. The title, Captivating Brightness, taken from the poem Ballynahinch Lake by Seamus Heaney, recognises the strong multi-disciplinary approach of the festival. The exhibition brings together some 20 works that enter the heart of the West through an exploration of major Irish and international artists all of whom have either responded directly to or have strong links with Connemara. Presenting a selection of historical works by artists such as Jack B Yeats, Paul Henry and Mainie Jellett, alongside contemporary artists such as Richard Long, Dorothy Cross and Michael Craig-Martin, further highlight the enduring ability of the West of Ireland to excite and captivate the imagination of the artist.
Commenting on the exhibition, Desmond Lally, Arts Committee, Clifden Community Arts Festival, said: “It is to IMMA’s credit that they have allowed these works to breathe in the Connemara air and travel west to Clifden. It demonstrates the inclusive nature of this institution and its openness to giving art back to the people. Some of the works in this exhibition will be familiar and accessible, others will be challenging and new but all hold a place in our national artistic heritage and for the first time are gathered together outside Dublin in a place that played a part in their creation”.
Paul Henry has been credited with the creation of a particular notion of Irish identity in the 20th-century, based on the landscape and lifestyle of the West of Ireland. The treatment of light, the expansive sky and cloud formations together with a sense of stillness are typical features of his art. In Barrie Cooke’s painting Megaceros Hibernicus, 1983, the elk emerges majestically from the gloomy bogalnd with its enromous antlers treated like massive antennae transmitting, as it were, a message from the past. Meanwhile in Camille Souter’s paintings even the most random of marks may indicate the direction of a plane or a bird in full flight. Her tones are muted and mysterious, and the layering of paint suggestes depth and hidden riches.
Michael Craig-Martins, Film, 1963, was shot at Lettermore and Lettermullen in Connemara during the summer of 1962. During this period of his early career he had no experience of making films. There is a reflection of his basic approach to film making in his subject matter and his capturing of the emptiness and stillness of the countryside and landscape. Mundane and routine experiences of daily life in Connemara are evoked and celebrated. As with many of Dorothy Cross’s sculptures Saddle, 1993, is made up of found objects. While dealing with loaded issues of gender, Cross introduces an element of humour, and playfully attaches an up-turned cow's udder to a horse-riding saddle, subverting its intended use in a surreal and physically arresting way. Richard Long's art takes the form of walks, sculptures and mud works, making work in the landcape and of the landscape. Kilkenny Limestone Circle, 1991, was commissioned for the opening exhibition of the Irish Museum of Modern Art in 1991. Twenty years previously Long made a work Connemara Sculpture, 1971, documentation of which is part of the Tate Collection.
The exhibition is a collaboration between the Clifden Arts Festival and the IMMA National Programme. IMMA’s National Programme is designed to create access opportunities to the visual arts in a variety of situations and locations in Ireland. Using the Collection of the Irish Museum of Modern Art and exhibitions generated by the Museum, the National Programme facilitates the creation of exhibitions and other projects for display in a range of venues around the country. The National Programme establishes the Museum as inclusive, accessible and national, de-centralising the Collection, and making it available to communities in their own localities, on their own terms, in venues with which the audience is comfortable and familiar.
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