At Origin Gallery 29th April – 23rd May 2016
‘It is the perpetual struggle of the cause of Ireland and every other ideal cause against private hopes and dreams, against all that we mean when we say the world.’
W.B. Yeats, The United Irishman, 5th May 1902
‘IN THRALL TO CAITLÍN’ at The Origin Gallery, Dublin, is a series of new paintings and drawings by Suzy O’ Mullane, depicting human and animal forms in altered perspectives and ambiguous projection, all of which are drawn from personal, historical, religious and mythological contexts and are intertwined with elements of layering, light, darkness, colour, gesture and gaze…
O’ Mullane uses personal experience as a catalyst to develop a visual language of metaphorical forms. In this series, Cathleen Ni Houlihan is a metaphor for Ireland, which O’ Mullane has taken from the play by W.B.Yeats of the same name. For many centuries, poets and rebels have likened Ireland to the woman – either old woman or young queen – historically mistreated and abused, whom young men have been called to defend. In the Irish sean nós song, ‘Sé Mo Laoch’, the woman laments the departure of her ‘Caesar’, her ‘bright darling’, who was to rescue her. But like many women, Ireland has fallen prey to self-seeking men.
The series found its first impetuous with a photo of former Irish Taoiseach, Charles Haughey, from a 1980’s book about prominent Irish figures. O’Mullane’s portrayals of him are imbued with expression: mainly dark humour and satire, reflecting her opinion of him as self-proclaimed emperor and charming scoundrel. He was often thought of as a political figure who reflected his political sphere, when pinstripe suits and brown envelopes, semper eadem, aid political decision making.
‘The Slumber of Cathleen Ní Houlihan’ depicts a sleeping woman wearing a voluminous emerald green dress, holding a crow. Three crows are flying away from the figure and in the bottom left hand corner, an impassive Haughey-like bust wears a pinstripe garment with a fur collar. Around his head is a halo-like disc, which could also suggest coin.
In ‘Ether’, his outstretched hand is waving; his surroundings suggest a stage. He is flanked by a large frothing Irish Wolfhound. In other ‘Nil Sea’, he converses with a crow, who replies in latin. In other works, O’ Mullane makes reference toPadraig Pearse and Charles Stuart Parnell, both of whom are credited as founding fathers of the Irish free state.
Text often navigates these works in parallel; like a verbal gift of dislocated wisdom or passing comment. In ‘Flght’, a bolting horse is terrified by overhead vultures and a catapulting woman’s undergarment. The word ‘No’ is painted in a bubble of pink, linked, but also separate. In ‘Mo Laoch’, the woman is portrayed as both young and old…
She wears emerald green and orange clothing, hinting at her identity. She defends herself in a way that is both coquettish and protective. Similarly, the space around her can be read either as sky, or equally, as interior monologue.
O’Mullane’s work sidesteps conclusion: rather she allows space for the creation of multiple meanings. For her, meaning is found always in the flux of myriad layers: in the character of a person, the metaphoric imaging of a people and place, and consequently also, in this body of work.
SUZY O’ MULLANE is a visual artist who has been practicing and exhibiting consistently in Dublin, London, NY, Berlin and LA since 1996. Throughout her practice, she has developed and employs multiple encoded forms that have become personal allegorical references. Her work conceptualises emotional experience, personal and societal identity, and memory through the mediums of painting, drawing, video, performance and writings.
O’ Mullane was educated at UCC (BA English) and Crawford College of Art and Design (BA Fine Art (Hons) and Post-Grad. She is co-founder and former director for 6 years of ArtTrail Cork. Notably, her work has been presented at Art Miami, Art Toronto, and also Art Chicago,Art Wynwood and Art Palm Beach, as well as in many solo exhibitions. She has held solo exhibitions at the Crawford Municipal Gallery, Triskel Arts Centre, Solstice Arts Centre,Siamsa Tire Arts Centre, Blueleaf Gallery, and Origin Gallery. Her work is represented in many public and private collections in the US and Europe, including Crawford Municipal Gallery, TCD, UCC, and OPW.
Current and forthcoming Projects: Irish Wave: The Birth of a Nation, group exhibition (invited artist), Beijing and Shanghai, March – April 2016, IN THRALL TO CAITLíN, solo exhibition, The Origin Gallery, from April 29, 2016 to May 23 2016. Context Art Fair, 3 – 8 May 2016, The Wounded Deer (invited artist) Melbourne, March 2017.
‘IN THRALL TO CAITLíN’ was opened by VINCENT BROWNE and with guest speaker BRIAN MAGUIRE.