03 May - 29 Jun. 2014

Things go Dark

Fiona Burke, Michael Canning, David Godbold, Conor Kelly, Elizabeth Magill, Eoin McHugh, Stephen McKenna, Alison Pilkington, Jennifer Trouton.

100,000,000 Angels singing

Things go Dark presents a visual exploration of the principles of aestheticism through the work of nine contemporary Irish artists. The paintings in this exhibition lure the viewer into a world of beauty, fear, tension, dark comedy and suspense. Working in various pictorial languages these artists invoke an intense emotional response that demands to be put into sensible form, while at the same time overwhelming all attempts to do so. Their work explores the possibility of a space of immediacy, which remains outside the workings of power and history.

Thinkers throughout the ages have contributed to the debate on the nature of the sublime. This discussion reached its peak in the romantic period when artists, such as David Caspar Friedrich sought to capture the overwhelming sense of awe and terror in humanity’s experience of the magnificent. Writers, and poets took the Grand Tour of the Alps in the 18th and 19th centuries, in search of the sublime experience, the horrors and harmonies of which were later expressed in their work. The philosopher Edmund Burke defines this contrast of aesthetic qualities in his ground-breaking essay A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful in the following extract:

“ The imagination is moved to awe and instilled with a degree of horror by what is dark, uncertain, and confused. While the relationship of the sublime and the beautiful is one of mutual exclusiveness, either one can produce pleasure. The sublime may inspire horror, but one receives pleasure in knowing that the perception is a fiction.”

This enquiry, published in 1757, opened a door on the subject, presenting new definitions of aesthetic philosophies and one’s relationship to the sublime experience. Burke’s essay was a seminal text for the nascent Romantic Movement and inspired Kant’s thinking on the subject, namely that formlessness and ugliness were key to our experience of the sublime. Since then other thinkers have explored and exchanged ideas around the nature of its definition and it’s core tenets. Contemporary thinkers have pointed to abstract works by Jackson Pollack and Kasimir Malevich as capturing the true essence of the sublime, that of formlessness. The debate came to a climax in the early 60s with the birth of conceptual art and the age of post-modernism.

By its very nature the sublime is beyond the realms of the imagination and therefore continues to intrigue both artists and thinkers of the twenty-first century. Through the medium of painting, each of the nine artists in this exhibition seeks to shed light and dark on this elusive and intriguing subject.

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