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“Constructed Culture Sounds Like Conculture”

Donore Avenue, Unit 7 White swan
February 7, 2015–March 14, 2015

Lydia Ourahmane, The Land of the Sun, 2014, perspex, engine oil, lemon tree, tire, 39“ x 79” x 134".

I love a good dose of constructed culture, those slightly out-of-kilter worlds in which speculative fiction thrives. In this exhibition curated by Samuel Leuenberger at a relative newcomer to the Dublin arts scene, there are five artists whose work hints at an expanded reality, creating a satisfyingly immersive environment that has intriguing parallels with everyday experience.

Adrien Missika’s series of sculptures, “Jardin d’hiver (version synthétique)” (Winter Garden [Synthetic Version]), 2013, dominates the gallery, with three bamboo towers on concrete bases that are hung with planters containing ferns and other foliage familiar from corporate atriums and malls, where nature seems oddly unnatural. This uncanny sense continues with Tabor Robak’s two-channel video Algos, 2013, which features a pair of real-time 3-D rollercoaster rides through landscapes, interiors, and cityscapes. The speedy trajectories of the rides accelerate the eye as well, in a gesture both mesmerizing and disorienting.

Elsewhere, Lydia Ourahmane’s The Land of the Sun, 2014, creates a calmer space by comparison. A lemon tree sits in a tire, floating in a Perspex pool of engine oil. Is this natural beauty uneasily coexisting with the substance that quite literally runs our lives or a Zen garden for the modern world? This exhibition as a whole seems perfectly suited to the second decade of the twenty-first century and also oddly prescient of a cyborgian melding of nature and culture that might be soon to come.

Gemma Tipton

Sonia Shiel

8 Chancery Ln
April 30–May 30

View of “Sonia Shiel,” 2015.

Sonia Shiel’s oil paintings tantalize with hints of unresolved narrative. Even her titles, which are presented in the gallery handout in the form of a poem, are allusive yet ultimately obscure: honey drips / all quiet / till one day / never rousing (all works 2015). This conceit is rescued from fey coyness by the strength of Shiel’s canvases and the dark elements that haunt her work.

Like many of the works in this exhibition, birds flee has a theatricality. A recumbent male figure, dressed like a fairy-tale prince in rich indigo with gold palm tree epaulettes, gazes at an octagonal frame or tray from which a peacock and other smaller birds escape. The perspective is deliberately distorted, and the image seems to reiterate the birds—it feels as though it is about to burst from the edges of the canvas. There’s the sense of a proscenium (more pronounced in aquatics glow, all quiet, and burrows open), which echoes the deliberate stagey strangeness of Matthew Barney’s Cremaster 5, 1997. In recent years, Shiel has experimented with video and installation, albeit with a more handmade aesthetic than that of Barney, but her paintings remain strongest, and here, alongside three small sculptures, her assured handling of oils really sings.

Shiel teases the metaphor of the stage to conjure the idea of a story, but at the same time she demonstrates the inadequacy of narrative, whether in theater or art, to reveal our whole psychological picture. At a solo show for Volta New York last year, she presented works with a more muted palette of browns and ochers. In this show, her colors—bright reds, yellows, greens, and blues—burst forth in the most comprehensive and impressive exposition of her painting to date.

Gemma Tipton