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Seven Irish Artists

By J. Bowers | Posted 9/13/2006

Seven Irish Artists

At Load of Fun Studios through Sept. 23

Load of Fun Studios might just be the most unlikely venue in Baltimore for a showcase of new contemporary work by young Irish artists, but that's exactly what you'll find there this month, thanks to the curatorial efforts of Dublin-born, Baltimore-based abstract painter Bart O'Reilly. Composed of work by O'Reilly's colleagues from his school days at the National College of Art and Design in Dublin, Seven Irish Artists is a surprisingly strong show for the gallery.

It's also a strangely intimate one--despite Load of Fun's sprawling environs, several of the showcased artists have made a palpable effort to reach out to a specifically American audience, giving the show an intriguing air of cross-cultural exchange. Though the artists on offer here are complete unknowns stateside, one in particular is all too keenly aware of the current U.S. political climate. Nevan Lahart, a painter and performance artist, has sent over a series of witty, undeniably confrontational works on paper that make heavy use of typography and Jackson Pollock-influenced splashes of watercolor, ink, and Irish breakfast tea. "Dead End Aesthetic" finds Lahart spelling out "A pretty picture to tell you that there's a war going on" in various hand-drawn fonts, then splattering the whole thing with cheerful, childlike color blobs. A bright splash of slightly darker red in the lower left corner punctuates Lahart's sardonic criticism of America's tendency to sugarcoat world affairs.

Abstract painters Alice Peillon and Tadhg McSweeney are more traditional, working with subdued palettes. Dublin native McSweeney is particularly adept with yellow-gray, blue-gray, green-gray, and other variations on drab in "In the West," a small, pleasingly minimalist landscape that captures the foggy aesthetic of the peat bog-studded Irish countryside. It is, however, quite a shame that his works are displayed against a gray wall--they'd be much more striking mounted on white. By contrast, Peillon (her "Double Reflection" pictured) plays with a combination of abstract and representational images, testing angular lines against rounded, almost three-dimensional objects. Meanwhile, Cóilín Rush looks to films for inspiration, painting stills from popular Hollywood movies such as Alien and Big Trouble in Little China in bold, thickly layered oils.

As of press time, works by two artists were held up in airport customs, but the sole multimedia piece, Laura Buckley's "Reflected Angles/Mirror Painting/SOS"--a three-part video projection that shows the artist rearranging, spray painting, and manipulating a series of mirrors to create a kaleidoscopic effect--more than made up for the deficit. Far more cohesive and deliberately assembled than Load of Fun's usual fare, this show is well worth the visit.

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