Artist-led groups provide an incredible platform for local, national and international artists to showcase their work, and Longford-based artist Gary Robinson is no stranger to working in this field.
Heavily-involved in Longford's own artist-led group, Engage, Gary is of the opinion that groups like these are a positive addition to the local community.
“While a lot of work was put into Engage, on a national level, Longford is lagging behind in this regard at present, but is fortunate to have The Cruthú Arts Festival, which takes place at the end of July - an event that should be celebrated,” Gary told the Longford Leader last week.
Engage was set up in 2013 by a small group of artists and saw a number of exhibitions take place above Providers on Richmond Street over the years.
It was through Engage that Gary met German artist Thomas Brezing. Thomas, Gary and a third artist, Seán Cotter have been invited to exhibit in Gallery 126 and NUI Galway as part of the Galway International Arts Festival.
“Thomas was invited to exhibit with Engage in 2015. We built up a working relationship, and as a result of this, we have been working on various projects since," said Gary,
“Gallery 126 is an artist-led gallery like Engage. Any artist-led group is important for people to engage with art.
Artist-led galleries, if they’re properly run, can make a very positive contribution, opening up the possibilities for people to experience various different disciplines and breaking down any barriers that may previously exist.”
What initially brought the three artists together, aside from friendship, was their interest in words and literature in the visual arts and their own use of text and language in their paintings, drawings, installations and sound work.
On closer inspection they realized memory is also a common denominator, and how everything slides from the present to memory in an instant.
“Memory changes over time and can become untrustworthy. While some memories have a constant resonance, others can go through a transition or changeover like Chinese whispers, words become unfinished mutterings, mangled fragments, from imperfect lips to imperfect ears,” said Gary.
“Memory is also often attached to ‘things’ and ‘stuff’, these also change over time, through use and misuse. They change when exposed to the elements, they change when you bury them.”
In one such act the three artists buried things dear to them in the ground by the sea in Galway, to be dug up again before the exhibition, to be exhibited, in their new form, with a new pulse.
'Memory has a Pulse' opens in 126 and NUI Galway on July 17.
Gary is also working with another artist-led group for the Westport Arts Festival, and is an invited artist for the Boyle Arts Festival 2017, while also preparing for solo exhibitions in 2018.
But it’s a solo exhibition in Dublin’s Origin Gallery later this month that Gary is preparing for at the moment. ‘Breathe’ will open on April 26 and will feature artwork inspired by life in Longford.
“Essentially, these paintings are mark-making exercises, tracing a memory, with each individual mark evolving, having free reign to develop in an unpredictable fashion,” said Gary.
“These marks could be compared to barcodes, maps, spontaneous gestures or even broken sentences. I am interested in ordinary, unnoticed things and conversations that make up the fabric of everyday life.
“Living in Longford, my family, experiences in an ordinary day, the death of my father, - situations that we all find ourselves in at some time - would be my raw material.”
‘Breathe’ relies on memory and a willingness to avoid any pre-planned approach, Gary explained.
The work, on paper in particular, begins in a random, haphazard fashion, using grocery lists, handwritten notes, overheard conversations and Gary’s own mutterings.
“Essentially, I am using language and the paint is the glue that holds it all together,” he said.
“This paint is then scraped back, uncovering and remembering. Working this way offers countless directions and, by its nature, is open to mistakes, while at the same time embracing ambiguity.
“Nothing is revealed immediately and I would encourage viewers to examine, read the text, become involved and take time.
“We are all on our way somewhere and in a world that seems to be constantly moving, filling us with information, I would hope that this work slows us down, encouraging us to pay attention to ordinary life.”
‘Breathe’ is Gary’s seventh exhibition with the Origin Gallery over the course of 11 years, and will open on April 26.
For more information on the Origin Gallery, see www.theorigingallery.com.