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“We feel that it is important to give contemporary artists a space to exhibit artwork that is not necessarily that commercial or ‘sellable’.”

 

MART’s gallery space in an old fire station is one of the artistic cornerstones of Rathmines. Known for its experimental approach to culture, the artist studios and gallery space invites audiences to engage with the contemporary Irish art scene.

Aoife Donnellan caught up with Deirdre Morrissey, the curator of their newest exhibition, ‘Lectus’, to talk about the work. Deirdre has been a contemporary curator for the last 10 years and Lectus presents a selection of sculptural forms, video work and live performance.


 

The work deals with a host of themes including personal trauma, natural beauty, and politics. Emerging artists Emma McKeagney, Sarah Diviney and Èanna Heavey have been chosen to be the contributors to this powerful collection. Lectus aims to showcase emerging artists working with experimental forms, what inspired you to get involved?

The exhibition Lectus is an award that MART offer in partnership with Fire Station Artists Studios and CIT Crawford College of Art & Design, where we select artists from the Crawford Fine Art graduate exhibition and the Fire Station’s Sculpture Bursary Award. We pick artists who are recent graduates and whose work we like and feel fits in with MART’s curatorial objective – generally this is artwork which is quite experimental in nature. This is the third year we have run this exhibition award.

This exhibition takes on a number of different forms – sculpture, video, and live performance, how do these pieces work together in space?

All of the artists work with moving image/ video work in some form, so that would be one common element, but each of them have different primary artistic practices. For example Sarah Diviney’s work is mainly performance, Emma McKeagney’s is predominantly sculptural and Èanna Heavey concentrates on video. How the artwork will work together in the space will come down to curating it in a way that the artworks compliment each other and figuring out how the visitor will encounter each artwork as they move through the gallery.

Emma McKeagney’s work deals with “the materiality of natural and designed forms”. Do you think themes that tread the line between natural and man-made are particularly important in this day and age?

Emma’s work is intriguing. Her sculptural pieces often take their starting point from natural forms, so her investigation of natural processes plays a part in her physical creation of a piece of art. She likes to investigate the role of materials in art, technology and design and how the interaction of humans and technology changes between the inception of a design idea and the use of a tool or object.

We live in a digital age where automation is part of our daily lives. I think many artists are investigating processes using science and technology to create new work, where human intervention has played only a small part in the development of a finished piece. There are lots of interesting ways to investigate the lines between natural and man-made practices.

Sarah Diviney and Èanna Heavey’s work confronts political Irish issues; do you feel a curatorial responsibility to select work that brings to light failures in Irish society?

Èanna’s video piece is quite complex, but certainly references a particular type of sex education that was common in Irish schools in the 1990’s, which was very Catholic and ridiculous. I remember it well! The link I am making between the two is that Sarah Diviney’s art piece comes from her thought process around the history of the church’s treatment of, and institutionalisation of, Irish women, particularity pregnant, unmarried women. Many of whose fate was sealed due to the complete lack of sex education available in society at that time.

I wouldn’t say I feel a personal curatorial responsibility, but myself, and our curators, Ciara and Matt, would have strong views on social inequality and welcome opportunities to highlight those issues through the artists we work with.

MART’s mission statement is to facilitate the showing of contemporary art in an affordable space for artists in the city. How important is it that contemporary art is facilitated in this way?

We feel that it is important to give contemporary artists a space to exhibit artwork that is not necessarily that commercial or ‘sellable’. We apply for funding for our exhibition programme so that we can pay artists and cover the costs of putting on an exhibition, and that way the artists can push the boundaries with their work and use the exhibition to showcase new and often experimental ideas.

Why is MART such an important part of the Rathmines community What is Dublin’s art scene missing?

Having a gallery that opens out directly onto Rathmines high street is great because footfall is usually high. We get visitors who may not usually go into an art gallery, a lot of people just wander in to have a look and then might get chatting to our staff about the artwork. The fire station dates back to the 1800s and was a working fire station until the 1980s. It was derelict for about 20 years until MART took over the lease, and I think we’ve contributed massively to the overall vibrancy of Rathmines. Apart from rejuvenating a previously disused building it is also down to the volume of people we bring to the area through our exhibitions, events and of course the creatives working here.

Unfortunately, the high rents in Dublin are pushing a lot of artist-led organisations out of their premises. 10 years ago Dublin was thriving with small studio spaces and galleries mostly set up by art graduates and run on a voluntary basis. Many of these spaces have since closed due to the unaffordable rents and short leases, which is a real shame as they were a hub for so many emerging artists to meet, exhibit and develop professionally.

Lectus exhibits in MART, January 10 – February 14.

Words: Aoife Donnellan / Photography: Sarah Diviney 
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