Saturday, February 1, 2014

Word River News

Images by Conor Horgan/Atelier

Efforts to finally realise Word River are chugging ahead. The project is over two years in development and has proved the most complicated of all my interventions on the Liffey to date.
Essentially Word River is a celebration of Joyce and the river which informed much of his output. It takes the form of a Joycean act, playfully relocating 108 words from Dubliners to the quay walls between O'Connell Bridge and James Joyce Bridge. The 1km long sentence of washed words will be visible for up to 12 months before the patination process consigns the intervention to history.
Permission for Word River is currently being reviewed by Dublin City Council. 2014 marks the centenary of the publication of Dubliners. It would be a great testament to the enduring power of Joyce's words if we manage to complete the project this year. 

Anthem for Drogheda

Anthem for Drogheda was performed on the roof of Scotch Hall shopping centre every sunrise and sunset for five days in August 2013. Australian composer Nick Seymour (also the bassist with Crowded House) was commissioned to write the piece specially for the project. Mark McNulty joined me on tuba and Vincent McArdle played french horn.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Welcome to Drogheda/Gabriele Ricciardelli

'Welcome to Drogheda' is a result of one of the invigilators at the Highlanes Gallery pointing out Ricciardelli's two paintings of the town from 1754/5 and explaining that the Italian artist had possibly embellished the scenes with the feel and the golden palette of his homeland.

Certainly Drogheda looks incredibly beautiful in the paintings and on first glance could be easily mistaken for Verona or Florence.

Ricciardelli's great skill in portraying Drogheda in the best light possible inspired me to do the same and search for everything that is great and good about the town. I've visited several times over the past few months collecting stories about Drogheda which will inform my residency in the gallery which begins on August 14.

Incidentally I looked up the Christies website and a painting of Naples by Ricciardelli recently sold for £95,000.  

Friday, July 26, 2013

Welcome to Drogheda

Aoife Ruane, the incredibly brilliant director of The Highlanes Gallery in Drogheda has commissioned me to work on a site specific project for the gallery beginning August 14.

Welcome to Drogheda Press Release

'Artist Fergal McCarthy is about to delve beneath the surface of Drogheda, as part of a major new project at the Highlanes Gallery. Setting up a tent in the middle of the gallery, he will live there for four days exploring everything the town has to offer - from Ireland’s largest flip-flop to the severed head of an illustrious saint.

On each of the four days, at sunset and sunrise, he will dress in a tuxedo and play a daily trumpet serenade to the town on the roof of Scotch Hall, with music composed for this project by Nick Seymour of Australian band Crowded House.

The discoveries and interactions McCarthy has with the town will be shared on Twitter (@fergalmccarthy1). He will lead a daily walking tour of the town culminating with a ‘Welcome to Drogheda’  talking shop on Saturday 17 August with invited guests discussing their favorite Drogheda jewels, led by art critic Gemma Tipton.

Artist Fergal McCarthy is best known for his site specific installations on the Liffey River in Dublin, the red and green monopoly houses of Liffeytown in 2010 and his week living on a desert island in the river with No Man’s Land in 2011.

The hidden gems he discovers in Drogheda will inspire a self-penned offbeat guidebook to the town and a giant, illustrated map which will be displayed in the gallery along with a salon hang of Drogheda-centric artworks chosen from the Drogheda Municipal Art Collection.

 “The inspiration for the project began with my curiosity about a stunning 19th Century painting of Drogheda by Gabrielle Riciardelli that hangs in the Collection,” said McCarthy.  “I was inspired to seek out the same level of beauty that Riciardelli portrayed so masterfully on oil and canvas. But in the 21st Century Drogheda’s charms have evolved, so instead of a walled town bathed in golden light, I am discovering world class graffiti under bridges and multi-storey car parks with panoramic views.”

Living and sleeping in the gallery for 3 nights, the artist will camp in the space using his own tent. Visitors will be welcome to view the work while the artist makes them coffee. A collection of reading material referencing Drogheda will be displayed onsite including the artist made guidebook which will also be available from the tourist office, the train station and caf├ęs.

The project will create a multi faceted map of Drogheda both conceptually and physically and the exhibition will stay on in the gallery for a further 2 weeks after the initial 4 day project. Artists are often invisible within the context of a gallery, their work is on show but they themselves are rarely glimpsed by the general public. By living and working onsite McCarthy hopes to engage with as many people as possible, especially those that live in Drogheda. This is the essence of the project – a conversation with the town and its people, from the perspective of an outsider'. 

Venice Biennale

The Irish Examiner asked to me to write about the opening of The Venice Biennale in early June. 


'The Venice Biennale, the Olympics of the Art World opened in the lagoon city this week with a non stop deluge of A-list parties, coveted artist dinners and prosecco-soaked national pavilion launches. 

The seemingly unrivalled beauty of La Serenissima was somewhat upstaged by a small navy of eye popping mega yachts that ring-fenced the Venetian quays to create a watery enclave for the oligarchs and Silicone Valley CEOs who bankroll much of the Biennale's activities. Roman Abramovich's plus sized launch is parodied to devastating effect by Jeremy Deller in his show at the British Pavilion. Rather controversially Prince Harry is also treated to the Deller treatment.

Marc Quinn's giant, inflatable sculpture of the armless Alison Lapper presides over the gathering of the world's hottest artists from a lofty plinth on the nearby island of San Giorgio. Her silent, unmissable presence is an antidote to the riotous flurry of ephemeral art events engulfing the city around her.

Richard Mosse explores a different type of enclave in his startlingly brilliant show at the Irish Pavilion, an infra red, multi media culmination of the many years the photographer has worked in the Eastern Congo.

Mosse documents the horrors of this war soaked country with a series of curiously beautiful, magenta hued photographs and a recently completed five screen film shown to achingly poignant effect in the darkness of the Irish Pavilion on the bend of the Grand Canal in San Marco.

A huge Irish contingent travelled to Venice for the opening of the pavilion on Thursday bringing with them a typically west of Ireland evening of mist and rain.

Undampened by the weather Anna O'Sullivan, the exhibition curator, explained to the clearly enthused throng that Mosse's use of infra red technology made visible something that is beyond the level of language. The Irish ambassador quoted Heaney to describe the work as 'a door into the dark'. Perhaps using this as a cue the bar packed up and literally sailed off into the night so it was time to follow suit.

Deciding what after party to crash is a stressful activity as La Serenissima is awash with red ropes and guestlists that fail to include your name. Elton John, Jarvis Cocker, Maurizio Cattelan and Dahn Vo all pounded the cobblestones along with hundreds of other revellers to see Peaches perform at the Danish gig on the Lido and join the crush at the Chilean party with Nicolas Jaar at the decks. Old hands at Biennale party hopping are easily spotted in their Nike Airs as a lot of ground is covered in the hunt for the latest glass of free fizz.

However the Biennale is not all about the parties, there's also a mind numbingly enormous amount of exhibitions on show mostly centred at the Arsenale, a giant warehouse formerly the home of the city's navy and at the Giardini which houses many of the national pavilions designed by the who’s who of old school starchitects including Alvar Alto for Finland (of course!) and Carlo Scarpa.

Highlights of this year’s mine of art wonders include a beautifully moving, water borne performance by a quintet of brass players on the SS Hangover conceived by the art world’s new golden boy Ragnar Kjartansson and an extraordinary display of ability and craft (sadly outdated skills) at the Indonesian Pavilion. Ai Wei Wei’s response to his recent internment at the San’Antonin Church is simply unmissable reinforcing once again his position as perhaps the greatest artist in the world at the moment.

The art overload of the Arsenale exhibition requires frequent stops for coffee and gelato in an attempt to process the inhumane volume of imagery on display. A speed dating approach is unfortunately the only way to navigate the masses of art on offer. However Aurelian Froment’s video featuring the Irish art world’s favourite actor Olwyn Fouere seemed to stop every body in their tracks.

Stumbling home through St Mark’s Square at two in the morning I was pleased to bump into Froment and his partner Tessa Giblin (director of the gallery at The Project Arts Centre in Dublin) and gush admiringly about his film. The opportunity to bump into people you know or want to know is perhaps one of the best perks of the Biennale. Walking through the backstreets, especially at night is like witnessing the magazine ArtForum come to life. Artists, dealers and curators come here to make invaluable, real life connections in a business that increasingly operates online. For a few days at least the internet ceases to dominate art proceedings.

Dubliner Aideen Darcy is the project director of The Emergency Pavilion, a collateral event responding to the current crisis curated by Jota Castro. The exhibition which overlooks the san Michele cemetery features several artists last seen at Dublin Contemporary in 2011, an exhibition also curated by Castro. Darcy values these Biennale connections above all else, especially in terms of promoting the careers of the exhibition artists most notably the young Irish sculptor Ella De Burca whose tower of rubber tyres is the highlight of the show.

The Biennale continues until November, it’s a great time to visit one of the most fascinating cities in the world and see it anew through the eyes of over 150 artists from 37 countries. Make sure to wear trainers, expect to get lost several times a day in the labyrinthine back streets as you search for exhibitions that will stay with you long after the Biennale packs its bags later in the year'.

Fergal McCarthy

The Poetry Project

The Poetry Project is a brilliant online endeavour by Gemma Tipton which pairs Irish poets with visual artists who then create videos in response to the chosen poems.

I worked on Colm Breathnach's poem 'An Gra'. The Poetry Project is funded by Ireland's hosting of the EU Presidency and every week a new video is added to the site.

Sinead Ni Bhroin produced the film together with her fantastic team at The Still Films. We previously worked together on 'The Swimmer' which was commissioned by Dublin's Science Gallery.

Paul Noonan (together with Lisa Hannigan on vocals) kindly allowed me to use his song Some Surprise as the soundtrack to the video.

You can view the video at