Saturday, 3 September 2011

"I can't go on. I'll go on."

That the title of an exhibition of porcelain sculpture and embroidery by Ursula Burke.
There's a small gallery for temporary viewing in Donegall Street and whenever I'm at the Good Book Shop I try to take the opportunity to go in to see what is the latest installation or display.
It's called Pssquared.


Over the time I've known this gallery there has been a wide variety of styles and artistic interpretations there.
The current show (until 24th September) is both challenging and interesting as well as beautiful.
Small china sculptures are displayed on wooden arms that project from the two side walls of the room.
All of the china pieces are carefully crafted and beautifully finished.  And, unlike many "pretty" ornaments these individual items carry a powerful message.  It would be a surprise to find that you "like" them all ... but they will evoke a response.  Sometimes they amuse, others will challenge and most call for an acknowledgement that Ireland is in a sorry mess at the moment!  For too long we've lived "on the pig's back" or had the proverbial "golden cow" .... but no longer.  The Celtic Tiger has gone.
  'ar mhuin na muice'
The Irish phrase "on the pig's back" means to be well off, in luck ... but no longer is the nation experiencing such good fortune ... the gold has turned to muck ...
The individual pieces in the exhibition don't have a detailed description.  It is for the viewer  to add his or her own meaning ... what do we see in this golden cow with the head covered in Irish linen and wearing a fine lace skirt?  It is certainly a cow that no longer sees where it is going and is of no use for the production of milk!

I'd love to have had a chance to talk with the artist.  She was there but being interviewed at the time and I wasn't able to stay around as it appeared that the interviewer was going to discuss each piece in turn.   Ursula is in the patterned blouse and blue jeans.

At that point they were talking about one of the sculptures where the burden of housing has weighed down the owner.
One of the items that struck me very forcibly is a portrayal of the Virgin Mary.  From a distance it looks like the usual representation in a prayerful pose; then you realise that she too is covered with a cloth of Irish linen.  Religion has been moulded by (or concealed by) the culture perhaps?

Her feet are interesting!  I wonder what was in Ursula's thinking here ... modern footwear on a traditional icon ... a plea for the church to move into the twenty first century ... or mocking its attempts so to do?  

 I love the detail that has been included ... hours of painstaking work must have been involved.

Clearly the luck of the Irish has run out.  On an upside-down dish there's a farming scene where there's a sense of drowning, of loss of everything at the hands of (perhaps) the bankers.  I loved the way the artist has given one of the farmers huge size and strength compared to the suited official ... yet it is the farmer who is disabled ... 
 I don't think these are pieces to "like" in the normal understanding of having a porcelain object ... but the messages that they convey is powerful.
Some of the darker sides of Irish life are covered as well.  A terrorist is there ... so too are headless children ... and a silenced child ...  These make you want to weep for all those who have been treated abusively and shamefully.
 The two embroidery pieces in the exhibition were interesting, this one below is called "Riot", but they didn't (for me) have the same force as the china.
 I'd like to have another look at this exhibition .... and there's a web link ...

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