Visual Arts

the arts column: lockdown


Whilst art is almost always intended to resonate in non-physical ways, sparking inspiration, challenging perceptions, eliciting responses and generation debate, it is almost always delivered in person in specific spaces be they galleries hosting shows or talks, museums showcasing collections, libraries inviting people to browse books, etc. In these uncertain times, we have the double blow of losing access to these institutions at a time when escape to them is most needed. That said over the last number of days and weeks we have seen the art community in Ireland pivot to its new online world providing platforms for digital engagement. In this special edition of the arts column we look at options for experiencing digital exhibitions, listen and watching talks and seminars, exploring digital archives and reading criticism and new media.

This is by no means meant to represent an exhaustive list of available resources and we welcome being notified of additional options so please get in touch via aidan[at] In the meantime, stay safe and look after yourself.


Digital Exhibitions

With galleries, museums and other art institutions closed for the next few weeks, physically visiting artwork will be next to impossible. That said there are some digital options that you can avail of to stay connected with work whilst the galleries and museums remain closed.

  • ‘spending static to save gas’ was due to close late last week in The Douglas Hyde Gallery but as the Dublin gallery is closed it remains in-situ. So make hay whilst the sun shines and spend some time with Gabriel Kuri’s work online here via install shots.
  • ‘The Sea Around Us’ is a new group exhibition which opened in The Model in Sligo earlier this year and features the work of national and international artists. As part of this show, Karen Power presented a 40-min multi-channel composition titled ‘no mans land’. You can listen to an extract of this via Soundcloud here.
  • Sven Sandberg’s ‘They went and saw a palace hanging from a silken thread’ continues online over on Berlin Opticians gallery page, with install shots showing both Sandberg’s work and their subsequent placement within the unique setting of Rathfarnham Castle – you can spend time with the show here.
  • This coming Saturday (April 4th) sees artist Stephanie Gaumond lead an online tour of Ima-Abasi Okon’s exhibition sur in VOID Derry. The tour kicks off at 11 am and you can tune in on the galleries YouTube page here. While you wait for that you can listen to Okon discussing her work with writer and director Taylor Le Melle here.

As well as these four, a host of other galleries are directing visitors to their online resources to engage with past exhibitions. Be sure to support them and check them out.

Image: Gabriel Kuri, spending static to save gas, 2020, installation view. Courtesy of the artist and the Douglas Hyde Gallery. Photography by Louis Haugh. 


Online Archives

As well as digital versions of exhibitions as listed above, there are a number of other ways to engage with galleries and institutions and adhere to social distancing protocol with one of the best being delving into their online archives.

  • Over on the Belfast Exposed site, you can browse an extensive collection of photographs from The Troubles that serves as an important historical document of life in Belfast. Link here.
  • Over on the National Gallery of Ireland’s site, you can delve into their online archive with over 6,000 dawings, close to 3,000 paintings, and a number of prints, photographs, sculpture and even furniture. You can search by title, artist and date online here.
  • Returning to Sligo and The Model, you can browse The Niland Collection, which contains a large focus on the works of Jack Butler Yeats, online here, with each piece containing a summary and historical insight that is also available to listen to.
  • Whilst not strictly an arts organisation the National Archive has an extensive collection of documents related to Irish history and is great for stumbling across random but fascinating slices of Irish cultural history. You can lose some time online here, with the link in question directing users to the fascinating story of The Swastika Laundry.
  • Stepping outside Irish archives we have UbuWeb, an online resource featuring 1,000s of videos and films from 100s of artists including Max Ernst, Cindy Sherman, Vivienne Dick, Derek Jarman and countless more. There are literally days in which to get lost in the moving image on UbuWeb and you can start that process here.

Image: A Political Meeting (In The West Of Ireland) by Jack B. Yeats (1871 – 1957)


Talks + Videos

While visiting a show maybe a solitary affair, artist’s talks are very much about gathering groups and having discussions. Naturally, these have also been cancelled/postponed but a number of options exist online to catch up on past talks.

  • The RHA Gallery have a page dedicated to past talk series on photography, painting and drawing, with artists Alan Butler, Isabel Nolan and Neil Carroll, the latter of whom’s work was on show prior to the space being closed. You can browse the list of talks here.
  • The Irish media landscape was dominated in 2019 by Brexit and particularly the potential return to a hard border in Ireland. In March VOID Derry hosted a collaborative event with Paper Visual Art Journal featuring Willie Doherty, Siobhan McDonald, Darran Anderson, and Gareth Doherty, which you can watch online here.
  • Temple Bar Gallery + Studios have uploaded the Publication Scaffold podcast that took place during last year’s Art Book Fair. You can listen to via Soundcloud here.
  • As part of their exhibitions ‘Moment in Time: A Legacy of Photographs | Works from the Bank of America Collection’ and ‘View of Ireland: Collecting Photography’ the National Gallery of Ireland hosted a series of talks featuring artists and experts. You can listen to the series online here.
  • IMMA has recently uploaded four talks from their ‘Art & Ageing’ seminar which took place in the museum last October. You can listen to these, and other recordings, via Soundcloud here.

Image: Irish Dementia Working Group on an Azure Tour at IMMA. Photo by Killian Waters


Online Journals

For those that have turned/returned to reading during this period, there are a host of great Irish sites that discuss, review and engage with art. Below are a few to keep in mind.

  • Having started as a print publication in the 1980’s CIRCA Art Magazine now operates exclusively in the online domain. As well as reviews of recent shows the site has an archive to explore and a yearly series of texts on degree shows around the country. You can access it all here.
  • Operating in both print and online mediums, Paper Visual Art is a great resource for long-form essays on art and its related fields. You can find a link to their online texts, as well as their store for ordering physical copies of their journals, online here.
  • Fallow Media take reading to a whole new place, creating interactive and engaging presentations for their texts. Each one is unique, each one adds to the text that it is displaying. You can read fiction, short stories, poetry and discussions on art and architecture here.
  • The excellent Stinging Fly have just opened up their online archive for readers to explore a mix of poetry, fiction, essays and criticism from Irish and Internation writers. Once you’ve browsed their online offerings here be sure to slide into their shop for their excellent anthologies and publications.
  • Ireland’s libraries provide a vital service for our communities and in these times of restricted movement access to them in a physical sense has been lost. Be sure to make use of their online resources here.

Image: Fallow Media home page

is the Arts Editor for The Thin Air. He's also a coffee fiend, architecture enthusiast and general messer.