Critic's picks – from the LSAD Graduate Show

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Chris Hayes

Critic's picks – from the LSAD Graduate Show

Painting by Niamh Porter, from her Capital Icons of Modernity series

THE 2016 Limerick School of Art and Design Graduate Show is over, and most if not all of the other Graduate Shows across the country are wrapping up as well.

Throughout the country, critics and gallerists are handing out awards. It can be a bit of silly ritual. Yet, behind the flurry to pick winners and losers there’s interesting conversations to be had about broader trends within the show and amongst the graduates.

There were two artists in particular that stood out for me, as each tackled a common topic amongst many of the artists with enough competency and flair to rise to the challenge, while also bringing enough of their own attitude, their own artistic specificity to signal that – hopefully – this is an artist whose only just begun.

Artists have long been interested in architecture, especially at the Graduate Shows. From deserted ruins to gleaming skyscrapers, from political monuments to religious sites of worship, buildings embody enough history, politics and economics to spend a lifetime researching.

For me, the best artwork about architecture connects the dots between the cultural climate which these ideas of design have come from, and the lives lived within these structures.

Niamh Porter’s Capital: Icons of Modernity project is a series of paintings which are rigorous all the way through – from the approach to painting, and the subject matter, this is an artist demonstrating a rare level of confidence. Within the paintings we can see a building, whether that’s a skyscraper or a museum, each image suggests the power and prestige these structure hope to communicate.

Each image is highly accurate, but lightly rendered through a series of thin layers of paint and slight markings. A lot of painters use photographs, but don’t think it through fully enough – Porter makes this reflection on the photograph, on its formal qualities and conceptual content, the very centre of this series.

This results in an austere, minimal approach which I found them endlessly captivating due to this stark, but subtle conversation with these paintings beginning, photographic, reference point.

A growing subject of interest in the Graduate Shows of recent years is technology. Many of the artists want to tackle the cultural impacts of the internet by exploring digital tools and effects. These works typically can be viewed on TV and computers, projected onto screens, or exist as machines; less often than not, they exist as more familiar art objects – such as paintings and photographs – but contain references to glitches and animations.

These artists are channelling the look and feel of technology through their artworks.

Eilis O’Gara’s video, Somewhere Over a Cloud, is a video screen installed into a wall. On screen we witness the at times odd ramblings, frightened and confused stares of a group of strangely dressed characters who seem trapped within a buzzing digital landscape.

Around the edges we can see a coiled black ring, shaping the screen to look like an eye. As we watch the characters it becomes apparent that they’re acting out, with and against the very screen which we’re looking at them through – thanks to selfies and online personae’s, we’re all living through a screen, at least some of the time.

Many artists are interested in the internet; few bring as much strangeness to the serious world of tech; even less can demonstrate as much raw personality, while also articulating the simultaneous excitement and alienation of our new, digital selves.

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