My Review of Trove, Dorothy Cross’s 2015 Exhibition in IMMA, the Irish Museum of Modern Art

Trove, Dorothy Cross Selects from the National Collections,

Garden Galleries, IMMA, 3rd December 2014 – 8th March 2015.

 

“The idea of Trove is to make new relationships between painting and object from collections that would rarely meet.” – Dorothy Cross[1]

Trove is the recent exhibition mounted by Dorothy Cross (b. 1956) in the Garden Galleries at the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA).  The exhibition took over each of the rooms on the three floors of the separate, smaller building on the grounds of the Royal Hospital in Kilmainham.  Each of the rooms contains treasures from seven different national collections; from the National Museum of Ireland, across four of its departments, IMMA, Crawford Art Gallery in Cork and from the National Gallery of Ireland.  Cross had the rare opportunity to trawl through the vast archives of these institutions and in a sense, search for buried national treasures.  After all, the word trove is shorthand for treasure trove –  a source of treasure, a reserve or repository of valuable things[2], and what Cross has done here is carefully select or in her words “elect”[3] objects that the public do not usually have the opportunity to see.

The Cork born artist has said that she was keen to avoid the title of curator for this show, as she did not feel that it was what she was doing in order to create the exhibition.  She has spoken about “election, not selection” in regard to the objects displayed here, and was striving to show what “energy can occur between things”.[4]  This is very much in keeping with her practice as an artist and her use of found objects.[5]  In Trove, her curatorial touch is very light, and this is a show which requires repeated visits and benefits from each of them.

The layering of new meaning over these objects through their grouping together requires the viewer to go away and think about the connections, then to come back and see if first impressions were indeed correct.  Cross does not make it easy for the viewer and her train of thought is not always easily followed.  For some of the rooms, the connections between the objects is blatantly obvious, for example in Room 1a, a linking corridor, a large painting by Harry Jones Thaddeus, The Wounded Poacher, c.1881, is hung facing a small print by Hans Hoffmann, Hare (after Albrecht Dürer) c.1528.  The link here of the small hare facing the man who would have him for dinner, playfully speaks for itself.  However, in other rooms the links are less obvious, making it feel more like a collection of an artist’s favourite things rather than a conversation between objects.

Hare

In Room 4 on the first floor for example, some of the objects would have benefited from an explanation of what they are.  The objects included a Brain Coral from Florida, a portrait of Roger Casement, a photo of Roy Keane and the skeleton of a bird.  In this room in particular, the lack of explanation of why the bird or coral were significant lessened their impact in relation to the photographs, drawings and paintings on the walls.  The visitor needs to research the objects to find out that the bird was an extinct Rodriguez solitaire bird, similar to a dodo, only then its juxtaposition with the training rifle in the same room makes sense.  While there was a handout for visitors to bring with them through the rooms, it did not really go far enough in terms of the level of detail required to really assist the visitor to get the most out of the visual experience.  It was difficult to shake off the sensation that you were simply viewing randomly assembled objects, which had no associations with each other and which were without meaning in some of the rooms.  Maybe this was the point that Cross was trying to make however, it took away from the overall whole encounter with these objects, many of which were fascinating in their own right.

For example, in room 1, Cross placed a iron meteorite from Argentina which is c. 4.5 billion years old in front of an antique Georgian Irish wing armchair, facing a projection of Charles Poërson’s The Assumption of the Virgin, c.1645 – 50, which was too damaged to be physically loaned out of the National Gallery for the exhibition and it is currently awaiting conservation.  The projected image has the conservator’s markings on the painting showing the areas of loss on the work and giving an idea of how damaged and fragile the painting is.  The arrangement of these works together with a marble sleeping nymph and print by Patrick Hall, makes little sense, and would have benefited from explanation of the artists intentions.  It could even be argued that Cross should have put more of her own artistic stamp on the show through the addition of some of her own works in order to better connect the objects.

Charles Poerson The Assumption
Charles Poërson, The Assumption of the Virgin, 1645–50, Oil on canvas, 254.5 x 211 cm, Dublin, National Gallery of Ireland

The most successful display in the whole show was that of the oldest man-made objects, Late Bronze Age gold beads from Co. Roscommon, dated from c. 900 – 700 BC next to a 2007 painting Meditation Painting 28 by Patrick Scott next to an Orrery, a solar system model from c. 1800.  The visual power of Scott’s golden orb next to the ancient golden beads truly did achieve what Cross was trying to evoke; an energy between the objects that was intangible yet palpable.  It maybe that other visitors had similar experiences with other groupings, but even after repeated visits, this was the only display which resonated in a way that was the stated intention of the artist.

Pat Scott
Patrick Scott, Meditation Painting 28, 2007, Gold leaf and acrylic on unprimed canvas, 120.2 x 81 cm, Collection Irish Museum of Modern Art, Donation, the artist, 2013, Photograph © the artist’s estate. Photographer: Clare Lymer.                                                           Gold beads, Tumna, Co. Roscommon, late Bronze Age c.900-700 BC Collection National Museum of Ireland – Irish Antiquities Photograph © National Museum of Ireland

Overall, Trove was an interesting assemblage of objects from the national archives, showing the range of things which our national museums take care of for the Irish people.  The show certainly highlighted that we as a nation should take more of an interest in what is being stored on our behalf by these institutions.

 

References:

Websites used: http://www.imma.ie/en/page_236814.htm

http://www.kerlingallery.com/artists/dorothy-cross/selected-works#bio

https://soundcloud.com/imma-ireland/in-conversation-dorothy-cross-lisa-le-feuvre,

Oxford English Dictionary:

http://www.oed.com.ucd.idm.oclc.org/view/Entry/206811?redirectedFrom=Trove#eid, accessed 15th March 2015.

Footnotes:

[1] http://www.imma.ie/en/page_236814.htm, accessed 15th March 2015.

[2] http://www.oed.com.ucd.idm.oclc.org/view/Entry/206811?redirectedFrom=Trove#eid, accessed 15th March 2015.

[3] Public talk with Dorothy Cross & Lisa Le Feuvre, The Artist as Curator, Saturday 28th February 2015, IMMA.  Also see: https://soundcloud.com/imma-ireland/in-conversation-dorothy-cross-lisa-le-feuvre

[4] Public talk with Dorothy Cross & Lisa Le Feuvre, The Artist as Curator, Saturday 28th February 2015, IMMA.  Also see: https://soundcloud.com/imma-ireland/in-conversation-dorothy-cross-lisa-le-feuvre

[5] http://www.kerlingallery.com/artists/dorothy-cross/selected-works#bio, accessed 15th March 2015.

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