Gallery Review – The Royal Hibernian Academy

Contemporary Art in the Royal Hibernian Academy as described by Jonathan Daleo

“Art is anything you can get away with.” The immortal words of Andy Warhol, ever so true for contemporary art – the expression of creativity of our peers. Contemporary art, no matter how avant-garde; no matter how surrealist, will always exist as a staple of art’s evolution (and sometimes devolution) as a museful outlet. Whilst Duchamp can take a porcelain urinal, sign it as 'R. Mutt’ and parade it for all the world to see as an art piece – artists of a more traditional nature such as the fellows of the Royal Hibernian Academy of Arts, show us contemporary art in a more refined and mechanically gifted nature. 

Show us contemporary art in a more refined and mechanically gifted nature.

Stepping in through the front door and past the café was a sleek, almost obelisk styled lobby. The walls, adorned with photography of the RHA fellows – though none caught my eye stylistically. The annex on the right-hand side of the entrance leads to a small room. One piece of Michael Cullen, an unfortunately deceased yet awe-inspiringly talented artist, caught my eye. Studio Scene; Sans Musgrave – depicting colourful, abstract self-portraits in his studio. The piece beside it – a kaleidoscope formed into a concert, watching a singer perform. Cullen’s work is worth appreciating, and a must-see for all visitors to the Royal Hibernian Academy. Cullen’s work is contrasted with RHA fellow Gary Coyle, and his piece After Watteau, depicting a circus clown, wearing a shirt and tie. The juxtaposition of a colourful subject like a clown being depicted in black and white, wearing formal wear and appearing downtrodden was especially eye catching. The curation of the RHA is crafted like a poem, credit where credit is due.

Unfortunately, the only exhibition that was open on the ground floor was the Domestic Planes exhibit. An exhibit which detailed the life of Lina Bo Bardi (1914-1992) – a Brazilian-Italian expatriate who fled Italy in the wake of World War Two and Mussolini’s Fascist Italy. Inside the gallery was a series of modernist paintings by Cathy Dorman – works that detail the inside of Lina Bo Bardi’s home Casa de Vidro. These pieces by Dorman are Italian in nature, with the composition and materials reminiscent of Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, the innovator of Italian Futurism. Upstairs, A Growing Enquiry – the title of a series of pieces which contrast artistic craft and agriculture – with tires adorned with deer antlers and a tractor made from wire frame. A Growing Enquiry is a model attempt at upcycling used farm equipment – a unique romanticism of agrarian life and art.

A kaleidoscope formed into a concert.

The Royal Hibernian Academy is undoubtedly one of the vanguards of modern contemporary Irish art. The curation of which has displayed pieces which are cosmopolitan in nature, works which permeate notions of urbanite living or what it is to be agrarian. The RHA is a must-see for any patron of the arts, a plethora of amazing artists in its roster which ranges from emulating the styles of infants to colourful pieces in the vein of Picasso. A haunt, not like the rest.