NIAMH O’MALLEY

Garden (2013), still.

Project Arts Centre, Dublin, 2013.

My previous mention of the World War in reference to O’Malley’s freestanding Window, and combined with her Garden ‘frames’, I am reminded of what Gerhard Richter once said about the photograph being a ‘world’ unto itself, the memory of the photographer and the memory of the person photographed contained within the limits of each individual image, whilst everything outside the photographic frame of reference is forgotten, buried at the edges, but paradoxically alive. Expanding on Richter’s metaphysical observation we could diagnose the German artist’s painted simulations of his family photographs—his own family were literally ‘lost’ to him when the artist, alone, left his home of East Germany before the Berlin Wall came into existence—as a way of extracting something that is exterior to the photographic frame of reference. Richter’s personal history takes on further signification with regard to perimeters, borders, framing, when the artist revealed that he never saw his family again, the Berlin Wall enclosing them in a real an unmovable frame. The ‘reality’ that Richter paints is personally invested with family, friends, German history. And so, if Richter’s desire is to use painting to rediscover an essence of memory through mood and sensation, essences that lie beyond the dead photographic frame of reference, the question is: what desires are being played beyond O’Malley’s ‘frame’, if anything?


We could talk of gardens and colonialism and other such academic detours, but what makes this work by O‘Malley special is its self-reflexive existence inside the frame. The autobiographical reference to O’Malley’s garden in the accompanying essay is superfluous. This could be any garden, or for that matter a piece of manicured urban landscape beside passing traffic. Whatever existing sloppy everyday that exists outside the frame is deleted by the up-close crop of reality: when O’Malley does ’sloppy’ it is precisely scaffolded. And although there could be criticism flung at the compressed curation of the exhibition, whereby the observer has to crop all the uninhabited space that surrounds the three art objects, the fact is O’Malley’s raison d'être seems to be to make visually compressed art objects. The artist‘s decision to make two art objects that mirror each other in form and content is key to the dual artwork’s success. One on its own would have been an elegant objet d’art and nothing more. Instead, O‘Malley presents a very sexy simulacrum of reality whilst also stripping bare (like Duchamp’s Bride) the vanity of the artwork—a vanity that is certainly not visually empty.

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JUNE_2013_


Half Empty/ Half Full


NIAMH O'MALLEY_Garden_

26 April - 22 June_

Project Arts Centre_Dublin_


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