Taking creative foothold in disused commercial and derelict spaces around Dublin’s city centre, Basic Space has went through a couple of reincarnations since its materialisation in 2010 (read +billion_ review of the ‘groundbreaking’ group show ‘Underground’ at Basic Space’s previous location on Vicar Street, here ). Located on the ground floor of Eblana House on Marrowbone Lane – an area that was poised for major regeneration in 2007, but still poised six years on – Basic Space is now composed of a large open plan communal work space that presently accommodates six artists,  with further room for invited or proposed artist projects/exhibitions. It’s quite inspiring and original to have visual access to artists’ studios from street level in the heart of Dublin city.

In the three exhibitions that I have experienced Marcel Vidal’s work (coincidentally in galleries located in Dublin 8), the artist has always propped up, or sinfully defaced, his intimate and skillfully articulated paintings and drawings with scraps from the builders providers or perhaps urban skip. In the group exhibition ‘WORK HEAD’ (2011), NCAD Gallery, sods of expanding foam (simulating black, oily mud) alongside tuffs of animal fur, soiled and framed exquisitely painted portraits that evoked exotic Africana or ... – with a leap of the imagination – remnants from the seventeenth century Ottoman Empire. Thinking back, standing among the deep blacks and curious textures, Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness came to mind. In 2012 the artist’s previously sophisticated output at NCAD Gallery was substituted with poptastic totems fit for an Egyptian pharaoh, in a Tutankhamunesque display in the basement gallery NAG on Francis Street: in one instance an ornamentalised banana was suggestive of the affected Midas touch of Jeff Koons’ porcelain Michael Jackson and Bubbles. Vidal’s most recent show at Basic Space entitled ‘#untitled’, strips it all back again. Everything is painted and drawn in shades of charcoal grey, while framed by the neutral tans of plywood and timber. Nevertheless, Vidal still manages to retain colourful posturing in his imagery, that comes across as sophisticated and authorial rather than cheap and appropriated.

Initiated by Dublin-based artist, Jim Ricks, Vidal has custom-made a timber structure to house his drawings and a single painting at Basic Space – an improvised structure that was probably forced into existence to deal with a commercial space that is halfway between first and second fix completion. If placed in a white cube gallery such a construction would be less novel, verging on farcical; but in the hinterlands of an artist-run project space Vidal’s intervention suits the brutalist mise–en–scène decorated with work benches and tools of the artist trade. It helps that the construction is not one of those lazily designed, timber partitioned boxes that artists usually dream up to avoid the improprieties of uncapped electrical wires and breeze block walls. Vidal’s construction is a rough plywood diamond with a discreet opening on one side: hatch-like. The idiosyncratic shape comes across as conceptual intent, no matter how unintentional, improvisational or vague its journey to conception may have took. The shape and posture of the timber structure suggests something celestial: re-instilling recent, high flying media stories, such as water found on Mars, alien DNA harvested in the Earth’s stratosphere, and 60 billion planets that could potentially support life.


Diamond in the Rough



Basic Space, Dublin

20 - 26 September, 2013 (10 October by appointment)

MARCEL VIDAL, ‘#untitled’, Basic Space, Dublin, 20 - 26 September, 2013 (10 October by appointment); courtesy of the artist and Basic Space.



HOME             ABOUT               REVIEWS                 VIDEO                PRINT             COMMISSIONS           WORKSHOP         MAKING FAMILIAR       EVA INTERNATIONAL 2014