I was very excited to see the work of Aleana Egan at Douglas Hyde Gallery and finally managed to get to it after my talk at IMMA NCH yesterday. As I have mentioned before, I never read the exhibition blurb – which is a bit rich as seen as I am responsible for many the exhibition blurb. Regardless I don’t read the information provided as I love looking at the work unbiased and in a perceptual way. With that caveat in-mind I will give you my impressions of the exhibition. Egan’s work is sterile and inhospitable, very organised, almost regimented, which all led me to convalescence. There is very little interactive capability inherent in the work though much of it is presented unchallenged; by this I mean that works are laid on the floor or hooked onto the wall, one can access them, but their very nature forbids it. The organisation of the materials used is calculated to the point where you feel a rush of terror is about to seize you, something is in preparation, like a surgeon preparing the surgical table and implements. Also the materials Egan uses are familiar, that cloth that one only sees in hospitals is neatly stacked and folded on the floor works, each piece protected from the concrete floor with a hessian roll. The roll itself intimates a lack of singularity in the work as if once this roll is used-up another will be unfurled. This lack of emotion for the subject is unnerving and has a distinct concentration camp feel about it. The compressed blocks, which I am guessing are plaster, have a hue of skin about them and are sinisterly harkening back to the soap blocks purported to have been made from victims of Polish Nazi camps. Bizarrely there is also quite a sexualised feel to much of the wall works. Restraints would be the word that immediately comes to mind, and even though this may connote and prolong the idea of fear present in the floor works, the use of rubber and the spaces created by the lines of these works all demand a sexualised character. Of course this sits oddly alongside the whiff of degradation and sterilisation from the previous works. One is looking at acquiescence in bondage set against resigned abeyance. Difficult questions are being raised here. The human condition is fraught with dualities and one thing that encompasses this complexity is sex and the body itself. How one makes use of the body. When does one allow the body to be abused and when does one resign oneself to abuse. What is set in-parallel in this exhibition is the method of control for one’s own body; when do we allow the body to take over – as in the sex act, and when do we disregard and numb the body in the defense of the inner self. This is a great exhibition.


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