Image of the week: Eye of Shark

Dorothy Cross’ new commission, Eye of Shark, now showing at Lismore Castle Art’s Carthage Hall is this week’s image of the week.

Cross situates herself (she lives in Connemara), and her work, closely with the shoreline and the sea. Recent works have however also included references to metallurgy, and in both Eye of Shark at Lismore Castle, and its companion show at Kerlin Gallery, Dublin, the artist showcases works that include cast iron bathtubs adorned with a golden water-marks (Lismore) and a solid cast silver crab (Kerlin). The reclaimed materials of the sea however remain; decadence amongst the decay of the organic. The blue shark carcass recently shown in her glorious solo exhibition, Connemara, at the RHA gallery, reappears at Kerlin. The shark, though conceptually central at Lismore, is not physically present. It remains however, lurking in the consciousness of the artist. Gold and its alchemical associations are preeminent: A rim of gold is present where the scum line normally forms on a collection of impressive cast iron baths centrally arranged in Lismore’s St. Carthage Hall.  The Hall was opened in 1887 as a place of worship for the Methodist community of Lismore and West Waterford, after falling into disrepair in the 1950s, it was given a new lease of life in 2011 when it became a second exhibition venue for Lismore Castle Arts.

The link between alchemy and religion is a long and convoluted one. One of the earliest proponents of alchemy, Roger Bacon, a 13th Century philosopher and Franciscan Friar, was primarily interested in a form of ingestible gold believed to prolong life. Bacon (backed by Pope Clement IV) in his ‘Opus Majus’, attempted to outline how the Catholic Church could incorporate the philosophy of Aristotle and scientific reasoning into a new Theology (1). The alchemist’s pursuit of the transmutation of lesser metals into gold however soon became allied to the pursuit of perfection and the transmutation of the human spirit, moving it further from the realm of the religious into that of the mystical.

Many of the references used in Eye of Shark speak to mysticism and nature and their more recent re-appropriation by religion: Transubstantiation, life-ever-lasting, consecration, worship and ritual (Baptism). The coupling of the shark, a creature so evolutionarily ancient (400M years old) and a religion that is relatively new, shows us just how fleeting humanity and its in-roads into nature, really is. There is something very resilient about Cross’ chosen protagonist. What is also notable is that shark’s leave little skeletal residue; they are primarily composed of cartilage, which decays. Here the rim of gold left on these old bathtubs looks to be the remains of a common betrayal; the inevitability of erosion.

Remnants, memorial, mysticism, and the sea, all come together to make Cross’ practice an ever-rich treasure trove of invention. One that continues to entice.

1. Ralph McInerny, (1963). A History of Western Philosophy Vol. II, University of Notre Dame Press.

Eye of Shark is on show at Lismore Castle Arts, St Carthage Hall from 6th September until 19th October. www.lismorecastlearts.ie

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Dorothy Cross, Eye of Shark, (2014). Lismore Castle Arts (Detail)

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Dorothy Cross, Scales, 2014. Kerlin Gallery, Dublin.

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Dorothy Cross, Eye of Shark (2014). Installation, Lismore Castle Arts. Images courtesy Lismore Castle Arts.

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