Limerick, Ireland
Mark O'Kelly, Kaufhaus des Westerns, 2012, oil on linen, 183 x 127 cm, courtesy the artist

Mark O’Kelly

b.1968, Ireland

Exhibiting paintings, vitrines and installations, Mark O’Kelly’s work is the outcome of a practice of image research, which explores the space between the photographic document and the cosmetic image. The painting practice at the core of this work has provided the foundation for a series of specifically conceived installations addressing theories of representation, reproduction and quotation.

O’Kelly’s installation takes the form of a series of large-scale related paintings, works on paper and two vitrines. These images and objects establish a network of signs derived from mid-20th century life that narrates the metamorphosis of the subject; active migration into passive consumption. The title of Elizabeth Smart’s 1945 novel – By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept – juxtaposes a point of disembarkation and connectivity with the torment of individual guilt and disappointment. A softbound copy of this book is presented alongside tinned consumable produce and an instrument of electrotherapy – a ‘violet ray machine’. This arrangement of artefacts corresponds to the dream satisfaction of key aspects of human desire promised by 20th century technologies.

In addressing the themes proposed by After the Future, O’Kelly employs a staggered structure with scaffold recurring both in the hanging of the works and in paintings. The painted works exercise an idiomatic gestural dialect, relating to the dotmatrix methodology prevalent in popular printed publications of the Cold War period. This deconstructive device of ‘mapping the image’ joins together the disparate characters, places and vessels, which combine throughout the installation. The reiteration of the matrix; which functions to simultaneously designate both ‘a unit’ and ‘a territory’, traces out signifying networks of human potential; migration, settlement, population and colonization. In this way the installation narrates the movement and migration of human cargo, contrasting traces of this phenomena in neo-colonial politics with contemporary ideas of ‘semiocapitalism’, a kind of hyper-excitation where the individual completely or partially has forgotten the relationship between society and to the physical body.

Mark O’Kelly (b. 1968, Ireland) lives and works in Dublin and Limerick. O’Kelly is a graduate of the National College of Art and Design, Dublin and the Slade School of Fine Art, University College London. Recent exhibitions include Douglas Hyde Gallery, Dublin; Limerick City Gallery of Art; Kevin Kavanagh Gallery, Dublin; Temple Bar Gallery, Dublin; Occupy Space, Limerick; and The Black Mariah, Cork.

(Text: EVA 2012, After the Future catalogue)


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