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New show explores limestone and liminal landscapes

Going Out

LAYERED REALITIES ‘Spéir - Sky’, limestone marls from the Burren, oil paint and enamel on board, by Matthew Mitchell.

Ciara Moynihan

‘Age to Age – Ó Aois go hÁois’, an exhibition of work by Co Clare artist Matthew Mitchell, opened at the Custom House Studios at The Quay, Westport, on Thursday last, July 23.
The artist describes the show as ‘an attempt to find a visual language’ for the ‘duality between our necessarily abstracted experience of place and being in the new digital landscape, and our perception of place and being in relation to the more tangible primeval geological past’.
His work is inspired by the glaciated limestone landscape of the Burren, where he sees a geological memory ‘scratched and etched’ into the grey stone, ‘the marks and ridges serving as ancient natural hieroglyphics that chronicle its weathered journey over time’.
That a satellite could be seen journeying across the night sky above this ancient lunar landscape, or the light from a radio mast be seen flickering from a far-off hill, prompts the artist into his exploration of how the Burren sits ‘in another less tangible landscape, one whose topology and cartography can be both literally and metaphorically hidden … the landscape of the global digital age, the Info-sphere of unseen signals and grids and coordinates’.
This juxtaposition encourages Mitchell to probe further the impact of the internet and globalisation on how we perceive of and experience the natural environment around us. The materials with which he works have been carefully chosen to reflect these two realities.   
“Organic material, such as clay, is collected from the coast or from a river bed,” the artist explains. “The act of construction in the layering and the deconstruction by dissolving and sanding, and the transformational potential of the material, enables the observed materiality of the landscape to be embodied in the tactile surface of the piece.
“At the same time, the use of the reflective qualities of enamel on textured coloured surfaces allows forms to appear and disappear, their visual reality in time shifting and impermanent. The inorganic materiality of the enamel and its reflective quality allows it to be part of the whole, but with a different separate narrative.”
He adds: “In many ways, this describes our new, rapidly evolving natural environment and where we locate ourselves in relation to it.”
Since graduating with an MFA from NCAD in 2017, Mitchell, has been awarded the emerging Irish Artist Residency Award at the Burren College of Art. He has also exhibited widely, showing at such venues as the Law Society of Ireland, the RHA annual exhibition, the So Fine Art Gallery  in Dublin and The Courthouse Gallery in Ennistymon.

End-of-year show
Also now showing at the gallery is a diverse group show by the 2020 graduates of the GMIT Mayo BA in Contemporary Art Practices. This exciting exhibition includes works by Elaine Cunningham, Mona Curry, Emma Donoghue, Breda Flynn, Oisín Gannon, Lucienne Kershaw, Samir Mahmood, Lisa McDonnell-Gonzales, Michael McGuinness, Rosemarie Norton, Clare O’Sullivan and Sharon Whitney Wynne.
This show was first shown virtually online in early June, and it a real joy to see these artworks finally accessible to the public at the Custom House Studios Gallery, in all their real-world glory.

Both exhibitions will run at the Custom House Studios Gallery, Westport, until August 16.