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It has to be said that some of the expected big-hitters disappoint. Hirschhorn’s massive The Green Coffin, in which the planet-as-coffin with its excesses and problems, is held aloft by a mass of up-reached arms, is overly literal, messy and bombastic. It gets a prime site, too, in the Real Tennis Court, where Dan Perjovschi’s glib graffiti scrawled on the walls do nothing to help. Equally, Chinese-born Wang Du’s giant, interactive cradle, Le Berceau , is industrial in scale for no particular reason. Neither his nor Hirschhorn’s work is new.
It would be a bit of an exaggeration to say that the Irish artists save the day, but they do distinguish themselves. Eamon O’Kane’s Twentieth of April Sixteen Eighty Nine , using the sycamore that once sheltered James II as its starting point, is beautifully installed in the Real Tennis Court, and the levity of Nevan Lahart’s installation in Earlsfort Terrace is the perfect antidote to bombast. Cleary Connolly’s STUDIO 1 Plus/Minus is an interactive video that really works.
Aidan Dunne, The Irish Times - Wednesday, September 7, 2011
The third installation discussed in this article is Fröbel Studio: A History of Play (Fig. 3) presented in 2010 alongside works by Liam Gillick, Allan Kaprow, Mike Kelley, Robert Morris, and Palle Nielsens famous Model for a qualitative society at Le Quartier Centre for Contemporary Art in Quimper, France, within the exhibition Playgrounds: Police or Pirates. The show aimed to showcase the conflict inherent in playgrounds – and indeed most social, educational or other shared structure – as both an ideal setting for childhood self-realisation and a vehicle of discipline. According to the curators Keren Detton and Vincent Romagny, it often escapes users and designers alike that the playground is a conduit for an ideology. In addition to a Fröbel Studio in the guise of the examples mentioned above, O’Kane also presented a large scale wall chart to which the subtitle A History of Play might refer (Fig. 4 and 5). It consists of a network of lines in different colours, and of a series of black tags containing names of artists, designers, educationalists and architects as well as numerous citations.
See http://www.le-quartier.net/IMG/pdf/PJ77.pdf, cited 30.10.2013.
Barbara Bader Opening Relational Spaces: Eamon O'Kane's Fröbel Studios, 2014
There are very pleasant innovations: a cafe, a bar, kiddies areas, even merchandising. Eamon O'Kane has managed to integrate one of his contributions into this context, with his ingenious and interactive take on Froebel. There's lots of video, forcing the usual calculation of how much time you have and how much you're willing to invest. Jaki Irvine has a fine-looking, high-projected piece that works well in its context. For appropriate positioning I also like how Wendy Judge's piece comes off, garretted and semi-sinister.
Peter FitzGerald, CIRCA, Sept. 2011
…as is Eamon O'Kane´s Twentieth of April Sixteen Eighty Nine installation. Conversely , his construction of a Froebel-inspired studio in which visiting children can play has found a perfect home on the ground floor.
Cristin Leach, Sunday Times, Sept. 2011
'Plans For The Past and the Future' has been reviewed by a-n magazine Artists Newsletter Click here to go to article
'...All of these works -- along with a concurrent investigation into the botanical legacy of the Roman Empire in Britain, and an installation that addresses the overlapping histories of his parents’ home in Ireland and the siege of Derry by King James II in 1689 – have been assembled together under the collective title ‘Case Histories’. The title is revealing insofar as it further underscores the influential roles of psychology and memory in the interwoven histories of nature, country, family, art, and architecture that O’Kane deploys as his building blocks. In a sense, each installation describes one of several distinct typologies, within which a range of related issues can be understood using a changing set of variables. As employed by Freud, among others, to indicate an ongoing body of research, each separate narrative diagnosing a distinct pathology, O’Kane’s title also indicates that in his work the problem of history, and the artist’s relationship to it, is the question that most closely ties an artist to the fundamental uncertainties of his era. A collective anxiety regarding the collective future tends to be the ideal justification for coming to terms with the problematic world of the past, which none of us actually built, but all of us inhabit. '
Dan Cameron, extract from 'Partial View', Case Histories, Book, 2009
'One of the most ambitious installations is Eamon O’Kane’s Eames Studio Limerick , a really impressive work that takes its starting point from the fact that the great designer Charles Eames’s grandfather emigrated from Limerick to American in the mid-1700s. O'Kane’s model of Eames’s studio and house has a playroom quality that leads to the other part of his installation, which is itself a playroom, in recognition of the fact that Eames, and Frank Lloyd Wright, were educated using the Froebel method of teaching with blocks and shapes, liberally available for use in the installation.'
Aidan Dunne, 'Scanning the urban terrain', Irish Times, Thursday, March 26, 2009
'...He notes that he has long been struck by the promiscuity of Irish artists in terms of the modes of expression they employ. Drawing is just one, albeit significant, aspect of what they do. This applies to such artists as Gary Coyle, Kathy Prendergast, Alice Maher, Eamon O'Kane, Isabel Nolan and Katie Holten. Yet drawing is absolutely central for all of these artists, in that it's not an incidental vehicle but integral to what they are trying to do. Eamon O'Kane's wall drawing House and the tree , which links the tree with what is made from it, is terrific. In fact there are two, related wall drawings by him, where one would have been more effective in purely dramatic terms. Still, outstanding.'
Aidan Dunne, 'Bringing art right back to the drawing board', The Irish Times, January 28, 2009
'Eamon O'Kane's recent work might be described as "half history, half something else". A whirlwind series of exhibitions called Case Histories has already been to Rugby, Berlin, New York and London, and now touches down in two Bristol locations. O'Kane informs us that in 1689 King James II had a meal under a sycamore tree in what is now the garden of the artist's parents. At Plan 9 Gallery, design history and personal mythology are deliberately confused, as the artist transforms the space into a workshop for recreating a set of replica chairs so that the meal can be restaged. At the quayside, meanwhile , there's O'Kane's Container Studio – a shipping container in which the artist exhibits drawings of Bristol's town planning history unfaithfully remixed with Le Corbusier's plans for Paris. The result is a vision for an unrealised Bristolian utopia.'
Laura McLean-Ferris guardian.co.uk, Friday 16 January 2009
'Narrative painting is making a comeback - even if you need a degree in architecture to understand what is going on. This show of deft paintings at Rare gallery feature some of the more infamous projects of modernist architecture, in lush surroundings and bright sunshine and sometimes blue, sometimes blank skies (it varies within each painting). Much like the architecture it depicts, and caricatures, the theme is utopia. The images are markedly devoid of a human presence, which underlies the whole problem with utopias - they don't work if people are involved.'
Will Corwin, Saatchi Online, Nov. 2008
Irish painter O’Kane employs both meticulous quasi-realism and expressive, gelatinous abstraction in depicting half-imagined architectures. Hinting at the ghosts of their makers as much as the perceptual itinerary of their inhabitants, O’Kane’s new series fuses Modernist glass, steel, and concrete archetypes into psychologically and visually lush inversions of time, space, boundaries, and histories.
Irish fine artist Eamon O'Kane is obsessed with modernist architecture. In his 2008 painting Lloyd Wright Dreaming he depicted the interior of a Frank Lloyd Wright house. Through its window you could see the fictional (and Wright-inspired) Vandamm house, from Hitchcock's North by Northwest (1959). In February 2010, O'Kane built a scale model of architect Philip Johnson's Glass House in the foyer of the 101 California building. For his current show Der Glasraum at Gregory Lind Gallery, the artist splices together the architecture of the Glass House and Mies van der Rohe's Farnsworth House. His work explores the dichotomy of angular avant-garde structures jutting up against nature. He also includes architectural floor plans, and captures modernist furniture like the Barcelona chair, using acrylic and coffee.
Joey Stevenson- Sep. 2010
‘O’Kane’s The House and the Tree takes as it’s starting point a story about his family home, Cavanacor House near Lifford. It is said that King James II stopped off at Cavanacor en route to the siege of Derry in 1689. A dining table was laid under the canopy of a sycamore tree. Subsequently, as the monarch’s forces retreated and laid waste around them, James spared Cavanacor because he had enjoyed its hospitality. In 1999, the sycamore was hit by lightning, and it formed the centerpiece of the Cultural Centre show, together with a reconstruction of an original part of Cavanacor House that was demolished a half a century ago. It could well be O’Kane’s most ambitious project to date and that’s something for an artist who usually thinks big.’
Aidan Dunne, Chief Art Critic, The Irish Times, January 2008
'...while Eamon O'Kane's stop-motion paintings on video record the changes inflicted on Blanchardstown, a fastgrowing area outside Dublin and the site of Ireland's biggest shopping centre, and illustrates his ongoing concerns with art and architecture.'
Klaus Ottmann, 2007
'...Coming from a museum/exhibition culture in which large tends to trump small, and industrial usually wins out over domestic, it was something of a surprise to discover that Eamon O'Kan's Mobile Studio, which comes with it's own industrial container (built on site) was a perfect, if snug, fit in what was once a drawing room...'
Dan Cameron, 2005
Eamon O'Kane's portable studio, approximating in size to a shipping container, its walls lined with finished pieces and works in progress, seems to have materialised by magic, a room within a room. It is eerily effective and could well be titled A Portrait of the Artist as a Studio.
Aidan Dunne, Chief Art Critic, The Irish Times, January 2005
Selected Essays, Interviews and Reviews - Click on the links below to download texts
Opening Relational Spaces: Eamon O'Kane's Fröbel Studios, Barbara Bader , 2013, published 2014
'Partial View' by Dan Cameron, 'Case Histories' Book 2009
The Studio In The Woods- 'Living on automatic drive' by Mike Fitzpatrick, 2004
Mobile Museum - 'Art as Spatial Resistance' by Niamh Ann Kelly, 2004
Mobile Museum - Their relationship is uneasy at best, and the distinctions between them are increasingly blurred: Eamon O’Kane and Gemma Tipton talk about art and architecture 2004
'Overlook' by Claire Doherty, 2004
Panorama - 'How We Live' by Gemma Tipton, 2006
Eamon O’Kane in conversation with Roy Voss, 2005
Die Bildermacher Catalogue: Essay by Mark Stafford, 2002
Die Bildermacher Catalogue: Essay by Mark Stafford, 2002 (German translation)
Die Bildermacher Catalogue: Interview with Eamon O’Kane, 2002
Die Bildermacher Catalogue: Interview with Eamon O’Kane, 2002 (German Translation)
Tourist Interface, Orchard Gallery, Derry: Essay by Padraig Timoney
Constant Production and Exposure EAMON O'KANE CONSIDERS HIS ART CAREER'S TRAJECTORY
A tour around the ideal space for exhibiting art - By Eamon O'Kane - From Space:Architecture For Art
Making a living from Art: Eamon O'Kane interviewed by Anja Musjat, Studies Magazine
In all things, 126 Gallery, Galway, Ireland June-July 2012 has been reviewed in Visual Arts Ireland click here to download article
Better is something you build, Kevin Kavanagh Gallery, Dublin: CIRCA Magazine online review
Better is something you build, Kevin Kavanagh Gallery, Dublin: Metrolife review
Eamon O'Kane: The Studio by Slavka Sverakova, Circa
Irish Times Reviews
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‘...In a recent solo show at the Regional Cultural Centre in Letterkenny, The House and the Tree, O’Kane re-created an attic from his family home into which he placed a short film recording the vernacular architecture of Co. Donegal which is accompanied by a soundtrack of proverbs in the Gaelic language. The installation is completed by a large-scale wall drawing of an sycamore tree that once sheltered King James II, also from his homeplace, together with the sawn up trunk of the tree which was killed by lightning. In other words the personal and the public, past and present, royalist and peasant, the real and its representation, nature and culture are all combined in this single installation, through the accomplished use of new and traditional media.’
Catherine Marshall, Senior Curator Irish Museum of Modern Art, February 2008
'..O’Kanes paintings have always had a strong sense of form and spatiality – ideas and structures that lend themselves easily to the three dimensional into sculpture and installation. The painting Drive Through (2007) which depicts the back of a disused drive-in movie screen, could be seen to correlate with the 2007 installation work Untitled (Seasons Blockbuster) in which a stop frame animated painting is projected onto a structure made from discarded wood collected from the farmland where Christmas trees grow. As in Drive Through, the structure mimics that of the drive-in movie screen – an object onto which dreams and aspirations are to be projected and which, when we look more closely, reveals itself to be makeshift and unglamorous. It is an antidote to our fantasy, the grime behind the glamour of Hollywood where starlets die of overdoses and spend very public stints in jail or rehab. O’Kane draws attention to the artifice of the fantasy that is projected in which a building used as the bookshop at the Venice Biennial, materializes from a simple line drawing and through a series of painted layers travels throughout the seasons before de-materialising once more.'
Jacqui McIntosh, 2008
'...Eamon O'Kane's DIY small-scale cinema, screening an animated film, also displays a penchant for quick-witted improvisation..'
Aidan Dunne, Irish Times, Feb. 2008
'Eamon O'Kane's Regeneration (2006) presented a series of paintings in stop-motion animation, which documented the ongoing development of a rural area outside Dublin, the layers of paint recording the sequence of man-made interventions in the area.'
Zoe Gray, Contemporary magazine, 2007
In an art world dominated for decades by conceptual work, painting continues to exert a fascination. And what is more quintessentially painterly than landscape? Yet, taking the historical view, landscape is a relatively recent development, having leapt from the background of religious and genre paintings to become the main object of the artist's attention only in the 18th century, as the Industrial Revolution gathered pace.Painters' fascination with landscape is bound up with our growing distance from it in the modern world, so it is refreshing to find a group of young artists at a fashionable gallery exploring ways in which landscape can interact with modernity " either in the subject matter, its treatment, or both.
Eamon O'Kane's paintings place the angular forms of modern houses in woodland settings. The buildings are not merely modern: they are bold statements of Modernism. (One, seen through a spring-green haze, is actually Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater in Pennsylvania.) Electric light spills out into the wooded depths, and although humans are absent, the paintings suggest the playing out of some enigmatic human narrative.
Chris Schuler, Independent, 2005
Eamon O'Kane's richly productive project AKA: After Kafka's Amerika has generated a profusion of art works in a range of media that includes painting, photography and video. Famously, Franz Kafka relied on secondary source material when writing his novel, Amerika, as he never actually visited the USA. In keeping with this preference for imaginative projection over recorded experience AKA, the video is prefaced by a cautionary epigraph from the critic Jonathan Culler: 'Things are never expected to be real; rather things are read as signs of themselves, idealized and often frustrated.' There follows a dizzying sequence of static snapshots, which takes the viewer on a rollercoaster ride from the heart of America's great cities to the breathtaking expanses of its desert wildernesses. A number of these snapshots have also been excerpted from this sequence and are presented as lone images, inviting a more contemplative form of address on the viewer's part. O'Kane has also produced an extensive series of small acrylic paintings derived from a mixture of sources inspired by kafka's novel, including images culled from books and the internet, taking us even further afield from any notion of precisely recorded reality.'
Dr Caoimhin Mac Giolla Leith, 2005
Certainly the Millennium Court show suggests a self-contained, even self-consuming circularity. The wittiest and probably the best part of the project are the videos. It's as if O'Kane by-passes years of career-building by virtually inserting himself into the most hallowed preserves of contemporary art in a cheeky piece of wish-fulfilment. Even better is the non-stop pan across an endless succession of museums, including Tate Modern and the Guggenheim, all deposited in a nondescript landscape.
The image of cultural palaces presiding over wastelands is strong and contentious. We recognise the buildings O'Kane refers to because they are landmarks that have made an impact on public consciousness. There is debate over the validity and the success of such galleries, but they are rarely follies; they attract visitors, even if they are based on a business model in terms of promoting a corporate identity: Guggenheim Inc.
The unmistakable implication of O'Kane's video sequence featuring an impossible collection of galleries, all with their trademark individual architectural identities, jumbled together in one museum-opolis, is that the art world is a theme park. There is some validity to such a view. In this context his quotation signs, dispersed throughout the environment, are perhaps indicative of a desire to restore cultural debate to the wider social context.
'A self-contained show of art turned inside out' Aidan Dunne, The Irish Times, Dec. 2004
'...A third group is composed of works stemming from a playful, lighthearted and humourous attitude towards the making of art and the occupation of space, a stream of imagination in relation to creativity, like Eamon O'Kane's Bildermacher. Here the artist has completely covered a room, set up like a studio, with dozens of canvases in process and all kinds of objects, utensils and tools, plus his night-helpers in all colours and sizes, including a video animation in which these helpers are fully at work...'
Virginia Perez-Ratton, 2003
At the Ashford Gallery Eamon O'Kane, an exceptionally prolific and capable artist, has titled his solo show The Philosophy of Furniture. His starting point was a piece written by Edgar Allen Poe for Burton's Gentleman's Magazine in 1840. The piece seems to be lighter than the headline might suggest, offering a critique of American furniture. O'Kane seems to be primarily interested in pursuing his own preoccupation with the natural and the fabricated.
Previously he has explored the siting of Modernist architectural structures, whether grandly public, or more domestic and personal, in natural settings.
The drawings, animations and laser etchings here are inventive explorations of the dialogue between manufacturing and natural processes. His large-scale drawings of trees are made with charcoal - burnt wood - on paper that is derived from cellulose. Most of the trees are conifers, presumably grown in managed plantations for use in construction. Each laser etching features one item of furniture. The image is burned through a layer of paint so that it is formed by the substance of the masonite board beneath, composed of the rendered fragments of the conifers.
A number of images feature composite images, of trees growing through items of furniture. These recall a strange episode in John Fuller's novel Flying to Nowhere, in which the wooden or wood-derived elements that make up a study - shelves, chair, desk, books - come back to life and start to sprout leaves, twigs and branches, gradually overwhelming the human cultural project. It's a haunting image and, while there is nothing in O'Kane's show with quite that concerted effect, he does generate some fruitfully ambiguous, conceptually neat pieces.
Aidan Dunne, Chief Art Critic, The Irish Times, January 2007
'…for example his earlier huge drawings of cityscapes are epic depictions. Direct traditional drawings, derived from photomontages, which are delivered heroically in the style of the artist single-handedly capturing the city with a simple piece of charcoal. These are telling works, evocative, nostalgic, yet with a knowing interplay on our collective art-historical subconscious.'
Mike Fitzpatrick, Director, Limerick City Gallery of Art and curator of the Irish Pavilion at the 2007 Venice Biennale
'...Likewise there was a sense of isolation in Eamon O'Kane's digital phtotographs of corporate interiors, empty of human presence, bathed in fluorescent light. the photographs revealed a harsh and unappealing environment for human beings to inhabit.'
Peter Murray, Director of the Crawford Municipal Gallery, Cork
'An American Cross Section
Travel has long been an inspiration for art and from the solitary walker of the Romantic canvas to the beat generation poet, being on the road has been as much a route of the imagination as a record of reality. It is a privileged perspective, the lone artist's version, and sometimes vision of events. If Eamon O'Kane takes his cue from these artistic adventurers, his work marks a significant departure from the heroic genre of a young man gone west. American Cross Section is a project begun with the conceptual rigour of an artist such as Sophie Calle and ending in an exhibition of astonishing physical presence worthy of the New York School.
O'Kane planned a journey across fourteen American states documenting his preconceptions of the US before his departure and continuing his journal throughout his travels. These writings evoke personal memories, moments from the artist's past that remind us that the actual encounter with a new environment will always be suffused with our individual histories. The paintings suggest this layering of memory and experience with a multiplicity of images, concatenating visual levels that present the viewer with simultaneous ways of seeing the same place. Here O'Kane explores the idea of each American state - their representation in tourist brochures and popular myth as well as literally drawing on their geographic location through delicate tracing of maps across each of the paintings. Famous landmarks are drenched in colour, submerged in the image, floating between icon and memory. Indeed the sheer size of the paintings puts the viewer in a very physical pose, measuring our personal relation to the work as part of our experience of the exhibition.
O'Kane further explores the relations between ambient experience and pictorial realism with the juxtaposition of photographic images and sound - the use of sound in particular evokes a moment recorded in the past, a device enhanced by the negative and positive photographic images that situate the viewer between different viewpoints so that even among the most 'real' of representations, we are suspended in place, as much as in time. O'Kane's ability to steer a course between idea and sensation, virtual and real, verbal and visual, is not a perpetuation of traditional mind/body dualisms but rather their collapse into a complex weave of images. This collapse, however, does not result in a Baudrillardian simulacra, a virtual world with no referent to the real, but rather a profound investigation into the nature and relation of the real to its representation and perhaps more importantly, how we read the real in relation to received images of place.
As the title American Cross Section suggests, the work in the exhibition is both an analysis, a meeting point and a representative study. The work may be the result of O'Kane's travels, his view and experience of the US, but above all it is an insight into the way in which we all travel and apprehend the world, and the journey through the exhibition becomes a valuable navigation of our own understanding of place.
Fiona Kearney, Director, Lewis Glucksman Gallery, Cork, Ireland, 2000
© Eamon O'Kane 2009