IRL, in real life, is a common Internet abbreviation used to indicate that something has been experienced in real life, not just virtual. But what is real life and is the virtual not a part of it? Is something more real when seen with one’s own eyes and more spurious through a lens?

These are questions that have become all the more important last year after the world has come to a standstill and everything has happened on the Internet, be it birthday parties, theater performances or visits to exhibitions. With zoom vernissages, NFTs and 3D tours, the art world has adapted to the new circumstances, but artists all over the world have also incorporated the new situation in their art in one way or another. Either their own way of working has intensified, the focus has changed, or an escape route from the present has been created.

In the IRL exhibition, the Irish artists Cecilia Bullo, Amanda Doran and George Warren show how the new reality of the last year and a half is reflected in their art.

Cecilia Bullo is a classical, mainly sculptural artist who focuses on creating mixed media installations. She works with contrasting visual elements, examines material processes and their history. Her works focus on various symbols and apotropaic objects (e.g. amulets or relics) that are placed in a context of social questions. The objects are associated with healing powers or magical properties and, above all, read in a feminist-political context. Bullo is interested in the survivors’ role of women and their political body, both in mythology and in the present.

In her latest work, Bullo particularly addresses the issue of uprooting. As an example, she takes an aloe vera plant, which is still used today for its botanical medicinal properties. Part of this rhizome plant, which came from her family’s garden in Italy, was uprooted, transported and transplanted to her Irish adoptive country. Bullo has a migrant background and was “uprooted” herself. In doing so, she explores symbols and meanings that are directly linked to her mixed heritage. She looks at how the ritual practice can adapt and change in a different context, with reference to cultural challenges faced by immigrant people, especially women.

Amanda Doran deals with her daily environment and her encounters. In the last half years, however, her focus has shifted, from habitual rituals, eccentricities and quirks to discomfort, death and rebirth. She sees the issues as a cathartic outlet that addresses the peculiarities and unpredictability of recent times. The artist reflects death, destruction, despair by depicting people in alternative cultures, such as the tattoo, punk or metal scene. The everyday situations have turned into gloomy and somewhat eerie images that show the cycle from death to rebirth, but with a pinch of dark humor. Life itself is a cycle of recurring phases that are confronted, fought against and destroyed in order to be able to return to light-heartedness.
Doran’s method of representation focuses on physical details that would also catch the viewer’s eye in real life. With their thick and coarse style and their exuberant and direct style of painting, the figures appear obscure, but also aesthetically pleasing, with their artistically tattooed skin. The thick, uncontrollable, sometimes chaotic layers of paint reflect the artist’s momentary feelings, those of a present that cannot be influenced.

Intuitive painting that comes from within is the approach of George Warren. A rough plan helps the artist to overcome any hesitation and to paint a painting with a quick and lively application of paint. His works are somewhere between figuration and abstraction.

In his latest series, Warren follows a pictorial concept. He creates short stories that follow a well-known narrative, that of the fighting game. The fighting figures are based on games on retro consoles and only serve one purpose, to fight. Actually, the player controls the behavior of the characters, but Warren freezes the characters on the screen and the player becomes the viewer. The on-screen dialogue between the fighters remains, however, through punches, air kicks and fireballs, even through the partial disappearance of the loser. The poured paint and the paint droplets act as emulation, a process that reproduces programs so that they can run on incompatible devices or systems. It seems as if the virtual reality is still present within the framework of the “screen”.

Supported by:

Culture Ireland
Embassy of Ireland, Germany

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